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How do you know if your at-home COVID test is still good to use?

Good Question: How do you know if your at-home COVID test is still good to use?
Good Question: How do you know if your at-home COVID test is still good to use? 03:00

MINNEAPOLIS — As the weather changes, COVID-19 infections are ticking up again.

Doctors hope a new vaccine can keep the worst of the virus at bay. But as cases rise, you might find yourself reaching in your medicine cabinet again for an old, at-home test. 

But how do you know if it's still good to use? WCCO asked Dr. Sara Vetter, the public laboratory assistant director at the Minnesota Department of Health.

RELATED: For 1st time, updated COVID-19 vax won't be free for all: Here's what Minnesotans should know

"Generally, expired tests are not good to use. We don't know if the re-agents and chemicals in them have broken down over the time that they've been sitting in your cupboard," Vetter said.

That said, the FDA has been extending the expiration date on some at-home COVID tests. 

"So the FDA is working with the manufacturers to generate more data on how those tests are performing," she said. "If they can determine that that test has as good of performance after its previous expiration date, they go ahead and extend it."

You can check to see if your at-home test's expiration date has been extended by going to the FDA's website.   


What's the risk in taking an expired test?

"The risk is that the test might not actually give you a positive test if you have COVID. I mean, especially if you're trying to make a decision to maybe go to that party or to just stay home, we want to get you the most accurate test possible," Vetter said.

Tests can still be found at most pharmacies, but some insurance may not cover the cost anymore. But through MDH, every household in Minnesota can still order four at-home tests once a month for free, while supplies last.

Are the current at-home tests able to detect the latest variant?

RELATED: Why the CDC recommends everyone get the new COVID vaccine booster for fall 2023

"Yes," Vetter said. "The at-home tests are designed that they can detect any COVID variant out there."

Agencies are no longer tracking every case, so there's no need to report your result.

"The most important thing to do is just stay home the best you can, five days since your symptom onset. And then if you have to go out into the community wear a mask for 10 days," she said.

The new vaccine targets newer variants of the virus. The CDC says they are safe and effective. It recommends them for everyone ages six months and up.

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