At-home test kits
Scroll down for guidance on what to do if you test positive.
Finding at-home test kits:
Test kits are currently being distributed through Carroll County Public Library branches. Visit their test kit page for updates.
You can now order a 3rd set of test kits from the U.S. government at https://www.covidtests.gov/ or call 1-800-232-0233.
The phone line will offer services in English, Spanish and 150 other languages. Orders can be placed from 8 a.m. to midnight seven days a week.
Insurance companies must also now provide members with test kits free of charge or reimburse the cost; check with your insurance carrier. Read more at How to Get Your At-Home COVID Test for Free.
- Starting April 4, 2022, people with Medicare can go to eligible pharmacies to receive over-the-counter COVID-19 tests for free through their Medicare part B coverage.
- Want to make sure your at-home test is authorized? Check the FDA authorized at-home test list.
- Concerned that your home test may have been recalled? Search the FDA Medical Device database by brand name. Please note that many companies make different tests and only one type may be recalled – check the box design and other product information.
- Worried about the expiration date on your home test? Many have been extended – see below.
When to Use At-Home Test Kits
When to Consider Self-Testing
Self-tests may be used if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or before getting together with unvaccinated children, older individuals, those who are immunocompromised, or individuals at risk of severe disease.
Self-tests can also be used as one of many risk-reduction measures, along with vaccination, masking, and physical distancing, that protect you and others by reducing the chance of viral transmission. You can self-test, even if you don’t have symptoms or are fully vaccinated, in order to make decisions that will help prevent spreading COVID-19 to others.
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. Some self-tests require this type of repeat testing in the manufacturer’s instructions.
Visit the CDC’s Self-testing page
To find other types of tests, including PCR tests, visit the state’s Testing Locator.
Types of At-Home Test Kits
The FDA has extended the expiration dates on many COVID-19 over the counter (OTC) at-home tests, including those from Abbott BinaxNow, CareStart, iHealth and Flowflex manufacturers. In most cases the extension is for three additional months from the date on the package, and additional extensions may be forthcoming. If the expiration date on the box of your at-home test is near or past the expiration date, please visit the extension resources and manufacturer’s links below to see if the expiration date of your test kit has been extended:
iHealth – The FDA granted a three-month shelf-life extension for the iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test, which extended the shelf-life of all iHealth tests with expiration dates on or before Sept 29, 2022 from 6 months to 9 months. For more information visit iHealth Expiration Extension.
Abbott BinaxNOW – The FDA granted Abbott BinaxNOW a 12-month to 15-month shelf-life extension on January 7, 2022. The length of time varies by lot numbers, with most lots extended three months beyond their expiration dates. To check by lot number, visit Abbott BinaxNOW Expiration Extension.
CareStart – In January 2022, FDA extended the shelf life of the CareStartTM COVID-19 Antigen Home Tests from six (6) months to nine (9) months. Lots expiring in February through May 2022 are now expiring three months later than marked. For example, an expiration date of April 2022 is now expiring in July 2022. For more information, visit CareStart Expiration Extension.
Flowflex – The FDA extended the shelf life of the Flowflex COVID-19 Antigen Home Test from twelve (12) months to sixteen (16) months. For more information, visit Flowflex Expiration Extension. Contact customer support at 1 (800) 838-9502 for any additional questions.
The Health Department has been distributing several types of at-home COVID-19 tests:
FlowFlex tests from Acon labs:
- These are packaged one test per box.
- For children as young as 2 years old when administered by an adult, and for people 14 and older to self-administer.
- For information about the FlowFlex test, including FAQs and package inserts, visit https://flowflexcovid.com/
iHealth COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test:
- There are two tests per box.
- For children as young as 2 years old when administered by an adult, and for all people 15 and older to self-administer.
- There is a QR code on the box to download their app.
- Find instructions and a video at https://ihealthlabs.com/
- Spanish instructions (kit type is slightly different)
- iHealth offers a Verified COVID test service for travel
Celltrion DiaTrust COVID-19 Ag Home Tests:
- There are two tests per box.
- These tests are authorized for use in people age 14 and older.
- Learn more at http://www.diatrustcovid.com/
BinaxNow tests by Abbott Labs:
- There are two tests per box, intended for use by one person.
- For children as young as 2 years old when administered by an adult, and for people 15 and older to self-administer.
- Click here to view a video about how to use the BinaxNOW COVID-19 test. Please note, the newer FDA guidelines advise at least 24 hours but no more than 48 hours between tests.
- BinaxNOW: What You Need to Know
- FDA Fact Sheet for Individuals: Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self-test
Please read all testing instructions and be aware of the limitations of testing. No test is 100% accurate and false negatives and false positives may occur. For general information on self-testing, visit the CDC’s self-testing page. Talk to your healthcare provider about testing options and your test results.
If Your Test Result Is Positive
If you test positive using an at-home test, we encourage you to follow the instructions on the Maryland COVID Positive At-Home Test Report website to report your result to MDH.
This allows the contact tracing process to begin, which includes providing you with:
- A MD COVID Alert verification code
- excuse and release letters for work and school
- additional guidance and resources
The portal only accepts recent positive at-home test results for Maryland residents.
If you test positive (regardless of vaccination status) you should self-isolate at home. You can be with others after:
- 5 days from the date your symptoms began or from the date of your positive test; and
- 24 hours with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications; and
- Your COVID-19 symptoms have improved*
You must continue to wear a well-fitting mask when around others for an additional 5 days (through day 10). If you are unable to wear a mask around others, you should remain in isolation for a total of 10 days.
*Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation.
Continue to practice good hygiene, including frequent and thorough hand washing disinfecting “high-touch” surfaces. Practice physical distancing within the home and wear a well-fitting mask around other people. Also, please answer the call from MD COVID or (240) 466-4488, the text from 51454 or email from email@example.com to help Maryland contact tracers slow the spread of COVID-19.
Tell a healthcare provider about your positive test result and stay in contact with them during your illness. If your illness becomes severe, seek medical attention.
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. 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.
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.
Some self-tests, such as the BinaxNOW test, are designed to be used in a series. By testing more than once, you might detect COVID-19 more quickly and could reduce the spread of infection.
If your self-test is negative, test again in 24-48 hours. 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 isolate 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 test results are inconclusive or not clear on the test device. If the display on 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.
Invalid results can occur for many reasons. Your specimen may not have been collected correctly, or the testing instrument may have malfunctioned. Invalid test results are rare but can occur.
Regardless of your test results, you should always review the results with a healthcare provider. The healthcare provider will consider the test result together with your symptoms and possible exposure in deciding how to care for you.