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COVID-19 home tests: Test again after negative results

Person prepping their COVID-19 test.

Sept. 5, 2022—So, you think you might have COVID-19, but your home test results show you don't? You should test yourself again, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

One negative home test result isn't enough to rule out COVID-19. Here's why:

  • Home diagnostic test kits for COVID-19 aren't perfect. These antigen tests give quick results, but they are likelier than molecular tests (which are sent to a lab) to give false negative results. A false negative test result shows that you don't have the virus, even though you do.
  • Home tests are likelier to yield false negative results if you test soon after you were around someone with COVID-19 or if you don't have symptoms, FDA reports.

To reduce the chance of a false negative test result, FDA recommends that you repeat your home test, even if you don't feel sick. A study of more than 7,000 people showed that this increases the accuracy of home test results.

Keep tests 48 hours apart

Here's what FDA says you should do if you get a negative result after taking any COVID-19 home test.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms:

  • Test again in 48 hours.
  • If you get another negative result and you think you could have COVID-19, you can test again. Or you can get a lab-based molecular test (often called a PCR test). You can also call your doctor for advice.

If you don't have COVID-19 symptoms:

  • Take at least three tests. Take a second test in 48 hours and then a third test 48 hours after that. lf you get a negative result on the third test but you think you could have COVID-19, you can test again, get a molecular test or call your doctor.

If you get several negative test results, you may not have the virus.

If you test positive (even once), it means you probably have COVID-19 and should follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

It's a good idea to have several tests on hand, in case you need to perform repeat testing. (You don't need to use the same brand of test each time you do a repeat test.)

Get more COVID-19 updates

Find out more in our Coronavirus health topic center.

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