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How to Use Home COVID Tests

COVID-19 testing is one of the best things we can do to help stop the spread of the virus. If it is not possible to get a highly sensitive PCR test, there are other options available, as antigen or home tests have become more reliable.

If you have no symptoms and would like an immediate test so that you can get together responsibly with loved ones who live outside your household, a home test may be a good option for you. You can also use a home test if you have been exposed to COVID. Learn more about home tests below.

Are there different kinds of home tests available?

Yes. You may see tests labeled as Over the Counter (OTC) or Direct to Consumer (DTC). There are three general approaches to home testing:

  • At home antigen testing (OTC)
  • At home amplified RNA testing (OTC)
  • Mail in testing with at home collection (DTC)

For a list of authorized Antigen tests go to the FDA website.

How accurate are home tests?

Not all home tests are the same and some may be more accurate than other home tests. To ensure you are getting the most accurate result from your home test, you will need to follow the directions closely.

Remember that a test, either PCR or Antigen is a snapshot in time; it only indicates that at that moment the virus is not detected. Even with testing, practice physical distancing, wear a mask and wash your hands.

When should I take a PCR test?

If you plan to get a PCR test, schedule your test for around two days before your gathering. However, due to increased demand in testing, it may take up to three days to get your results.

When should I take a home test?

Two days before you are to get together with others, take an Antigen test. If it is negative, keep wearing your mask, practice hand hygiene and continue to practice social distancing. The day of the gathering, take an Antigen test, if it is negative, and you have no symptoms, you may socialize responsibly.

What should I do if I test positive?

If you get a POSITIVE result, self-isolate. It may be disappointing to have to cancel plans but staying home is the best thing you can do to help protect others from COVID-19.