COVID-19 rapid antigen tests provide rapid results, can be taken in any location, and can be administered by a healthcare provider or yourself. Rapid antigen tests that are self-administered are also known as self-tests, “at-home tests”, or “over-the-counter” testing kits. When used correctly, these rapid antigen tests are highly reliable, easily accessible, and provide fast results. They are a critical tool in controlling the spread of COVID-19. 

If you have COVID-19 symptoms: take a rapid antigen test immediately. 

If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19: the CDC recommends testing at least five full days after exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms. If your first rapid antigen test is negative, you should schedule a PCR test or take a rapid antigen test again after 24-48 hours.

In either case, the CDC recommends repeat testing (e.g., re-testing in 24-48-hour intervals) to help ensure accurate reporting and monitoring of infection results over time. 

You can also take a rapid antigen test as a precautionary measure before visiting or gathering with others. Consider testing in advance, at least 1 to 2 days before attending an indoor event or gathering. This is especially important if you are at risk of severe illness or if you will be around others who are at high risk, such as immunocompromised people or older adults.

Updated November 9, 2023