Self Test Overview
Note: The information contained on this page is for archival purposes only and it is no longer maintained or updated.
Self Testing Information
Testing is critically important to help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. If you have symptoms or had a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you should be tested, regardless of your vaccination status. You may also consider self-testing to screen for COVID-19 immediately before an activity to see if you are positive for COVID-19. You should isolate if you test positive. Testing can reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus when you take more precautions to reduce contact with others and notify those that had close contact with you since 2 days before your symptoms started or your test was performed, whichever comes first. Your close contacts should monitor for symptoms, get tested, and reduce their exposure to others as possible for 10 days.
Self-testing offers fast results. Self-tests are one of several options for testing for the virus that causes COVID-19 and may be more convenient than laboratory-based tests and point-of-care tests. Consider keeping self-tests at home or where you may need them.
When to Consider Self-Testing
Self-tests may be used if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed or potentially exposed to an individual with COVID-19.
Even if you don’t have symptoms and have not been exposed to an individual with COVID-19, using a self-test before gathering indoors with others can give you information about the risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. This is especially important before gathering with unvaccinated children, older individuals, those who are immunocompromised, or individuals at risk of severe disease.
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.
How to Find a At-Home Test (Self Test)
Please visit the Find A Test NM website and use your zip code to located self test options in your area.
How to Use a Self-Test
Read the complete manufacturer’s instructions for use before using the test. Talk to a healthcare provider if you have questions about the test or your results. Refer to CDC’s videos on How to Use a Self-Test and How to Interpret Self-Test Results.
Prepare to Collect a Specimen
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Open the box and follow the instructions included with the self-test to collect your own nasal or saliva specimen.
- If you don’t collect the specimens as directed, your test results may be incorrect.
Perform the Test
Follow the instructions exactly and perform the steps in the order that they are listed. The manufacturer may also provide other resources, such as quick reference guides or instructional videos, to help you perform the test correctly.
Most self-tests require the collection of a nasal specimen (see the Additional Print Resources section below). A few self-tests require a saliva specimen.
Once collected, use the specimen as described in the instructions to complete the self-test.
Watch Video: How to use a self test [00:01:32]
- Store all test components according to the manufacturer’s instructions until ready for use.
- Check the expiration date. Do not use expired tests or test components that are damaged or appear discolored based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Clean the countertop, table, or other surfaces where you will do the test.
- Do not open test devices or other test components until you are ready to start the testing process.
- Have a timer ready because you may need to time several of the test steps.
- Read test results only within the amount of time specified in the manufacturer’s instructions. A result read before or after the specified timeframe may be incorrect.
- Don’t reuse test devices or other components.
After you have the results, discard the specimen collection swab or tube and test in the trash, clean all surfaces that the specimen may have touched, and wash your hands.
If Your Test Result Is Positive
Stay home for at least 5 days and isolate from others in your home. Wear a well-fitted mask if you must be around others in your home. You can end isolation after 5 full days if you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and your symptoms are improving. Continue to wear a well fitted mask until day 10 and do not go anywhere that you cannot wear a mask. To avoid spreading the virus to others, follow CDC recommendations.
Tell your close contacts that they may have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. A person with COVID-19 can begin spreading it starting 48 hours (or 2 days) before the person has any symptoms or tests positive. By informing your close contacts they may have been exposed, you are helping to protect everyone.
If you think your positive test result may be incorrect, contact a healthcare provider to determine whether or not additional testing is necessary.
If Your Test Result Is Negative
A negative test result means the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in your specimen, and you may have a lower risk of transmitting the disease to others. If you took the test while you had symptoms and followed all instructions carefully, a negative result means your current illness is probably not COVID-19, though it does not rule out a COVID-19 infection.
However, it is possible for a test to give a negative result in some people who have COVID-19. This is called a false negative. You could also test negative if the specimen was collected too early in your infection. In this case, you could test positive later during your illness.
Serial Testing (Repeat Testing)
Some self-tests are designed to be used in a series. Serial self-testing is when a person tests themselves multiple times for COVID-19, or on a routine basis, such as every few days. By testing more frequently, you might detect the virus that causes COVID-19 more quickly and could reduce the spread of infection. Some self-tests include instructions for performing serial testing, including the number of days between tests, and may include more than one test in the package.
If your self-test is negative, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use for serial testing, if applicable, that are included in the test box, or you can find the instructions for your test (molecularexternal icon or antigenexternal icon) on the FDA website. They may recommend you test again within 2 or 3 days. Contact a healthcare provider if you have any questions about your test results or serial testing. You may also use the COVID-19 Viral Testing Tool to help you determine the next steps after testing. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, especially if you have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, you should quarantine according to CDC recommendations.
If you think your negative test result may be incorrect, contact a healthcare provider to determine whether or not additional testing is necessary.
If Your Result Shows Invalid or Error
Sometimes invalid results or an error can show on the test device. Invalid results or an error can occur for many reasons. Your specimen may not have been collected correctly, or the test may have malfunctioned.
Invalid test results are rare but can occur. If the self-test shows an invalid result or a test error, the test did not work properly. If this happens, refer to the instructions for use in the package insert and contact the manufacturer for assistance.
For more information about self testing visit the CDC’s page at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/self-testing.html.
Key Points about Self Testing
- COVID-19 self-tests (also referred to as home tests or over-the-counter (OTC) tests) are one of many risk-reduction measures, along with vaccination, masking, and physical distancing, that protect you and others by reducing the chances of spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Self-tests can be taken at home or anywhere, are easy to use, and produce rapid results.
- You can use self-tests, regardless of vaccination status, or whether or not you have symptoms.
- Follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions for performing the test.
- If you test positive, you should isolate and inform your healthcare provider, as well as any close contacts.
- Consider using a self-test before joining indoor gatherings with others who are not in your household.
- A positive self-test result means that the test detected the virus, and you are very likely to have an infection and should stay home or isolate for 10 days, wear a mask if you could have contact with others, and avoid indoor gatherings to reduce the risk of spreading disease to someone else.
- A negative self-test result means that the test did not detect the virus and you may not have an infection, but it does not rule out infection. Repeating the test within a few days, with at least 24 hours between tests, will increase the confidence that you are not infected
Copyright New Mexico Department of Health