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Self-testing for COVID-19

COVID-19 self-test; OTC test for COVID-19; Over-the-counter test for COVID-19; Home test for COVID-19; Rapid antigen test for COVID-19; Rapid at-home test for COVID-19; Coronavirus home test; Self-testing for COVID-19

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Self-testing for COVID-19 can be done using an over-the-counter (OTC) rapid antigen test to find out if you have COVID-19 infection. An OTC test for COVID-19 can be taken anywhere, including your home, and will provide results within minutes.

The at-home test for COVID-19 allows you to see if you are COVID-19 positive or negative at the time of testing. It does not detect any previous infection or help you find out if you have immunity to COVID-19.

Self-tests for COVID-19 are another way to help stop the spread of COVID-19, along with vaccinations, well-fitting face masks, and physical distancing.

When to Self-Test

You may want to self-test for COVID-19 if:

Perform the self-test for COVID-19:

Where to Find Self-Tests

You can buy self-tests at your local pharmacies or retail stores. Your health insurance may reimburse the cost of the at-home tests. Contact your insurer to find out more.

You can order free at-home COVID-19 tests online at or through your local health department. Your community health center might also be able to provide some free tests.

If you can't find a self-test when you need one, contact your local health department for community COVID-19 testing locations in your area.

How to Use Self-Tests

Read the instructions carefully before using the test.

You need a nasal swab specimen for the test. Follow the instructions provided with the test kit. Here are the general steps for self-testing.

Understanding Your Results

Taking a self-test of COVID-19 will show either a positive or a negative result.

If your test is negative, it means that the test could not detect any virus. However, you may have an infection but still test negative. To be sure, you may want to repeat the test after 24 to 48 hours to confirm.

If your result is positive, it means that you have COVID-19 infection. You need to follow recommendations for self-isolation and take all precautions:

When to Call the Doctor

Contact your provider if you tested positive and:

Having a medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or lung disease can make your symptoms worse and require hospitalization. Being an older adult also increases your risk of severe COVID-19. Inform your provider if you think you may be at risk.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. COVID-19: Self testing at home or anywhere. Updated: March 9, 2022. Accessed March 15, 2022.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. COVID-19: COVID-19 Testing: what you need to know. Updated February 25, 2022. Accessed March 15, 2022.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website. How to get your at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 test for free. Updated: January 12, 2022. March 15, 2022.

US Food & Drug Administration website. At-home COVID-19 diagnostic tests: frequently asked questions. Updated January 22, 2022. Accessed March 15, 2022.


Review Date: 3/15/2022  

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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