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Tests that Give Results at Home
Minnesota residents have many COVID-19 testing options. One option is a self-test which may also be called a home test, direct-to-consumer (DTC) test, or over-the-counter (OTC) test.
You can do a self-test anywhere, such as at home. Results are ready fast, often within 15 minutes. Vaccination status does not affect test results. If your test is positive, you should follow current recommendations for how long to stay home and when to wear a mask. Learn more at If You Are Sick or Test Positive.
The following information focuses on COVID-19 tests that are done entirely at home and are not sent to a laboratory.
Tips for doing COVID-19 self-tests
- Follow manufacturer instructions exactly to get an accurate result. Some self-tests are designed to be used in a series (also known as serial testing). The manufacturer's instructions will tell you if you should repeat the test after a negative result, usually within 24-48 hours of the first test. Getting two or more negative results means that you can feel more sure that you are not infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Go to CDC: Self-testing At Home or Anywhere for information about the type of sample you must collect, how to collect it, and tips on doing the test.
- Use self-tests that have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Tests authorized for self-testing say "home" in the table column called "authorized setting(s)" at the links below.
- Consider having some self-test kits on hand so you have them available when you need to get tested (go to COVID-19 Testing for information on who should get tested and when). There are several options for getting free self-tests.
- Order Your Free At-Home Rapid Tests
Every home in Minnesota is eligible to order at-home COVID-19 self-tests for free, while supplies last.
- Tests for people who are blind or have low vision
New program from the federal government. Administration for Community Living (ACL), to expand the availability of testing options that are more accessible for people who are blind or have low vision.
- Self-tests can be purchased at your local pharmacy or other retail stores. If you have health insurance, you may be able to get free tests or be reimbursed for costs of purchasing the tests. Visit CMS: How to get your At-Home Over-The-Counter COVID-19 Test for Free to learn more or ask your local pharmacy or contact your health insurance company for more information.
- Order Your Free At-Home Rapid Tests
- Check the expiration dates and do not use tests that are expired.
- Note: Some tests have been granted extensions on their expiration dates, so you may be able to use it for longer than it says on the box.
- You can look for the brand of test you have on the FDA At-Home OTC COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests web page to see if it has an extended expiration date. If it has an extended expiration date, there will be a link to a document showing Lot Numbers and expiration dates. Find the Lot Number printed on the test kit box and then look for that number on the list to see the new expiration date.
- Review the MDH testing guidance specific to different settings in order to determine appropriate use of a self-test (for example, health care, long-term care including nursing homes and assisted living, corrections, and shelters). For more information, visit the Guidance Library: COVID-19.
Accuracy of self-testing products
Two types of tests are available for self-testing: molecular tests (which detect the virus' genetic material) and antigen tests (which look for proteins on the surface of the virus). Learn more at Types of COVID-19 Tests.
For both molecular or antigen tests, it is important to follow the manufacturer's instructions exactly for the best results and the accuracy of the test.
Test manufacturers report that molecular self-tests that give results at home are sensitive and can detect small amounts of virus. A test's sensitivity is the ability to correctly identify the virus. We will learn more about how well molecular self-tests work as more people use them.
Most self-tests are antigen tests. Antigen tests are not as sensitive as molecular tests, no matter where they are performed (such as home, clinic, pharmacy). Available data shows that if you have COVID-19 symptoms, antigen tests are about 70-80% sensitive. This means that you could have a negative test result even if you are infected with COVID-19. Available data also suggests that if you do not have symptoms, antigen tests are less sensitive. False-positive test results, or a result that says you have COVID-19 when you really do not have it, are rare.
To learn more about available tests, contact the manufacturer or review test information on the FDA websites linked above.
If your test is positive
A positive test means there is evidence of infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
If your test is positive, you should:
- Stay home and away from others, even if you do not have symptoms. Follow recommendations at If You Are Sick or Test Positive.
- Tell your close contacts about your test result.
- If you are infected and have symptoms, you can spread COVID-19 to others starting two days before your symptoms start.
- If you are infected and do not have symptoms, you also can spread the disease starting two days before you took the test that showed you were positive for the disease.
- Anyone who was within 6 feet of you for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during that time should follow instructions found at Close Contact or Exposure to COVID-19.
- Refer to Reporting self-testing results below.
- If you have questions or concerns, discuss test results with your health care provider.
If your test is negative
You can test negative for several reasons, including:
- You are not currently infected with COVID-19.
- You are infected with COVID-19, but the test returned a false negative result. Tests with lower sensitivity are more likely to lead to a false result.
- You took the test too early in your infection, and not enough virus was present for the test to detect it.
- The test was not performed according to instructions.
If you have a negative antigen test result, you should take another test. Multiple negative antigen tests mean you can be more sure that you are not infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
- The CDC and FDA recommend repeat testing after a negative antigen result whether or not you have symptoms. Follow the manufacturer instructions in your self-test kit for when to take another test. For more details on repeat testing, refer to At-Home COVID-19 Antigen Tests-Take Steps to Reduce Your Risk of False Negative: FDA Safety Communication.
Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about what test to use and when to test. Refer to CDC's guidance at COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know.
If your tests were negative and if you have symptoms and/or fever, you still should stay home until your symptoms are better and until at least 24 hours have passed with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medication. If you have concerns about your symptoms, talk to your health care provider.
Seek medical care if your symptoms are not getting better or are getting worse.
People who test negative should continue to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by staying up to date on their vaccinations, wearing a high-quality and well-fitting mask when recommended, and following other MDH and CDC recommendations. Follow setting-specific guidance if you work or spend time in settings that are at high risk for COVID-19 spread (for example: health care, long-term care, corrections, shelters) found at Guidance Library: COVID-19.
For more information on testing, refer to CDC: COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know.
Reporting self-testing results
- If you spend time in facilities or settings that are at high risk for COVID-19 spread, such as long-term care; health care settings; correctional settings; or homeless shelters, you should report a positive self-test to the facility immediately. Facility management should have communicated to staff and clients the importance of reporting positive self-testing results to the facility or setting.
- If you are taking a self-test and are not connected to a setting such as those listed above, you do not need to report the results of the self-test to local or state public health. If your test result is positive, you should follow current public health recommendations on If You Are Sick or Test Positive.