Why keeping a COVID test handy at home might actually be a good idea

Medically reviewed on November 2, 2021. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

The arrival and distribution of the COVID vaccine have been the biggest boon in the fight against this pandemic, but we’re not quite out of it just yet. Ongoing cases, problems with getting vaccines to communities in need, and the growth of the Delta variant mean that we still have a way to go before SARS-CoV-2 becomes less of a problem.

COVID tests remain one of the most important tools during the pandemic. They can give fairly accurate diagnoses and provide information for health experts that can then go toward ongoing community health efforts [1]. Even if you’re a vaccinated individual, it may be worth keeping some mail-in COVID tests on hand. Read on to learn why home testing is so important.

Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and looking for relief? Get COVID-19 treatment online via Everlywell's Virtual Care offering.

What types of COVID tests can you get in your home?

You’ll find a wide range of mail-in test kits (sometimes referred to as self-tests) that have been authorized for emergency use by the FDA.

Rapid antigen tests are available as at-home sample collection kits. These tests detect specific proteins created by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. As the name suggests, rapid tests offer results quickly, often in as little as 15 minutes.

The main type of COVID-19 test that you can get at home is polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. These tests detect the presence of RNA from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Using these self-test kits, you can generally receive results within 24 to 48 hours after the lab has received your sample. This is longer than a rapid antigen test, but it also provides a significantly more accurate diagnosis.

More companies are working on rapid molecular tests, which offer the sensitivity and accuracy of PCR tests with the quick results of rapid antigen tests.

What are the benefits of a home collection COVID test?

Much like any mail-in test, COVID self-tests offer a distinct sense of comfort and convenience. You can do your sample collection and mail them out in the privacy of your own home without ever even having to change out of your pajamas [1].

Home collection COVID tests also offer increased safety and protection. You don’t need to travel to a healthcare facility and risk exposing yourself to infection. If you do have the virus, you won’t risk transmitting it to other patients, visitors, or the healthcare workers administering the saliva or nasal swab test.

Tips for performing our COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit DTC

Home collection tests always present the potential risk of contaminating the sample. Some tips for performing the test:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water prior to collecting your sample.
  • Follow the instructions that are included with the test collection kit to properly collect your nasal sample.
  • Clean your countertops, table, or other surfaces where you plan to collect your nasal or saliva sample.
  • Check the expiration date on the test. A test collection kit that is expired will likely provide inaccurate results [2].

How to read your COVID test results


A positive test means that you have the virus in your system. Tell your healthcare provider and stay in contact with them. Seek medical attention if your COVID symptoms become severe [2]. Even if you are fully vaccinated or show no symptoms, isolate yourself for at least 10 days following the positive test result [3].

You should also inform the people with whom you’ve been in close contact. An infected person can spread the virus to others up to 48 hours before they even show symptoms [2].


A negative result means that you do not currently have the virus in your system. However, false negatives are possible, especially early during an infection when the viral load is too low for a test to detect. If you experience symptoms, it may be worth testing again after a few days to make sure [2].


An error or invalid results mean that the test didn’t work properly. This can be caused by a specimen that wasn’t collected properly or a malfunction with the testing equipment. This tends to be rare, but if it does happen, contact the test manufacturer for assistance [2].

Even if you have been fully vaccinated, it is a good idea to have a mail-in test kit on hand. Breakthrough cases happen and are expected, and knowing if you’ve been infected can protect your community and the people you love.

Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and looking for relief? Get COVID-19 treatment online via Everlywell's Virtual Care offering.

What is the Delta variant?

COVID testing for variants: what you need to know

What are breakthrough cases, and how concerned should you be?


1. Home testing for COVID-19: Benefits and limitations. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed November 2, 2021.

2. Self-Testing. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed November 2, 2021.

3. What you should do if you or someone you know is fully vaccinated but tests positive for Covid anyway. CNBC. URL. Accessed November 2, 2021.

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