Important update: Healthcare facilities
CDC has updated select ways to operate healthcare systems effectively in response to COVID-19 vaccination. Learn more
To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, get vaccinated as soon as you can and wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
UPDATE
Given new evidence on the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, CDC has updated the guidance for fully vaccinated people. CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.
UPDATE
The White House announced that vaccines will be required for international travelers coming into the United States, with an effective date of November 8, 2021. For purposes of entry into the United States, vaccines accepted will include FDA approved or authorized and WHO Emergency Use Listing vaccines. More information is available here.
UPDATE
Travel requirements to enter the United States are changing, starting November 8, 2021. More information is available here.

Self-Testing

Self-Testing

Summary of Recent Changes

  • Based on evolving evidence, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people get tested 5-7 days after close contact with a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

View Previous Updates

Key Points

  • Self-tests are performed by a person at home or anywhere.
  • All instructions for performing the test must be followed.
  • Self-tests can be used by anyone who is symptomatic regardless of their vaccination status.
  • Unvaccinated persons with no COVID-19 symptoms can also use self-tests, especially if they were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • If an individual tests positive, they should isolate and inform any close contacts.
vials light icon

COVID-19 Viral Testing Tool

A tool to help you understand COVID-19 testing options.

Get Started About the Tool

Video Resources

How To Use a Self-Test

How To Interpret Self-Test Results

Overview

Note: If your COVID-19 test is positive, tell a healthcare provider about your positive result and stay in contact with them during your illness. To avoid spreading the virus to others, follow CDC’s guidance for isolation. As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from other people and pets in your home or place of residence. Tell your close contacts that they may have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Illustration of a house

Testing is critically important to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you have symptoms or have had a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you should be tested regardless of your vaccination status. Quarantine if you have been in close contact (within 6 feet of someone for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone who has COVID-19, unless you have been fully vaccinated.

People who are fully vaccinated do NOT need to quarantine after contact with someone who had COVID-19 unless they have symptoms. Although the risk that fully vaccinated people could become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 is low, any fully vaccinated person who experiences symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should isolate themselves from others, be clinically evaluated for COVID-19, and tested for SARS-CoV-2 if indicated.

People who have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 should be tested to check for infection:

  • Fully vaccinated people should be tested 5–7 days after their last exposure.
  • People who are not fully vaccinated should get tested immediately when they find out they are a close contact. If their test result is negative, they should get tested again 5–7 days after their last exposure or immediately if symptoms develop.

Fully vaccinated individuals should follow CDC’s recommendations for testing.

If you need to be tested for COVID-19 and can’t get tested by a healthcare provider, you can consider using either a self-collection kit or a self-test that can be performed at home or anywhere else. Sometimes a self-test is also called a “home test” or an “at-home test.” FDAexternal icon provides information on which self-tests are authorized for use.

These self-collection kits and tests are available either by prescription or over the counter, without a prescription, in a pharmacy or retail store. At present, self-collection kits and tests are used for the detection of current infection.

Read the complete manufacturer’s instructions before using the test. Talk to a healthcare provider if you have questions about the test or your results.

Types of Specimens

  • Some tests require a nasal specimen that can be collected using an anterior nasal swab or a nasal mid-turbinate swab (see the Print Resources section below).
  • Other tests require a saliva specimen.

Prepare to Collect a Specimen

  • Wash your hands with soap.
  • Open the box and follow the manufacturer’s instructions included with the specimen collection or test kit to collect your own nasal or saliva specimen.
  • If you don’t collect the specimens as directed, your test results may be incorrect.

Once collected, send the specimen to a testing facility or use the specimen, as described in the manufacturer’s instructions, to complete the self-test.

Illustration of a collection kit

Performing the Test

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly and perform the steps in the order that they are listed. The manufacturer may also provide other resources, such as quick reference guides or instructional videos, to help you perform the test correctly.

Tips

  • Store all test components according to the manufacturer’s instructions until ready for use.
  • Check the expiration date. Don’t use expired tests or test components that are damaged or appear discolored based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Clean the countertop, table, or other surfaces where you will do the test.
  • Don’t open test devices or other test components until you are ready to start the testing process.
  • Read and record test results only within the amount of time specified in the manufacturer’s instructions. A result read before or after the specified timeframe may be incorrect.
  • Don’t reuse test devices or other components.

After you have the results, discard the specimen collection swab and test kit in the trash, clean all surfaces that the specimen may have touched, and wash your hands.

Illustration of a person using a cell phone to report results

Reporting Results

Give your results to your healthcare provider or, if you do not have a healthcare provider, to your local or state health department. Some self-tests have an app that will automatically report your results to the appropriate public health authorities.

If Your Test Is Positive

Patient calling doctors office

Tell a healthcare provider about your positive test result and stay in contact with them during your illness. If your illness becomes severe, seek medical attention. To avoid spreading the virus to others, follow CDC recommendations. See CDC’s guidance Isolate If You Are Sick, which has information for a person who tests positive and has symptoms, and for a person who doesn’t have symptoms.

As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from other people and pets in your home or place of residence. If possible, you should use a separate bathroom. If you need to be around other people or animals in or outside of the home or place of residence, wear a mask. Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils. Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately.

Tell your close contacts that they may have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting 48 (or 2 days) before the person has any symptoms or tests positive. By letting your close contacts know they may have been exposed to COVID-19, you are helping to protect everyone.

If Your Test Is Negative

A negative test result means that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes 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 means your current illness is probably not COVID-19.

However, it is possible for a test to give a negative result in some people who have COVID-19. This is called a false negative. You could also test negative if the specimen was collected too early in your infection. In this case, you could test positive later during your illness.

Some self-tests are designed to be used in a series. Serial testing is when a person tests themselves multiple times for COVID-19 on a routine basis, such as every few days. By testing more frequently, you might detect COVID-19 more quickly and could reduce the spread of infection. Some self-administered tests come with more than one test and instructions for performing serial testing.

If your self-test is negative, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for serial testing that are included within the kit during purchase, or you can find the instructions for your test (molecularexternal icon or antigenexternal icon) on the FDA website. They will likely recommend you test again within 2 or 3 days. Contact a healthcare provider if you have any questions about your test results or serial testing. You may also use the COVID-19 Viral Testing Tool to help you determine the next steps after 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.

If Your Result Shows Invalid or Error

Sometimes the results are inconclusive or not clear, and the test cannot tell you if your results are positive or negative.

If the display on the self-test shows an invalid result or a test error, the test did not work properly. If this happens, refer to the instructions for use in the package insert and contact the manufacturer for assistance.

Invalid results can occur for many reasons. Your specimen may not have been collected correctly, or the testing instrument may have malfunctioned. Invalid test results are rare but can occur.

Regardless of what your test results are, you should always review the results with a healthcare provider. The healthcare provider will consider the test result together with your symptoms and possible exposure in deciding how to care for you.

Print Resources

COVD-19 Anterior Self Swab Testing Center

How to Collect An Anterior Nasal Swab Specimen for COVID-19 Testing

English pdf icon[372 KB, 2 pages]
Español pdf icon[395 KB, 2 pages]

How to Collect a Nasal Mid-Turbinate Swab Sample for COVID-19 Testing

How to Collect a Nasal Mid-Turbinate Swab Specimen for COVID-19 Testing

English pdf icon[4 MB, 2 pages]
Español pdf icon[4 MB, 2 pages]

Previous Updates