Are you taking your at-home COVID test correctly?

Last Modified: 1/18/2022

COVID testing

This post was written by Carey Jacquay, technical lab manager, Parkview Regional Medical Center.

Rapid, at-home tests are available over the counter for purchase at most big box stores, as well as online. They are an affordable option, that’s easy to follow and obtain quick results so that you can follow the proper quarantine protocol.

When should you test?

COVID viral testing is recommended, regardless of vaccination status, if you are experiencing any symptoms associated with the virus, have a known exposure, or plan to travel or attend a large gathering.

According to the CDC, “a negative test result indicates that you may not be infected and may be at low risk of spreading disease to others, though it does not rule out an infection. Repeating the test will increase the confidence that you are not infected. Performing serial tests, meaning two or more tests over several days with at least 24 hours between tests—with one test as close as possible to the event you will attend—improves the reliability of testing and reduces your risk of transmitting disease to others even further. Some self-tests require this type of repeat testing in the manufacturer’s instructions.”

At-home test guidance

Follow these simple steps to take your at-home test correctly.

1)Lay out all of the supplies provided with your kit and read the instructions completely before beginning. Have a timer ready. The steps are fairly easy to follow, and most brands even provide pictures along with the instructions to help minimize potential error. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a test and realizing you did something to make the collection invalid. Get someone to assist you, if needed.  

2)When it comes time to collect your sample, you’ll want to avoid touching the collection swab. The cotton tip applicator should be inserted into the nostrils only. When you’re ready, insert the absorbent end ½ to ¾ inch into the nostril and twist/rotate along the nasal wall about 5 times or 15 seconds. Take the swab out and repeat on the other side, or according to the directions that came with the kit.

3)Results should show up in about 15 minutes. These tests are fairly reliable. If you receive a positive COVID test, refer to the CDC guidelines for next steps and isolation, and contact your healthcare provider with any concerns or questions. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, including trouble breathing, please seek medical attention immediately.

You can always call your local store in advance to make sure they have tests available. For more testing options, visit us online here or look for the COVID-19 Lab Testing tab in MyChart.


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