988 hotline one year after implementation

COVID-19 Test Kits: Storage and Expiration

Since the free at-home rapid antigen COVID-19 testing kits were offered, over 50 million have received them. For those that obtained the free kits but have not used them yet, it is important to know these tests have a limited shelf life. Luckily, the Food and Drug Administration has stated three months can be added to any expiration date printed on test kit boxes. However, beyond this three-month extension, results are no longer reliable.

On top of time, temperature can affect the accuracy of the tests. According to manufacturers, these rapid tests should be stored in temperatures between 35- and 86-degrees Fahrenheit. Frigid temperatures run the risk of freezing the liquid reagent in the kit, thus making the test inefficient.

When to use a COVID Test

The CDC recommends using a test

  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19
  • A minimum of five days after close contact or suspected close contact to COVID-19
  • Before and after traveling

A rapid test is more efficient when seeking to travel or visit elderly family or friends. The at-home tests detect active viral infections without having to utilize a lab, where results can take up to 48 hours. PCR tests are more accurate; however, rapid tests give faster results. Due to the occasional inaccuracies from the rapid tests, it is recommended to test again 24 to 48 hours after taking the first test if it is negative. For best results, review the instructions and follow them.

Free at-home testing kits

If you have not already ordered but would like to obtain free at-home testing kits, visit covidtest.gov. Each household is entitled to four free test kits at this time. All kits in the U.S. are shipped via First Class Postage Service and can be expected to ship seven to 12 days after being ordered. Once shipped, a tracking number and estimated delivery date will be sent out.

For those who have obtained and used all the free government-provided tests, at-home tests can also be purchased at local pharmacies with reimbursement available through private insurance.