(In the video player above: Summa Health charges its policy for employees with COVID-19.)
“The only way to know for certain if you’ve got a cold or the flu or COVID-19 is to be tested,” said Dr. Brad Fuller with Central Ohio Primary Care.
But there is something to look out for on those at-home tests: expiration dates.
If you picked up a test recently, it doesn’t hurt to check, but you likely don’t have to worry about it being expired. If you have had kits sitting around the house for a while, however, you’ll want to look.
“Some companies have said these tests will work beyond their expiration date, but in all honesty, it’s really hard to keep track of which companies have prolonged expiration dates,” said OhioHealth Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Joseph Gastaldo.
For example, Abbott, which manufactures the popular BinaxNOW at-home COVID tests, got permission from the FDA to extend the expiration date on its kits to 12 months. That means some customers who purchased kits in the first half of 2021 have tests that are still valid, even though the labels say they are expired. (More information from Abbott on how to check your kit here.)
Even with an expired test, if someone who has symptoms tests positive, it’s likely accurate. However, Gastaldo said negative results from expired tests might not be as trustworthy.
“If there is a negative test, if somebody has symptoms or there’s a negative test in somebody who’s asymptomatic, with an expired expiration date, that test would seem to be less reliable,” he said.
But new at-home test kits have been hard to find.
“I think it really is a bit of a perfect storm because you have a new variant that’s more contagious than any that have come before it,” said Fuller. “The testing, while it’s much better than it was 18 months ago, is still in short supply, not as much as we would like to have.”
Doctors are hoping as the new year gets underway, and the White House works on its plan to send every American a test, finding a test becomes easier.