How accurate are COVID tests at home? When to take them and what your results mean
How accurate are COVID tests at home?  When to take them and what your results mean

How accurate are COVID tests at home? When to take them and what your results mean

Home COVID-19 testing can give you insight into whether you have a current coronavirus infection and can provide results in as little as a few minutes.

Here’s what you need to know about how to get them, how to use them, when to take them, and what your results mean.

What are COVID-19 tests at home? How do you get them?

Self-tests or COVID-19 tests at home provide immediate results, which PCR tests taken in a laboratory or doctor’s office can take days to deliver, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

They detect current infection, not previous infections – which can be detected through antibody testing.

You can order a free COVID-19 lightning test at or through your local health department. So are they sold online and at pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens.

How accurate are COVID tests at home?

A PCR test administered by a doctor, health center or pharmacist is the best and most accurate way to test COVID-19.

However, as a PCR test takes longer to get results, in some cases home covid tests may be needed.

Here’s what says the CDC on the accuracy of home COVID tests:

  • Positive results are extremely reliable. You should stay home for five days and isolate yourself from others.
  • However, negative results are not so reliable. A negative test means that it has not detected the virus, but it does not rule out an infection. The CDC says one should consider repeating the test 24 to 48 hours later. Several negative tests increase confidence that you do not have COVID-19.

How do you use COVID-19 tests at home?

Before using a COVID-19 test at home, it is important to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Tests may vary slightly depending on brand and manufacturer.

You will probably collect a sample using a nose swab and then use that swab for testing.

After collecting the sample with the nasal swab, it is important that you wash your hands.

When to take a COVID-19 test at home?

You should take a COVID-19 test at home in the following situations, According to the CDC:

  • If you have Symptoms of covid-19
  • Just before an indoor event or gathering
  • At least 5 days after your exposure if you have been exposed to a person with COVID-19

What do your test results mean?

If you were tested positive, you most likely have an infection and need it isolate from others for five days according to CDC guidelines.

It is also a good idea to monitor your symptoms and contact your doctor if they get worse. You should also inform your close contacts and wear a mask around others if you are to be with others.

If you tested negative, the test did not detect coronavirus, but that does not mean that no infection is present.

If so, consider repeating the test 24-48 hours later and see if you get the same result.

If you believe your test results are incorrect, you can contact the test manufacturer for assistance, use another brand, or contact your healthcare provider.

Related stories about COVID-19:

How to get 4 more COVID tests at home for free

Omicron subvariant BA.2: The new symptoms you need to be aware of

Will a mask protect me from COVID if no one else is wearing one?

Do I need to get an extra booster shot to prevent COVID?

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Katherine Rodriguez can be reached at [email protected]. Do you have a tip? Tell us at

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