Health and Wellness

The FDA has authorized the first combination at-home test for Covid and flu—here's what to know

Source: Envato Elements

Determining whether you have a cold, the flu or Covid-19 might be getting a little easier soon.

On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the first over-the-counter combination test for Covid-19 and the flu for emergency use — which means you can now test yourself for the flu in the comfort of your home.

"The Lucira COVID-19 & Flu Home Test is a single-use at-home test kit that provides results from self-collected nasal swab samples in roughly 30 minutes," the agency's statement says.

Prior to this, people needed to go to the doctor's office to test for the flu, says Dr. Michael Mina, epidemiologist, previous Harvard faculty and chief science officer of eMed.

"It's certainly the future. People don't want to swab their noses three different times and spend $300 to test for Covid, flu and RSV. So, bundling them together, it just creates a system where people can get a lot of information about themselves, in a shorter amount of time," says Mina.

"I think getting it into people's homes, and hands, is just going to improve our ability to be our own best advocates for our health."

Here's everything you need to know about the new test. Plus, Mina's recommendations for when to use it and what to do when you get your results.

Where can I get the Covid-19 and flu at-home test?

Currently, the combination test to detect Covid-19 and the flu is not for sale in the U.S for at-home use, and there could be a delay in distribution.

Shortly before the FDA's authorization of the at-home test in America, Lucira Health filed for bankruptcy, which the company attributes to the FDA's "protracted" authorization process.

If you're 14 and older, you will be able purchase the test without a prescription once they become available, the FDA says. Adults 18 or older are advised to administer the test on children between ages two to 13.

The test is meant for those showing signs and symptoms of respiratory tract infection like Covid-19, the agency adds.

How much does it cost?

The at-home combination Covid and flu test has been available in Canada since August 2022 and costs around $70 per test, according to Lucira Health's website.

"Hopefully the price will come down as sales pick up, and they'll be able to get it to a lower price point," Mina says.

When should I use the combination test?

It is unclear whether Lucira Health will be able to stay afloat, but if the tests are made available in the U.S. soon, Mina has some suggestions for how you should use it.

For context, Lucira Health's test for Covid-19 and the flu is a molecular, PCR test, which means you may test positive even when you're no longer infectious, he says.

Mina encourages those who may be asymptomatic and know they've been exposed to Covid-19 to use a standard at-home Covid antigen test before reaching for your combination test.

If you have symptoms, maybe start with a Covid rapid antigen test because it's so much cheaper. And if you're negative, then move to the Covid/flu molecular test.
Michael Mina
Epidemiologist and Chief Science Officer of eMed

"If you have symptoms, maybe start with a Covid rapid antigen test because it's so much cheaper. And if you're negative, then move to the Covid/flu molecular test."

With this method, you'll be able to either pinpoint that you have Covid-19, or rule it out before using your single-use combination test that costs more money, he notes. Then, using Lucira Health's test, you'll be able to identify if what you're experiencing is the flu.

What should I do if I test positive for Covid or the flu?

Lucira Health's combination test correctly identified more than 88% of positive Covid and flu samples in symptomatic people during clinical trials, according to the FDA. So, a positive result is likely an indication that you actually have the flu or Covid-19 if you're experiencing symptoms.

As a first step, Mina says you should call your primary doctor to disclose your health status. You can also use telemedicine if you don't have a primary care physician, he notes.

This allows you to consult with a doctor about what you'd like to do moving forward and consider treatment options, he adds.

"Very similar to how we can all check our blood pressure, pulse, height and weight, this is kind of the next iteration in my view," Mina says about the new Covid and flu combination test.

"I'll certainly have [one] at home."

Get CNBC's free Warren Buffett Guide to Investing, which distills the billionaire's No. 1 best piece of advice for regular investors, do's and don'ts, and three key investing principles into a clear and simple guidebook.

Sign up now: Get smarter about your money and career with our weekly newsletter

What a brain expert eats in a day to boost memory and stay sharp
What a brain expert eats in a day to boost memory and stay sharp