The highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus is fueling new case spikes and sending people scrambling for at-home test kits that can quickly detect an infection.

“You have the result in 15 minutes, and you don’t need to go anywhere,” said Clare Rock, an infectious-disease physician and associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She added: “People have the autonomy to take some of this into their own hands.”

A number of at-home coronavirus test kits have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and can be purchased without a prescription online or from drugstores. Public health officials are urging Americans to get tested before traveling or gathering with friends and family members, making rapid tests an important tool for curbing a variant that is expected to cause record-high covid-19 hospitalizations in the United States.

But research into whether the tests can detect the latest variant has just started (early results suggest that the Abbott BinaxNOW and Quidel QuickVue tests can do so, according to the FDA). And experts also emphasize that the tests are not 100 percent accurate and that a negative result shouldn’t be thought of as a “pass” to live as if there weren’t a pandemic.

Here’s what else you need to know about home tests — when to take them, how to get them and how to interpret the results.