Before you throw out ‘expired’ tests, check to see if your test expiration dates have been extended.
The FDA has extended the expiration dates for COVID-19 home test kits. To get more information on home testing and to check whether your test kit’s expiration date has been extended, go to the FDA website .
Types of Tests
There are two types of COVID-19 tests: diagnostic tests and antibody tests.
- Molecular tests such as the PCR, which detect genetic material from the virus.
- Antigen tests, which are the rapid, or at-home tests.
Antibody (or Serology) Tests:
- Look for antibodies in the blood to check for your immune response to the virus.
- Should NOT be used to diagnose a current SARS-CoV-2 infection or COVID-19 and should be used to check one’s immunity.
WHEN SHOULD YOU GET TESTED?
Frequent testing for COVID-19 helps prevent spread of the virus among all people, vaccinated and not.
Reasons for testing include:
- If you have COVID-19 symptoms
- At least 3 days after known or suspected close contact to a person with COVID-19
- For screening (schools, workplaces, congregate settings, etc.)
- Before and after travel
- When asked by a healthcare professional or public health official
WHAT TO DO AFTER A DIAGNOSTIC TEST?
To get your test result, please check with the group that performed your test, such as your healthcare provider, pharmacy, or state health department testing site. How long it will take to get your test results depends on the test used and where you receive your test.
If Positive Result
- Isolate for at least 5 days, and where a mask for an additional 5 days. Learn more about isolation timelines and precautions .
- Seek a confirmatory, follow-up laboratory test if recommended by healthcare professional
- Monitor your symptoms
If Negative Result
- If up to update on vaccines : return to normal activities. Wear a mask indoors in areas where the COVID-19 Community Level is high.
- If not up to date on vaccines and have symptoms or exposure: quarantine for at least 5 days.
- If not up to date on vaccines and have no symptoms or exposure: return to normal activities. Take steps to get up to date on vaccines to protect yourself and others.
WHERE TO GO FOR TESTING?
A variety of places offer walk-in and drive-thru (or mobile) testing for COVID-19, including:
WHAT IS A SELF-TEST OR AT-HOME TEST?
Self-tests for COVID-19 give rapid results and can be taken anywhere, regardless of your vaccination status or whether or not you have symptoms.
- They detect current infection and are sometimes called “home tests,” “at-home tests,” or “over-the-counter (OTC) tests.”
- They give your result in a few minutes and are different from laboratory-based tests, which may take days to return your result.
- Self-tests, along with vaccination , wearing a well-fitted mask , and physical distancing, help protect you and others by reducing the chances of spreading COVID-19.
- Self-tests do not detect antibodies, which would suggest a previous infection and they do not measure your level of immunity.
WHERE TO GET A SELF-TEST
Order Free In-Home Test Kits
- U.S. Postal Service:
- Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home tests. If you ordered once before, you can now order once again.
- Visit covid.gov/tests or call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) for information.
- Buy Online or at Pharmacies and Retail Stores:
- You can buy tests online or from pharmacies and retail stores.
- Private health insurance may reimburse the cost of purchasing self-tests. Visit the FDA website for a list of authorized tests.
Updated November 27, 2023, 4:48 PM