Written by Dr. Clause Alabre, Medical Director, #YourHealthyJava
As part of our community outreach efforts, the Medical Liaisons of the Mass General Hospital Office of Equity and Community Health have put together a brief tip sheet on the home COVID tests. We know that there are several kinds available, thus we just want to go over some of the critical steps on how to perform the test correctly.
We would like to stress the importance of doing the home COVID correctly because if it is not done the right way, the test may not be able to detect COVID and give you an incorrect result. This means that even though you may have COVID, the test is not able to detect it. This can then impact your care, as well as potentially expose your family, friends, and co-workers.
There are a few different test kits that are approved by the CDC. The directions for how you perform the test from each brand are slightly different. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you read the instructions in the box carefully before you take a test. Because of the differences in the kits, we only highlight a few key common steps that apply to all the kits
- Make sure you wash your hands well before opening the package and performing the test. That will help avoid contaminating the test.
- Set up a clean space away from pets, such as a table or countertop, to open the kit, and give yourself enough room to put everything down without knocking things over.
- Blow your nose gently before you swab.
- Follow the instructions on how far to insert the swab into your nostrils.
- Pay attention to how many small circles with gentle pressure you need to take with the swab (turns mean going around the sides of the nostril, not just twirling the swab in the middle of the nostril), and how long you need to have the swab stay in each nostril so it collects the right amount of sample. Some kits for example say 15 seconds or 5 turns per nostril.
- Make sure you swab both nostrils.
- Use the right amount of drops for the kits that come in droppers.
- Make sure you wait the specified amount of time listed in the kit before you read the results. For example some kits ask to wait 15 minutes for the result. Looking at the strip before time is up or too long after could leave you to believe your test is negative when it is not. It is recommended to use a timer (you can use the timer in your phone) .
- The test strips come with a “control” line that needs to turn color like pregnancy tests. The positive control helps confirm the strip is working. If the control does not have a color, it means that the test strip is not working or the steps were not followed the right way. Please discard that test as you cannot use the result of that test, and repeat the test!
- Make sure you store the kits within the temperature range on the kit – typically not too cold (like an unheated basement) or too hot (like near heaters, stoves, etc)