The Real Deal on Home Covid Tests

Remember when it was almost impossible to find someone to test you for Covid-19. Many of us were going through lots of red tape, spending tons of money and then traveling pretty far. Seems like a lifetime ago and yesterday at the same time. Now, you can pop into your local pharmacy and grab a test. Spend about $20 (2/box) for an antigen test, and get the results in 15 minutes. Tip: I would watch the video because it isn’t as easy as peeing on a stick. Within 3 days, but not before 36 hours, do a second test to confirm.

But, can you count on the results? The at home antigen tests are less sensitive than in-lab PCR testing, but they still have value. If you worry you’ve been exposed, and you want reassurance you aren’t going to spread the virus to others, it is worth the money — especially if you are going to be spending time with someone in a vulnerable population. For most accurate results, test 3-5 days after exposure. Keep in mind, these tests are more likely to be false negative than false positive. So, if you have a high suspicion of illness or are symptomatic, and the test is negative, the most prudent thing to do is to confirm with a lab test. If you test positive, there is a chance it is a false positive, but the chance is definitely small, and especially if you have symptoms, assume you have Covid and isolate appropriately.

Currently, 3 of the 11 tests approved for emergency use by the FDA are available without a prescription, and they can be used in children as young as 2. With the holidays coming up, visits with grandparents and big social gatherings, there will be reasons to want certainty about your covid status. These at-home tests don’t offer 100% assurance, but when used correctly, they can provide some peace of mind.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness & Parenting Coach. She works with parents who want to feel more confident when helping their children and coaches young adults to help them better navigate college life and transitions. Contact her at to learn more. She is the author of two Audible Originals, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents and Worry Less, Parent Better. She is also the co-founder of the app that makes your life easier and puts social in a healthier place -- List'm.


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