NEWS

Is It COVID or the Flu? There’s an At-Home Test for That

COVID flu test.

Courtesy of Labcorp

Key Takeaways

  • The FDA has given an emergency use authorization to an at-home joint flu and COVID-19 test collection kit.
  • COVID-19 and flu symptoms can be similar, so distinguishing between the two can be important for treatment.
  • The kit will be available this month.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) to a combination at-home flu and COVID-19 test collection kit.

The kit, which is created by Pixel by Labcorp, is designed to detect COVID-19 and influenza A/B at the same time in people as young as 2 years old.

“Our newest home collection kit makes it convenient for individuals, including children over the age of 2, to take the test in the safety of their homes,” Brian Caveney, chief medical officer and president of Labcorp Diagnostics, said in a press release. “In time for flu season, the single test helps doctors and individuals make more informed treatment decisions given that symptoms of COVID-19 and flu are similar.” 

Adults age 18 and over and parents or guardians of children as young as 2 can request the combined collection kit at Pixel by Labcorp. Doctors can also order the kit through their electronic medical record system and have it shipped overnight.

COVID-19 Versus Flu Symptoms

Signs of the flu and COVID-19 can mimic each other, making it “difficult to differentiate the symptoms,” Richard Watkins, MD, an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Verywell.

COVID-19 symptoms can include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Flu symptoms can often overlap with COVID-19 symptoms. They include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

How the Combination Test Kit Works

The Pixel by Labcorp kit allows people to test for the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. It involves using a short nasal swab that’s inserted into the lower nostril. Once the sample is taken, it’s placed into a prepaid envelope and shipped to a Labcorp faciltiy.

Test results are available between one to two days after the company receives the collection kit and, in most instances, they’re available a day after the kit is received. Results can be viewed through the patient’s Pixel by Labcorp account and, if it was ordered by a doctor, they will be available through the patient portal and Labcorp Patient app.

Labcorp says the test kit will be available at no upfront cost to people who meet the clinical guidelines, which can include:

  • Experiencing symptoms
  • Being exposed to someone with COVID-19
  • Being asked to be tested by a healthcare provider

What This Means For You

You'll soon be able to test yourself for the flu and COVID-19 at the same time at home. Being able to know your status can help you make important decisions on things like quarantining—and allow you to get the right treatment.

Why Now?

Typically, people who suspect they have the flu will either try to manage it at home without a diagnosis or see their care provider to get tested. Why is a dual exam needed now?

Being able to distinguish between the flu and COVID-19 can impact a lot of protocols, including quarantine times and treatment, Watkins says.

The flu can be treated with the antiviral medication oseltamivir, and there may soon be an antiviral medication for COVID-19. Knowing which illness a patient has can help provide access to the proper treatment without them leaving their home and potentially infecting others, he says.

There’s also the possibility of long-term care to consider. “Flu resolves completely and doesn't lead to long-lasting symptoms the way COVID can,” Watkins adds.

But infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Verywell that “what is really needed are home respiratory viral tests that actually give a person a result for flu, for COVID, and for other respiratory viruses at home.”

The main element this test provides that you wouldn’t be able to get from your care provider is the convenience of not needing to go to a doctor’s office, he points out. The Pixel by Labcorp home COVID and flu test collection kit will be available sometime this month.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of COVID-19. Updated Feb.22, 2021.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu Symptoms. Updated Sept. 21, 2021.