Here’s where you can order them now and what to know about their accuracy.
It’s that time of the year again — Covid meets the holidays. The highly transmissible Omicron variant coupled with holiday travel has resulted in another Covid-19 surge. While more and more free testing sites are opening across the country, the lines for some of those clinics are hours long, and often outside in the cold. And at the clinics and pharmacies that allow you to schedule a test ahead of time, appointments are hard to come by this close to the holiday.
So, everyone has turned to the at-home rapid Covid tests. And we do mean everyone. They’re flying off the shelves of pharmacies everywhere.
If you can’t get an appointment or a rapid at-home test at the store or are trying to stay in during this surge, you might be able to order some at-home Covid tests online.
Are at-home rapid Covid tests accurate?
Many at-home rapid tests have received emergency use authorizations from the FDA, and they’re easy to use and offer really quick results.
While PCR tests are the most accurate way to test for Covid, getting one requires a long wait in most places.
Some of the at-home rapid antigen tests have “an overall sensitivity of roughly 85 percent,” according to The New York Times, although studies have shown that their “real-world performance” hasn’t been as high.
It’s important to keep in mind that at-home rapid tests are more sensitive in symptomatic people, and are most sensitive during the first week of symptoms, according to research. If you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive, experts advise that you self-isolate and take a test five days after the exposure.
It’s also important to take the tests as directed. Most rapid tests are intended to be taken in a two-test sequence about 24-36 hours apart, depending on the test brand. This is particularly relevant if you receive a negative test result on the first test. Positive, negative, and invalid results can look different on different tests, so be sure to actually read the instructions on these.
If you test positive, experts advise that you contact your medical provider and isolate for 10 days from the start of the symptoms.
To help everyone who wants and needs to get tested after the holidays, President Biden is pledging to distribute 500 million free at-home rapid tests in January. But, until then, you can try ordering them online. (Biden also promised that starting mid-January, the 150 million Americans with private health insurance would be able to get reimbursed for at-home Covid-19 tests.)
The following at-home rapid Covid tests are available to order online and all have emergency use authorizations from the FDA.
Note: The prices of these fluctuate and may rise depending on demand. We recommend checking back as websites restock their inventory.
Where to buy at-home Covid tests online
Abbot’s BinaxNow is an antigen test, meaning it’s less sensitive than PCR tests that are processed in a lab, but you’ll get your results much faster. You can self-test at home and have your result in just 15 minutes, and it’s best used when you have suspected Covid symptoms. It’s helpful for detecting when you’re actually contagious, as some PCRs can return positive results weeks after you’ve gotten over Covid and are no longer contagious.
If you want the higher sensitivity of a PCR test without waiting in line, EverlyWell offers an at-home collection kit you can mail into a lab, then receive your results back 24-48 hours after your test reaches the lab. The kit comes with a prepaid return shipping label so there’s no hassle of printing another label or waiting in line at the post office. While the turnaround time of ordering the test, then shipping it back and waiting for results may not be the most efficient option when a test is urgently needed, the EverlyWell test is perfect for keeping in your medicine cabinet to pull out and send in when you need it. (And it’s currently on sale for 25 percent off.)
The On/Go antigen test pairs with an app that guides you through the testing process, and gets your results back to you in just 10 minutes. It’s a great option for anyone with children who are testing as well, as the app allows you to store your results and those of your family members. If you get it from Roman, your tests ship free and come in a box of six — enough to test three people.
iHealth’s rapid antigen test is highly sensitive, and correctly identified 94.3 percent of positive samples in a clinical evaluation. Like the On/Go test, iHealth has an optional app that you can use to store both your vaccination status and your test results. The test returns your results in 15 minutes.
Quidel’s QuickVue is another antigen test that returns results in 10 minutes. Like the others we’ve listed here, it involves a shallow nasal swab that’s quick and easy to perform on yourself and children under the age of 14.
This test works like most other rapid Covid tests. You use a nasal swab and get results in 15 minutes. The BD Veritor test kit relies on an app to interpret, deliver, and display results.
The information provided on this site isn’t intended as medical advice, and shouldn’t replace professional medical treatment. Consult your doctor with any serious health concerns.