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Tips for choosing home COVID tests

As the saying goes, “Knowing is half the battle,” and when it comes to COVID-19, testing is the best way to determine if you need to see your doctor. But with so many different home testing kits available, how do we know which ones to trust?

“This can be tough for a lot of people, because there are so many out there,” said Steven Benaderet, MD, who specializes in family medicine at Northeast Medical Group’s Westport location. “However, with respect to home COVID tests, the first question to ask yourself is, where are you buying them from.”

Dr. Bendaderet explained that nearly all the mainstream, brick-and-mortar stores like Walgreens, CVS, Target and Rite Aid only carry home test kits that have been approved by the FDA. He cautions against buying kits from online retailers, especially those that allow third-party vendors to sell on their site.

“That’s where we tend to see the charlatans,” Dr. Benaderet added. “You’ll see the listing and the box looks pretty much like the box on the shelf at CVS, but it’s just a bit off. It’s not worth it to take that risk.”

Home tests are convenient because COVID symptoms can pop up at inconvenient times. If you wake up in the middle of the night with symptoms, you can get piece of mind in a few short minutes. However, Dr. Benaderet said there are times when you should make an appointment for a PCR test, performed by a clinician.

“The biggest reason to get a PCR test is for some sort of requirement, in cases when you’re traveling, or coming in for a medical procedure,” he said. “The PCR test is more accurate than the home test, which is why most requirements call for PCR.”

People with persistent symptoms, those who are immunocompromised and folks who want to confirm a negative home test are also encouraged to schedule a PCR test, according to Dr. Benaderet.

Regardless of the kind of test performed, Dr. Benaderet stresses that you should contact your provider the moment you get a result that indicates you have COVID.

“There’s no reason to delay care just because you tested positive with a home test,” he said. “It’s fine to schedule a PCR test in that case, but also contact your doctor because you can get treatment while you’re waiting for the follow-up results to come in.”

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