8 Over-the-Counter Medical Tests

By Temma Ehrenfeld  @temmaehrenfeld
September 28, 2023
8 Over-the-Counter Medical Tests

If you can't get to a doctor to have a test for your health symptoms, you can find many tests yourself. Here are eight over-the-counter medical tests to do at home.

Sometimes you need a test result quickly. Sometimes you can’t get out of the office to see your doctor or you’re traveling. Sometimes you want to avoid a co-pay or the cost of a doctor’s visit on a high-deductible plan.

These OTC tests can help you in the short term, although you shouldn’t use them as a substitute for a doctor if you have questions about your health.


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Strep throat

The Rapid-Response Strep A Test Strip and other tests let you check for strep throat at home, which can be especially helpful with children. You’ll swab your throat — or your child’s — agitate the swab in a test tube, and check a test strip.

Most rapid tests have an accuracy of 95 percent. Call a doctor if you test positive. Negative results suggest a virus instead of strep, but a fever warrants a visit or call to a doctor. 

Blood sugar

Bayer AIC Now+ and drug-store brands will give you your hemoglobin A1C result, a test of your average blood sugar level over three to four months. It’s one of the standard tests to see if you have type 2 diabetes or are have prediabetes.

Take the test before eating first thing in the morning. A normal level is anywhere from 4 to 6 percent. The prediabetic range is 5.7 to 6.4 percent. You may have diabetes if your result is 6.5 or higher.

For both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, you can also test your fasting blood glucose (sugar) level on strips that absorb droplets of your blood and measure the results on a meter available at drugstores. Look for a level below 100.

Urine strips are available, but they’re probably not sensitive enough for people with prediabetes.

You should take problematic test results seriously and discuss them with your doctor. You can ward off or delay diabetes if you lose weight and exercise. Many people benefit from metformin, the most common medication used by people with type 2 diabetes.


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Urinary tract infection

Several brands of tests for urinary tract infections are on the market, including AZO. You get a reading in minutes, checking for nitrite and leukocytes (white blood cells). The products aren’t the same as a lab test that can identify which bacteria are causing you trouble, but the home tests can help you determine if an infection is lingering.

Some research indicates that you can safely wait a day to see if an infection clears on its own before you need to take antibiotics. Many women continue to feel urgency or soreness even when they don’t have an infection. The AZO strips detect UTIs with nearly 95 percent accuracy. 


It’s easy to be uncertain about whether your nasal congestion is due to seasonal allergies, dust mites, a pet, or a virus. Allergy tests can check your reaction to the 10 most common allergens:

  • Timothy grass
  • Bermuda grass
  • Cedar
  • Ragweed
  • Mold
  • Egg
  • Milk
  • Wheat
  • Cats
  • House dust mites

You’ll prick your finger to take a blood sample, mail it in, and get an answer in about a week, with a list of allergists in your area to consult.


Check your cholesterol levels with several at-home kits with meters. You’ll get readings of your total cholesterol and your high-density lipoprotein level (HDL) level.

You’ll need to prick your finger for blood. Divide your HDL number into your total cholesterol number. An optimal ratio is less than 3.5-to-1. A higher ratio means a higher risk of heart disease.

Many doctors prefer a different number, non-HDL cholesterol.  Just subtract your HDL number from your total cholesterol number. An optimal number is less than 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 3.37 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). Higher numbers mean a higher risk of heart disease.


Problems with your thyroid can be subtle. A sluggish thyroid might cause you to feel fatigue, gain weight, or become depressed — but so can may other health issues. The Home Thyroid TSH Test kit allows you to collect a blood sample and mail it to a lab, which will process your results over about 10 days. You’ll get them online. ThyroChek offers results in 10 minutes, but it costs more. 

Blood pressure

Monitoring your blood pressure at home may help you feel less anxious if you’re on medication or are trying to get your numbers down with diet and exercise. A monitor from Omron allows you to store readings for two people. Bring it to your doctor and check its results against the readings you get there. 


Of the two home HIV tests, the fastest is Oraquick from Orasure. Swab your gum and have results within 40 minutes. The Food and Drug Administration has vetted the company’s claim of nearly 92 percent accuracy on a positive result and 99 percent on negative.

The test checks for both HIV-1 and HIV-2, which is less common in the United States. A positive result warrants an immediate appointment with a doctor. Follow up a negative result with another test within three months.


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September 28, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN