The FDA is encouraging people to test themselves for COVID multiple times after getting a negative result.
People are advised to perform repeat or serial testing after the negative test results from any at-home COVID antigen test.
Officials are concerned that if repeat testing is not performed after a negative result that an infection could be missed and someone could unknowingly spread COVID to others.
The FDA recommends repeat testing whether or not you have COVID symptoms.
Below is a list of recommendations and information the FDA has shared on its website.
Before you use a COVID-19 antigen test
- Be aware that at-home COVID-19 antigen tests are less accurate than molecular tests. COVID-19 antigen tests may not detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus early in an infection, meaning testing soon after you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 could lead to a false-negative result, especially if you don’t have symptoms. This is the reason why repeat testing is important.
- If you plan to use at-home COVID-19 antigen tests, have several tests on hand so you can test more than once. You do not need to use the same brand of test each time for repeat testing. Visit At-Home OTC COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests for a list of all FDA-authorized home tests and for more information about who can use a test and for what ages.
- Be aware the FDA expects similar performance with Point of Care (POC) COVID-19 antigen tests performed at a clinic or doctor’s office. A negative POC COVID-19 antigen test result should also be followed up with repeat, or serial testing, and an at-home test could be used.
When you use an at-home COVID-19 antigen test
Follow the test’s step-by-step instructions exactly to perform the test and to read the test’s results.
After you use an at-home COVID-19 antigen test
- If you receive a positive result initially or after a repeat test, this means the test detected the SARS-CoV-2 virus and you most likely have COVID-19.
- Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for people with COVID-19, including to stay home, isolate from others, and seek follow-up care with a health care provider to determine the next steps.
- If you receive a negative result, the test did not detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the time of that test.
- If you have COVID-19 symptoms, test again 48 hours after the first negative test, for a total of at least two tests.
- If you get a negative result on the second test and you are concerned that you could have COVID-19, you may choose to test again 48 hours after the second test, consider getting a laboratory molecular-based test, or call your health care provider.
- If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms and believe you have been exposed to COVID-19, test again 48 hours after the first negative test, then 48 hours after the second negative test, for a total of at least three tests.
- If you get a negative result on the second test, test again 48 hours after the second test.
- If you get a negative result on the third test and you are concerned that you could have COVID-19, you may choose to test again using an antigen test, consider getting a laboratory molecular-based test, or call your health care provider.
- If you get a positive result on any repeat test with an at-home COVID-19 antigen test, you most likely have COVID-19 and should follow the CDC guidance for people with COVID-19.
Click here to learn more about the FDA’s recommendations.