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Jan 20

COVID-19 Home Test: When To Use and What To Do with Your Results

Posted on January 20, 2022 at 12:57 PM by Nancy McCormick

With the ongoing spread of the Omicron variant, the demand for COVID-19 testing has skyrocketed. To meet this demand, many COVID-19 home tests, also called self-tests, have become available. Home tests are easy to use and produce rapid results. 

Tests are generally available for purchase at pharmacies and other retailers. Every home in the U.S. is also eligible to order four free at-home COVID-19 tests from the federal government

Using a COVID-19 Home Test

If you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to an individual with COVID-19, you may consider using a COVID-19 home test. Several brands of tests exist. Follow the instructions carefully for the test you are using; it may differ from other home tests you have taken.

COVID-19 symptoms typically appear 2-10 days after exposure to the virus. Some people with COVID-19 might not have any symptoms. COVID-19 symptoms include, but are not limited to: 

  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

COVID-19 is spread mainly from person to person who are in close contact. COVID-19 can be spread by people who are not showing symptoms or before their symptoms begin. 

Even if you don’t have symptoms and have not been exposed to an individual with COVID-19, using a self-test before gathering indoors with others can give you information about your risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. This is especially important before gathering with unvaccinated children, older individuals, those who are immunocompromised, or individuals at risk of severe disease.

If Your Test is Positive

If your test is positive, you likely have a current infection. You should: 

  1. Notify your close contacts. Close contacts include anyone who was within 6 feet of you for 15 minutes or more (with or without wearing a mask) in a 24-hour period in the two days prior to symptom onset or the last two days if you have no symptoms. 
  2. Isolate at home for five days regardless of vaccination status. You may end isolation after five full days if you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your symptoms are improving. You should continue to wear a well-fitted mask around others for five more days.

You do not need to notify the health department about positive results. Please call your medical provider for any symptoms that are severe or concerning to you. If you experience chest pain or trouble breathing, call 911.

If Your Test is Negative

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. Many test kits include two tests, designed for serial tests, meaning two or more tests over several days with at least 24 hours between tests. Using 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.

If you have tested negative and are experiencing COVID-like symptoms, seek additional testing opportunities at or contact your primary care provider for further testing and diagnosis.

COVID-19 Vaccine

The Loudoun County Health Department encourages everyone age 5 and older who is not fully vaccinated to get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible. In addition, anyone who is eligible is encouraged to get a booster dose. Vaccine is widely available in Loudoun at many medical offices and pharmacies including, but not limited to, CVS, Giant Food, Harris Teeter, Safeway, Walgreens, Walmart and Wegmans. These locations can also provide flu vaccine at the same time, which is recommended by the Health Department. Visit to find the vaccination site nearest to you. 

To make an appointment at the county’s vaccination site located at the Dulles Town Center, visit

Protect Yourself and Others

Regardless of your test results, continue practicing prevention measures to protect yourself and your family: 

  • Wear a mask in indoor public settings.
  • Stay 6 feet away from people who do not live in your household.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Stay home when sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and remember to get tested if you’re symptomatic, or if potentially exposed to COVID-19, regardless of your vaccination status. 
  • Get vaccinated. 

More Information 

Anyone with questions about COVID-19, including interpreting test results, may call the Loudoun County Health Department’s information line Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., at 703-737-8300; or send an email anytime to the Health Department.

For additional information about COVID-19 and to sign up for COVID-19 text and email updates from Loudoun County, visit  

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