What are COVID-19 Self-Tests and When Should a Self-Test Be Used?

COVID-19 self-tests or self-collection kits are readily available and can be used at home or anywhere else. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has information on its website about which self-tests are authorized for use.

Testing is an important tool to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community. If you need to get tested for COVID-19 and can’t get to a health care provider, self-tests, or home tests as they are sometimes called, can be used to get preliminary results.

How do you know if you need to get tested for COVID-19? People should get tested if:

  • They have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • They have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status.
    • People who are fully vaccinated should get tested 3-5 days after exposure.
    • People who are not fully vaccinated should quarantine and be tested immediately after being identified, and, if negative, tested again in 5–7 days after last exposure or immediately if symptoms develop during quarantine.

More information about who should get tested is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

How to Do a Self-Test

Before you Collect a Specimen
  • Wash your hands with soap and running water.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions included with your self-test or self-collection kit. NOTE: If you do not collect the specimens as directed, your test results may not be correct.
  • Make sure you store all the test components according to the instructions included with your self-kit until it is ready to use.
  • Check the expiration date. Do not use a kit past the expiration date or test components that have been damaged or are discolored based on the information provided by the manufacturer.
  • Clean the table, countertop or other surfaces you will be using when you do the test.
  • Read and record your test results within the time specified in the instructions provided with the test or collection kit. If a result is read before or after the specified timeframe, it may be incorrect.
  • Do not reuse test devices or other components of the collection kit.

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

Performing the Test

Some of the tests require a nasal specimen to be collected. It will be important to follow the directions that are provided with your test. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides helpful information about collecting the different types of nasal swab specimens that may be required for each test.

Please note that self-tests do not use the swabs that go deeper into your nasal cavity. These swabs are used by health care providers only.

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

English / Spanish

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

English / Spanish

What to Do After a Self-Test

If Your Test is Negative
  • A negative test result means that the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in your specimen.
  • If you took the test while you had symptoms and followed all the instructions as directed, a negative test probably means your current illness is not COVID-19.
  • It is possible for a test to provide a negative result in some people who have COVID-19. This is called a false negative. People can also test negative if they take a test too early in their infection. In this case, they could test positive later.
  • People who test negative should follow the instructions for re-testing that are included with the kit they purchased. Additional testing may be recommended within two to three days.
  • Contact a health care provider if you have additional questions about your need to be tested or your symptoms.
If Your Test is Positive
  • If you test positive using a self-test kit, you will need a follow-up PCR test to confirm your results.
  • Testing location information is available on the Health District website at snhd.info/covid-testing.
  • To avoid spreading the virus to others, it is important you begin following Health District recommendations for people who have tested positive or have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • You do not need to wait to be contacted by the Health District to begin self-isolating. The information on the Health District’s website provides detailed instructions for people to follow.
Reporting Your Results

Some self-test kits may have an app or QR code that will automatically report your results for you. If they don’t come with that option, you can report your results to the Southern Nevada Health District at www.southernnevadahealthdistrict.org/news-info/reportable-diseases/reportable-diseases-form/.

Additional Information

Information for people who tested positive for COVID-19 is available on the Health District’s website at https://covid.southernnevadahealthdistrict.org/for-cases. Information for people who are close contacts of someone who has COVID-19 is available at https://covid.southernnevadahealthdistrict.org/for-contacts.

More information about COVID-19 self-tests is available on the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/self-testing.html.