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How to test yourself for COVID-19
COVID-19 self-tests, also called home tests, can be taken anywhere. They provide rapid results. Some self-tests use a swab of saliva from your mouth. Others use a sample of mucus from your nose.
You can take a self-test for COVID-19 anytime. But they're especially important if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or you've spent time with someone who has COVID-19. In that case, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends asking your doctor for advice. They might recommend or prescribe a specific test.
It's also a good idea to test yourself before you gather indoors, even if you're feeling fine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other experts. That's especially true if your get-together includes children too young to be vaccinated or adults at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
How to get your test
Choose an authorized test. Check FDA’s list of tests with current emergency use authorizations. Also, make sure the test is intended for your age group.
Look for a diagnostic test. According to FDA, diagnostic tests can show if you currently have COVID-19. They include molecular and antigen tests. Antibody tests look at whether your immune system has reacted to the coronavirus. But that response can take days or weeks to develop. Don't use antibody tests to find out if you currently have COVID-19.
Buy directly at a pharmacy, retail store or online. Or you can check with your local health department about getting a test for free. If you have COVID-19 symptoms or you've been near someone who has COVID-19, ask your doctor if you need a prescription test.
How to use your COVID-19 test
When you test yourself for COVID-19, it's important to follow instructions carefully. If you don't collect your sample correctly, the test may not be as accurate. Read the instructions in your test kit before you start. And get prepped for the test with these tips from CDC:
- Have a timer ready on your phone or use a kitchen timer.
- Disinfect the surface where you will open the test kit.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Open the test kit and follow the directions. Be sure to use the correct angle, placement and movement of the swab when taking a sample.
Use the timer to make sure you read the results within the time frame given in the instructions. Reading them before or after may give you an incorrect result.
Throw away the collection swab once you're done. Never reuse swabs or other parts of the test.
If you test positive, let your doctor know. And tell anyone you have spent time with in the two days before you had symptoms or took the test.
If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you should take steps to avoid spreading it. CDC recommends that you stay home or isolate yourself for at least five days and wear a mask when around others.
Have questions about your results? Your doctor can help you understand what they mean for you.