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Q: When should I use my at-home COVID test?

At-home COVID tests, also called self-tests, are now widely available. If used properly, they can be a tool to help prevent the spread of infection. These tests can give results in as little as 15 minutes and detect a current infection. You can take them whether you are vaccinated, unvaccinated, or have symptoms.

The best time to use an at-home COVID test depends on why you are using it. If you have symptoms and think you might have COVID-19, test yourself immediately. If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, test yourself five days after the exposure. If the test results are negative, consider waiting another day or two and repeat the test.

If you are attending an indoor gathering or get-together, test yourself right before going to the event. This can be especially important if you are gathering with people at higher risk for COVID-19.

When giving yourself the test, follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully to ensure accurate results.

If your test is positive, that means you probably have an active infection. Stay home and isolate for at least five days, then wear a mask when around others for the next five days. Monitor your symptoms and let your close contacts know you tested positive for COVID-19.

If your results are negative, that means the test did not detect the virus. However, negative test results may not be reliable. Strongly consider retesting after a day or two, and continue to take precautions, especially if you have symptoms.

Lastly, do not forget to order your free at-home COVID-19 tests. Every household is eligible to order two sets of at-home tests through the U.S. government. Each set contains four COVID tests and can be ordered at