Self-Testing

General Information

Prepare to Collect a Specimen

1. Wash your hands with soap.
2. Open the box and follow the manufacturer’s instructions included with the specimen collection or test kit to collect your own nasal or saliva specimen.
3. If you don’t collect the specimens as directed, your test results may be incorrect.
Illustration of a collection kit
Once collected, send the specimen to a testing facility or use the specimen, as described in the manufacturer’s instructions, to complete the self-test.

Tips for Self-Testing

Test Results

If Your Test Is Positive

Tell a healthcare provider about your positive test result and stay in contact with them during your illness. If your illness becomes severe, seek medical attention. To avoid spreading the virus to others, follow CDC recommendations. See CDC’s guidance Isolate If You Are Sick, which has information for a person who tests positive and has symptoms, and for a person who doesn’t have symptoms.

 

As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from other people and pets in your home or place of residence. If possible, you should use a separate bathroom. If you need to be around other people or animals in or outside of the home or place of residence, wear a mask. Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils. Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately.

 

Tell your close contacts that they may have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting 48 hours (or 2 days) before the person has any symptoms or tests positive. By letting your close contacts know they may have been exposed to COVID-19, you are helping to protect everyone.

If Your Test Is Negative

A negative test result means that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was not found in your specimen. If you took the test while you had symptoms and followed all instructions carefully, a negative result means your current illness is probably not COVID-19.

 

However, it is possible for a test to give a negative result in some people who have COVID-19. This is called a false negative. You could also test negative if the specimen was collected too early in your infection. In this case, you could test positive later during your illness. Some self-tests are designed to be used in a series. Serial testing is when a person tests themselves multiple times for COVID-19 on a routine basis, such as every few days. By testing more frequently, you might detect COVID-19 more quickly and could reduce the spread of infection. Some self-administered tests come with more than one test and instructions for performing serial testing.

 

If your self-test is negative, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for serial testing that are included within the kit during purchase, or you can find the instructions for your test on the FDA website. They will likely recommend you test again within 2 or 3 days. Contact a healthcare provider if you have any questions about your test results or serial testing. You may also use the COVID-19 Viral Testing Tool to help you determine the next steps after testing. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, especially if you have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, you should quarantine according to CDC recommendations.

If Your Result Shows Invalid or Error

Sometimes the results are inconclusive or not clear, and the test cannot tell you if your results are positive or negative. If the display on the self-test shows an invalid result or a test error, the test did not work properly. If this happens, refer to the instructions for use in the package insert and contact the manufacturer for assistance.

Invalid results can occur for many reasons. Your specimen may not have been collected correctly, or the testing instrument may have malfunctioned. Invalid test results are rare but can occur. 

 

Regardless of what your test results are, you should always review the results with a healthcare provider. The healthcare provider will consider the test result together with your symptoms and possible exposure in deciding how to care for you.

Key Things To Know:

1. mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases.

2. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies.

3. The benefit of mRNA vaccines, like all vaccines, is those vaccinated gain protection without ever having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19.

How to Collect An Anterior Nasal Swab Specimen for COVID-19 Testing

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How to Collect a Nasal Mid-Turbinate Swab Specimen for COVID-19 Testing

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How to do a Self-Test

How to Interpret Self-Test Results

Medical News & Perspectives: Self-Testing

JAMA

COVID-19 Testing Moves Out of the Clinic and Into the Home