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What is a self test

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COVID-19 self-tests are those you can do yourself at home or anywhere else. These tests are also sometimes called “home tests” or “over-the-counter tests.” Self-tests offer fast results. Self-testing is one of many options for detecting the virus that causes COVID-19 and can be more convenient than laboratory tests and point-of-care tests.

Visit the FDA website for a list of authorized screening tests. Some self-tests may have age limitations for self-testing or for an adult to test a child.

Since January 2022, self-tests are used to detect a current infection. There are no self-tests available to detect antibodies against the virus, which would suggest a previous infection.

Self-testing can also be used as one of many risk reduction measures, along with vaccination, mask wearing, and physical distancing, to protect yourself and others by reducing the likelihood of viral transmission. You can use a self-test, even if you don’t have symptoms or are up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccinations, to make decisions that will help you avoid spreading COVID-19 to others.

When to consider using a self-test

You can self-test if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have had close contact or possibly have been in close contact with a person with COVID-19.

Even if you don’t have symptoms and haven’t had close contact with a person with COVID-19, using a self-test before gathering indoors with others can give you information about the risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Doing so is extremely important before meeting with people who are at risk of serious illness, older people, people who are immunocompromised, or people who are not vaccinated, including children who cannot yet be vaccinated.

Specifically, the best time to use a self-test is:

  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, use a self-test right away
  • If you had close contact with someone with COVID-19, use the self-test at least 5 days later, plus a second test in 1-2 days if the first test was negative (See Serial Testing, below)
  • If tested before a meeting, get tested immediately before the meeting (or as close to the event as possible)

How to get a self test
Self-tests can be purchased online or at pharmacies and retail stores. Private health insurance reimburses the cost of purchasing self-tests.

Self-tests can be purchased online or at pharmacies and retail stores. They are also available at no cost through certain local health departments, Federally Qualified Public Health Centers (FQHCs), or by request through COVIDtests.gov.

For a list of authorized self-tests, see FDA EUA tests. Some tests may have age limitations for self-testing or for an adult to test a child.

If you don’t get a self-test but have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus, stay away from others as much as possible and follow the CDC’s recommendations on What to do if you’re sick. You may also choose to go to a community testing site. Call your local health department for other screening options.

How to use a self test
Read all of the manufacturer’s instructions for use before taking the test. If you have questions about the test or its results, talk to a health care provider.

 

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