How to properly store, use at-home COVID-19 rapid tests

Factors such as temperature changes and moisture levels may affect results

Rapid COVID Test Prices Are on the Rise.

As the fight against COVID-19 continues, at-home tests have become critical tools. Last month, the White House launched, a website where U.S. residents can order free tests.

The at-home tests had been in short supply with consumers scrambling to buy them as the Omicron variant case counts surged. Biden’s administration hopes that by sending free tests directly to households, it will be easier for people to quickly confirm whether they are infected.

Now that the at-home test kits have started to arrive in the mail, here are some things to keep in mind:

Store COVID-19 tests at room temperature

Because temperature can affect their accuracy, you should avoid storing the rapid tests in places where temperatures fluctuate, such as an unheated garage, basement or bathroom cupboard.

“Put it away in a dry, room-temperature location,” Dr. Emily Volk, President of the College of American Pathologists, told TODAY.

Check for any potential damage to the test kit

It isn’t a big deal if your test kit box has been damaged during shipping, “it’s really all about the reagents that are inside that box,” Omai Garner, associate clinical professor and director of clinical microbiology at UCLA Health, told TODAY.

Even though the packages of reagents should be fairly resistant to physical stress, you don’t want to see any leaking. If you do, according to TODAY, you should not take the test.

Thoroughly read instructions before taking, storing the test

“These are medical tests,” Dr. Amy Mathers told TODAY. “They’re developed for use in medical settings by trained personnel. So you really, really need to follow the instructions to the exact letter.”

For the most accurate results, experts say to let your test warm up to room temperature before using it, read the results within the appropriate time frame and don’t forget the larger context of why you’re taking the test. If you have COVID-19-like symptoms and have recently been in high-risk situations, but your rapid test comes back negative, “you might want to get another more sensitive test,” such as a PCR test, Volk told TODAY.