Conducting regular COVID-19 tests is an effective way of reducing transmission. The most convenient are the rapid at-home tests, which can be taken anywhere.

These self-tests detect infection and produce a result within minutes, compared to the laboratory-based tests that take days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Rapid antigen tests remain effective public health tools in detecting COVID-19 caused by omicron,” Dr. Bobby Brooke Herrera, an assistant professor of global health at the Rutgers Global Health Institute, told Verywell. “For the most part, they are not impacted by the omicron mutations in terms of detecting high virus load.”

Do at-home COVID tests work against omicron?

Based on preliminary data, the Food and Drug Administration has noted that while these tests do detect the omicron variant, “they may have reduced sensitivity,” according to NPR.

Even the CDC noted that a negative at-home test result doesn’t rule out infection and advised repeating the test 24 to 48 hours later.

“Multiple negative tests increases the confidence that you are not infected with the virus that causes COVID-19,” the CDC website stated.

When should you take a COVID-19 test?

The CDC recommends three circumstances where an at-home test should be taken:

  1. If you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, take the test immediately.
  2. If you were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, take the test at least five days after exposure. Consider testing a few times.
  3. Before going to an indoor gathering, take a test, especially if those in attendance are immunocompromised, older adults or unvaccinated.

What are the top omicron symptoms to look out for?

The most common omicron-related symptoms are:

  • Cough.
  • Fatigue.
  • Congestion.
  • Runny nose.