If you test negative: Experiencing Covid-19 symptoms but got a negative test result? Take another test. As of November 1, 2022, the FDA has authorized at-home Antigen Covid tests to be taken at least twice over three days with at least 48 hours between tests. If you test negative and aren’t experiencing any symptoms—especially if you’ve been to a gathering with several people—the FDA instructs individuals to test at least three times over a five-day period with at least 48 hours between tests. As per the CDC, it’s possible the sample was collected too early in the infection and may show up positive after a few days. If it’s still negative when you retest, then it’s possible any symptoms you have aren’t Covid-related. You can also double-check instructions by searching for a specific at-home Covid test on the FDA’s site here.
If you test positive: Take another test to verify the result. If both results are positive, you should quarantine for at least five days and wear a mask around other people for an additional five days. Make sure to contact your primary care physician and friends and family who may have been exposed. You can also ask your health care provider about potential treatment options—there are a few FDA-authorized antiviral treatments available that can be taken at home or at a health care facility. Those experiencing severe symptoms should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Many of these tests rely on the honor system—mask up and stay home.
There’s a chance your test result may show up as invalid. This means the test didn’t work. If this happened with your first test, you can try again with the second one in the box (though you’ll need to buy another pack to test again).
Rapid At-Home Covid-19 Tests We Like
Abbot’s BinaxNow kit provides results within 15 minutes of swabbing your nose and inserting the sample into the included test card. You can then use Navica, the companion app, to self-report your results. Those who test negative will receive a temporary encrypted digital pass they can use as official proof of their test result. With two tests in each box, the company recommends taking another one no sooner than 24 hours but no later than 48 hours. A few members of the Gear team have used this test. We cannot verify its level of accuracy, but it was straightforward to use, with clear instructions.
With the QuickVue at-home test, all you need to do is swab both your nostrils, swirl the swab in the prefilled tube of solution, and dip the test strip in for 10 minutes. If the result is positive, you’ll see both a blue line and a pink line appear on the strip. If it’s negative, you’ll only see a blue line. This kit comes with two tests, so you can take another one within three days. I have used this test—it’s easy to administer and understand.
On/Go’s at-home kit comes with a connected app that helps guide you through the process. Once you create an account, you’ll use the test cassette, extraction vial, vial cap, and nasal swab included in the box to collect your sample. After 10 minutes, you’ll be prompted to upload a photo of your result, and the app will confirm whether it is positive, negative, or invalid (at which point you can try again). Of all the at-home rapid tests I’ve tried so far, this was the easiest to use. The steps are simple enough that I’m not reaching for the instructions every single time—something I can’t say for the others. The standard version has two tests per box, but you can purchase a single pack for $9.
InteliSwab looks different from the standard at-home Covid test kit, and it also requires the longest wait time. Instead of a separate nasal swab, this one comes with a flat pad attached to the result window. Once you swab both nostrils with the flat pad, insert the pad into the tube of solution and wait 30 to 40 minutes for your results to appear.
Unlike nearly every other test kit, you’ll likely find that FlowFlex only comes with one test per box. That’s because, in 2021, the FDA was confident enough in this test that it didn’t advise you to test yourself again after a few days—unless you felt new symptoms coming in. But in 2022, the FDA updated its repeat testing protocols. The instruction manual included in this test kit now states that if you have symptoms on the first day of testing but receive a negative result, you should test again in 48 hours. If you don’t have symptoms but receive a negative result, you should test at least two more times with 48 hours in between tests. So, we recommend opting for the 5-pack if you can find it.
The process is similar to any other at-home Covid test: Swab your nose, dip the swab in the solution, and squeeze a few drops onto a small plastic test card. After 15 to 30 minutes, your results will appear. This test comes in a much more compact box and is easier to unbox and use than some tests we tried.