Before you buy an over-the-counter COVID-19 test, how do you know if it's the real deal?
The Federal Trade Commission issued guidance after the Food and Drug Administration started seeing tests that were fake or not authorized by the FDA floating around. They were mainly tests people bought online.
Here is the commission's guidance as well as how to understand the tests:
Check whether the COVID-19 test is FDA-approved
Abbott Diagnostics' BinaxNow.
SD Biosensor's COVID-19 At-Home Test.
IHealth Labs' iHealth test.
Quanterix Corp.'s Simoa.
Salofa Oy's Sienna-Clarity.
Becton, Dickinson and Company's BD Veritor System.
Nano-Ditech Corp.'s Nano-Check.
Access Bio's CareStart.
InBios' SCOV-2 Ag Detect.
GenBody Inc.'s GenBody COVID-19 Ag.
Ortho Clinical Diagnostic's Vitros.
Phase Scientific's Inicaid.
OraSure Technologies' InteliSwab.
LumiraDX UK's LumiraDx.
Princeton BioMeditec's Status.
Celltrion USA's Celltrion DiaTrust and Sampinute.
ACON Laboratories Flowflex.
Xtrava Health SPpera.
ANP Technologies NIDS.
If your test isn't one of these, toss it. Also make sure to check the expiration date, even if it is on the list.
If you buy an at-home test, you can upload your receipt to your health insurance company to get reimbursed for up to eight tests a month per person.
Finding at-home tests: Where can you buy a COVID-19 at-home test? Here's what to know and where to look
Check out the test manufacturer
In your favorite search engine, type in the company name, the website name or the seller's name with the word "scam," "complaint" or "review." That way you'll know if other people have run into trouble with this seller or website.
Compare online reviews of the seller and the tests, but make sure those reviews are coming from known sources such as an expert organization.
Pay by credit card. If you do not receive the test or if it's not the test you were expecting, you can call your credit card company and dispute the charges.
If you receive a fake test or don't receive the test, the Federal Trade Commission wants to hear about it. You can report it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
Which COVID-19 test should I get?
The best tests available are polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests. These look for certain genetic material found in the virus. The test, which involves a nasal swab done by a technician or nurse, is done in a doctor's office, hospital, pharmacy or laboratory and often is sent off to a lab to be read.
At times during the pandemic, people have waited more than a week to get results back from a PCR test. Now they are usually coming back in 24 to 48 hours, but there is still a wait.
Most of the "rapid tests" available, those that promise results in as little as 15 minutes, are antigen tests. They are less sensitive than a PCR test and are looking for a specific viral antigen that implies there is an infection.
Antigen tests can be done in a doctor's office, pharmacy or pop-up testing site, and the results can be read right then.
They are not as sensitive as a PCR test and might not pick up the virus.
The home tests typically are antigen tests. They vary in sensitivity but are not as reliable as a PCR test and might not be as good as an in-office or drive-thru antigen test. Why? Some of it is human error. Swabbing yourself might mean that you don't go high enough in the nasal passage or stay long enough to get a good enough sample.
A study published in the Cochran Library found that at-home rapid tests have a 60% to 85% accuracy rate, depending on the test. They are more accurate for people with symptoms, about 72%, than for people without symptoms, 58%. Another study, published in April from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, found that in four take-home tests it was rare to get a false positive, but the tests were between 44.6% and 54.9% accurate in identifying a positive COVID-19 test.
If I tested negative, should I believe it?
PCR tests tend to be reliable. If symptoms continue, though, call your physician to see if you might want to test again or test for something else such as flu.
If you had a rapid test done at a clinic, pharmacy or drive-thru site or at home, you can believe you have COVID-19 if you have a positive result. If you have a negative result, you cannot be sure that you don't have COVID-19.
"You can get a false negative," said Dr. Stanley Spinner, vice president and chief medical officer at Texas Children’s Pediatrics and Texas Children’s Urgent Care. Rapid tests are not as sensitive, and it might take a few days before the virus shows up on those, he said. You should continue to follow the quarantine guidelines if you've been exposed or have symptoms. Try to schedule a PCR test if symptoms continue.
Where can you find tests?
Kids in the Austin school district can go to their nurse's office and be connected to a testing center or be given a test.
Austin Public Health has two regular testing sites: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at Dove Springs Recreation Center, 5801 Ainez Drive, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Travis County Exposition Center, 7311 Decker Lane. You don't need an appointment, but it can save you time if you schedule one online at covid19.austintexas.gov.
Nomi Health is offering testing at Burger Center, 3200 Jones Road. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at least through Tuesday. You don't need an appointment, but you can preregister at nomihealth.com/texas.
Austin Public Health has a website to find other testing locations around Austin, including pharmacies. You can also find this list at dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/testing.aspx. You'll want to call ahead or schedule an appointment online before you go.
Some at-home rapid tests on the FDA-approved list that could arrive within five days were available through Amazon.com or Walmart.com. Some, though, were out of stock or would take two or more weeks to arrive.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Is your at-home COVID test real? Where to find tests and spot fakes