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With Covid cases continuing to rise again amid fears of a new variant, people are taking extra precautions this year as they gather in person again. Hand sanitizer is once again a must, and restaurants in many states are still promoting the wearing of masks indoors (aside from when you’re eating and drinking).
Another way people are ensuring the safety of guests: using rapid at-home Covid tests, to quickly check that everyone in the group is coronavirus-free. But how do you find these home Covid-19 tests and how exactly do they work?
How Do At-Home Rapid Covid Tests Work?
While going to a doctor’s office or pharmacy to get tested for Covid is still your best option, a number of manufacturers have released self-serve Covid tests that are FDA-authorized for home use.
These rapid Covid tests use a shallow nasal swab to collect a sample — simply insert the soft tip into your nostril, then swirl it around your nostril lining for 10-15 seconds (or as directed by the manufacturer). The swab is then placed into a test tube with a reagent solution that’s designed to react to the sample if the SARS-CoV-2 virus is detected.
Seal the test sample and wait for your results. Different at-home tests vary in terms of format, but most rapid Covid kits will display your results on a test strip, similar to a pregnancy test. Look for the corresponding symbol or marker to determine your result (I.e. one line means you’re negative, two lines mean you could have Covid).
It’s worth nothing that these rapid home Covid tests are only used for the detection of proteins from SARS-CoV-2, and not for any other viruses or pathogens.
How Quickly Do You Get Results From a Rapid Covid Test at Home?
Most of the new at-home rapid Covid tests will give you results back in 10-15 minutes — much faster than even the rapid Covid tests you get in person. It’s not an instant Covid test, but it will cut down the amount of waiting time.
And unlike some at-home Covid tests, which require you to mail in your sample for analysis, these rapid Covid tests get you a result on the spot — no lab testing necessary.
Are At-Home Covid Tests Safe?
All of the at-home Covid tests on our list are FDA-approved, which means the agency has deemed them as safe and suitable for at-home testing. These rapid home tests work for both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, and some of the brands on our list say their tests are safe to use on children as well, though we recommend consulting with your medical provider first.
It’s not just safe for at-home use either: a number of companies and sports teams are using these rapid testing kits on employees and players. Cue Health, says its Covid-19 tests have been purchased for use by organizations like Google, the NBA, MLB, NASA and The Mayo Clinic.
Cue Health’s at-home Covid test delivers PCR-quality molecular results straight to your smartphone in 20 minutes. The company says the test can also detect the Omicron variant (see details here).
Are At-Home Covid Tests Legal?
The FDA still recommends going to the doctor if you have serious symptoms or are concerned about possible exposure to Covid. However, the latest at-home Covid tests are FDA-cleared and approved for use under an EUA (Emergency Use Authorization). That essentially means that the rapid home testing kits are only authorized for use so long as the FDA deems necessary.
Many of these home Covid tests are also FSA and HSA-eligible, meaning your purchase online could be covered under your Flexible Spending Account and/or Health Savings Account under insurance.
Where to Buy the Best Rapid Covid Tests for Home
Whether you’re testing your party guests or want to check your own Covid status before traveling or heading to an event, there are a number of good rapid Covid tests that you can buy online right now. Here’s where to find four of the top-rated, at-home Covid-19 tests available to ship online.
Note: We’re listing rapid Covid kits that include one or two at-home tests, though these kits are also available in bulk, say, if you want to test guests at an office party, wedding party or larger gathering.
Of course, any Covid test or diagnosis should be taken seriously, so speak to your doctor if you have concerns about using a Covid test at home.
1. On/Go At-Home Covid-19 Rapid Self-Test
The On/Go Covid-19 Antigen Self-Test uses a shallow nasal swab that you can administer on yourself, with results in just ten minutes (a timer is included so you know when your results are ready). The company says its test detects the antigen protein of all known major Covid-19 variants, including omicron.
This kit includes two, individually-wrapped rapid tests, though you’ll want to download the On/Go companion app to guide you through the process. The app can also help you interpret your results and share your information with medical providers if necessary.
Users found the test easy to use and understand, though reviewers say you’ll want to make sure the nasal swab is properly inserted at least one-inch into your nostril, and that you rotate it around the lining of your nose for the required amount of time in order to get an accurate reading.
Note: The FDA recently granted a three-month shelf-life extension for the On/Go Covid-19 Antigen Self-Tests. I.e. if the expiration date printed on your box states April 2022, the expiration date for the test is now July 31, 2022.
*Note: If this Covid test is sold out on Amazon, you can also find the On/Go Rapid Covid Test available at Walmart.com for under $25.
2. BinaxNOW Covid‐19 Antigen Self Test
One of the most popular at-home Covid tests available online is the BinaxNOW Antigen Self Test. Made in the USA, each pack includes two tests, with results in just 15 minutes.
BinaxNOW uses a shallow nasal swab that’s easy to administer yourself, and the company says it’s safe and gentle enough even for kids as young as two years old. The test helps detect multiple Covid strains too, include the Delta and Omicron variants.
For best results, the company says to wait at least 24 hours (but no more than 48 hours) in between tests.
3. Quidel QuickVue At-Home OTC Covid-19 Test Kit
This over-the-counter Covid test boasts a 4.6-star rating (out of five) from 4000 reviewers online. The test kit includes two individually-wrapped foam swabs to collect a sample from your nose, along with pre-filled tubes, tube holders and test strips.
The rapid testing kit gets you results in just 10 minutes; a blue line means you’re negative, while a pink and blue line means you’ve tested positive. We’ve used this kit ourselves and the swab is relatively comfortable and easy to insert, while the test has simple, easy-to-follow instructions and results.
4. iHealth Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test
This FDA-authorized rapid test is currently the number one best-seller on Amazon, with users purchasing these kits for family gatherings and parties alike. This is also the same test distributed by the USPS.
Like the other at-home tests above, this one uses a nasal swab that’s inserted 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch up your nose to collect a sample. Swirl the swab into the included testing solution and then put a couple of drops of solution onto the test strip.
This rapid Covid test delivers results in 15 minutes — if only one line shows up, you’re negative; if two lines show up, the test is positive.
Unlike some of the other self-administered Covid tests on our list, iHealth says their test is non-invasive: you don’t have to insert the tip of the swab too deep into the nasal cavity to collect a sample — and to get a result.
Some reviewers say this also makes the test safe and comfortable for children, though per the manufacturer, adults should always help administer the test to anyone under the age of 15. You should also consult your doctor before testing any kids for Covid.
5. Flowflex Covid-19 Antigen Home Test
The site is currently selling the Flowflex Antigen Home Test Kit, which gets you an easy-to-use nasal swab, a collection tube and a testing strip to analyze your results. This is one of the most simple tests to use and the most “comfortable” — the swab only needs to be inserted about half-an-inch into your nostril and you only need to swirl the swab 4-5 times.
WellBefore also has a super helpful video on its site that walks you through the entire process — no need to download an app or read a confusing instruction booklet to get your Covid test results at home.
6. Ellume Covid-19 Rapid Antigen Home Test
Target has the Ellume Covid-19 Test Kit in stock as of this writing. Whereas other kits on our list require you to interpret lines on a test strip, this one syncs to an app on your phone so you can easily see your results on your screen. The app will either display the word “POSITIVE” or “NEGATIVE” in large, easy-to-read capital letters.
This test uses a nasal swab and reagent solution and you get results back in 15 minutes. Ellume has patented a larger “grip point” on its swab, which makes it easier to control and more comfortable to hold as you’re inserting the tip into your nose. Target also offers this rapid antigen at-home test which you can order online and pick up in store.
Looking for where to buy more at-home Covid-19 tests online? Walmart has a full selection of rapid testing kits that are available to purchase online, are FDA-approved and shipping now. See more at Walmart.com.
Amazon also has a new rapid Covid test kit that’s available online here, with results in 15 minutes. It doesn’t have any reviews yet though (and we have yet to try it ourselves) so we recommend doing your own research before adding to cart.