At-Home Testing | CDC

At-home testing and collection allow you to collect a specimen at home and either send it to a testing facility or perform the test at home.

You and your healthcare provider might consider either an at-home collection kit or an at-home test if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or if you can’t get tested at a local healthcare facility.

At-Home Collection Kits

An at-home collection kit can be used by people to collect a specimen (nasal swab, saliva) at home and then send it to a testing facility.

Illustration of a collection kit

Several tests have been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that allow people to collect specimens (nasal swab or saliva) at home or in a private location. The specimen is then sent to a laboratory for testing. Most of the at-home collection kits are prescription only, but some of them can be purchased without a prescription.

At-Home Testing

An at-home test allows a person to collect their own specimen and then perform the test on the specimen in their home or a private location to determine if they have COVID-19.

In November and December 2020, the first at-home tests were authorized by the FDA. For these tests, the specimen collection and the testing can take place in a private location such as a personal residence. A laboratory does not perform the testing. The at-home tests are available either by prescription or over the counter (do not require a prescription).

Getting an At-home Test

Contact your healthcare provider to see if an at-home specimen collection kit or an at-home test is appropriate for you and available in your area. Some of these tests require a prescription from your healthcare provider, and some require a health assessment and a laboratory order. Others do not require a prescription, a health assessment, or a laboratory order.

Collecting Specimens

Follow the instructions included with the test kit for collecting your own nasal or saliva specimen. For proper nasal specimen collection and accuracy of test results, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Some tests require an anterior nasal swabpdf icon and some require a nasal mid-turbinate swab. Make sure the amount of saliva reaches the fill line on the collection device, so that test results are accurate.

Reporting Results

Illustration of a person using a cell phone to report results

Communicate your results to your healthcare provider, who is responsible for reporting your test results to the state health department. If the at-home test has an app that allows you to report your results to the state health department, inform your healthcare provider whether you used that app for results reporting.

If Your Test Is Negative

A negative result means that 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 usually means your current illness is not COVID-19.

However, it is possible for a test to give a negative result in some people who have COVID-19 (that is, a false negative). Discuss your symptoms and test results with your healthcare provider to determine if you need follow-up 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.

Illustration of a person with a fever

If Your Test Is Positive

Tell your healthcare provider about your positive test result and stay in contact with them during your illness. To avoid spreading the virus to others, follow CDC recommendations. These recommendations include isolating for at least 10 days since symptom onset and until you have at least 24 hours without a fever. During the 24 hours, you should monitor your temperature without taking medications that will reduce your fever (for example, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, aspirin). See CDC’s guidance Isolate if You are Sick.

If Your Result Shows Invalid or Error

The test did not work properly. If your test shows an invalid result or test error, please refer to the instructions for use in the package insert and contact the manufacturer for assistance.

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