You wake up feeling sniffly, and your throat is scratchy. Is it allergies, a summer cold, or could it be COVID-19?
Taking a home antigen test is the quickest and easiest way to put your mind at ease and make sure you’re not putting others at risk of catching COVID-19 if you are infected.
“While vaccination remains the best way to combat severe illness from COVID-19, testing is the most important tool to prevent the spread of the virus right now,” said Craig Robbins, MD, physician co-lead for Kaiser Permanente’s national COVID-19 vaccination program. “Testing quickly identifies someone who is infected so they can stay home and prevent further transmission.”
Home antigen tests are appropriate for most situations
Early in the COVID-9 pandemic, PCR tests were almost always used to detect the virus. Over the past 2 years, antigen tests have become widely available, making it easier and faster to get test results at home.
In most cases, home antigen tests or self-tests — the kind sold over the counter where you swab yourself — are your best option. You can use these tests when you:
Have symptoms (if your result is negative, retest 24 to 48 hours after your first test)
Have been exposed (if you don’t have symptoms, test 5 days after your exposure)
Plan to travel, gather with others, or spend time with people who may be at high risk
Need to show a negative test result to return to work
Home antigen tests offer a quick result (30 minutes or less) and don’t require a trip to a medical facility. They are an easy way to find out whether you have COVID-19 and could infect others. If your test result is positive, stay home and isolate, and contact your doctor if you need guidance or support.
“Self-tests have been shown to provide accurate results, even against the virus’s many variants,” Dr. Robbins said.
How to get no-cost at-home self-tests
There are a variety of ways to access this convenient testing option at no cost to you. Every home in the United States can order free self-tests from the federal government by signing up at covid.gov/tests.
If you’re a Kaiser Permanente member, you can:
Get no-cost self-tests at a Kaiser Permanente pharmacy.
Log onto your kp.org account to order 4 self-tests at a time to be delivered to your home at no cost. If you don’t have a kp.org account, you can create one.
Get no-cost self-tests from participating retail pharmacies. Medicare members can visit Medicare.gov for participating pharmacies and present your Medicare ID card at the pharmacy counter. All other members can visit Costco, Rite Aid, and Walmart, and show your photo ID and Kaiser Permanente ID card at the pharmacy counter.
If you need a PCR test, we’ve got you covered
Or course, there are a few circumstances that may require an in-person PCR test.
For example, your doctor may tell you to get a PCR test before a medical procedure or hospital admission. You or a family member may also need to show a negative PCR test result before attending certain events or activities.
If you’re a Kaiser Permanente member, choosing Kaiser Permanente for your PCR test ensures that your test result gets added to your medical record. Your care team can then follow up with clinical guidance, if needed.
When you get a PCR test at a Kaiser Permanente facility, you’ll usually get your results in 1 to 2 days, often more quickly.
Visit kp.org/covidtests to learn how to schedule a PCR test near you.