Tests that Give Results at Home
Minnesota residents have many COVID-19 testing options. If you need to be tested for COVID-19 and cannot get tested by a health care provider or at a community testing site, think about getting a test kit that you can perform at home. This type of self-test may also be called a home test, direct-to-consumer test (DTC), or over-the-counter test (OTC). You may buy these types of tests in stores or online, without a prescription and without visiting a doctor or some other health care provider.
The following information focuses on COVID-19 tests that are done entirely at home and are not sent to a laboratory.
- This information is for people who are doing a self-test.
- If your test is positive, stay home and away from others. Learn more at If You Are Sick or Test Positive.
- Manufacturer instructions must be followed exactly to get an accurate result.
Basic information about self-testing
- You can do a self-test anywhere. Results are ready fast, often within 15 minutes.
- Vaccination status does not affect test results.
- Manufacturer instructions must be followed exactly to get an accurate result. This may mean taking more than one test, spread out over a few days.
- Information about the type of sample you must collect and how you must collect it, and tips on doing the test, is available at CDC: Self-Testing.
- Be sure to only use Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized tests. Tests authorized for self-testing say "home" in the table column called "authorized setting(s)" at the links below.
- It is important to review the MDH testing guidance specific to different settings in order to determine appropriate use of a self-test (for example, K-12 schools, child care, 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.
Antigen tests are not as sensitive as molecular tests, no matter where they are performed (e.g., 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 Contacts and Quarantine.
- 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. If you took the test while you had symptoms and followed instructions carefully, a negative result means your current illness is probably not 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 your test was negative and if you have symptoms and/or fever, you still should stay home until symptoms are better and until at least 24 hours have passed with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medication.
Because lower sensitivity tests are sometimes falsely negative (show a negative result when you are actually infected), consider taking another COVID-19 test especially if you have symptoms or have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 during the time that they could spread the disease.
- 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, including wearing a well-fitted mask, physical distancing, and following MDH and CDC recommendations and setting-specific requirements (e.g., for schools, workplaces, etc.). Follow setting-specific guidance if you work or spend time in settings that are at high risk for COVID-19 spread (for example: child care, schools, health care, long-term care, corrections, shelters) found at Guidance Library: COVID-19.
Self-tests for shortened quarantine or to confirm negative results
If you are thinking about taking a self-test to shorten the length of time you need to stay home and away from others after an exposure (quarantine), make sure that the self-test you are using meets the recommendations to shorten quarantine.
- Follow MDH recommendations for shortened quarantine, including guidance for specific settings (for example, schools, child care, long-term care, corrections, shelters) at Close Contacts & Quarantine.
If you need additional guidance on antigen testing and testing used to confirm a negative test result and you are not connected to a setting with its own specific guidance, refer to CDC: Interim Guidance for Antigen Testing for SARS-CoV-2: Figure 2: Antigen Test Algorithm for Community Settings.
Reporting self-testing results
- If you spend time in facilities or settings that are at high risk for COVID-19 spread, such as schools; 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, students, and clients the importance of reporting positive self-testing results to the facility or setting.
- If you are taking a self-test for yourself and not connected to a setting with its own specific testing guidance, you do not need to report the results of the self-test to local or state public health.
Self-testing results will not be included in official COVID-19 case counts, but they are important because they can inform measures such as contact tracing, quarantine, and testing to prevent further COVID-19 spread.