Coronavirus (COVID-19) PCR home test: step-by-step guide (2022)

Coronavirus (COVID-19) PCR home test: step-by-step guide (1)

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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/testing-for-coronavirus-at-home/covid-19-home-test-step-by-step-guide-adults-and-children

This is a swab test to check if you have coronavirus (COVID-19) now.

Some test kits have already been registered. A registered kit must only be used by the person it is addressed to. If someone else uses a test registered to you, you will get their results.

If your test kit is not already registered, it is very important that you register it online, so that you get your results.

How you will know if your test kit is already registered

If your test kit has already been registered:

  • it will have a label on the purple outer bag next to the address label that says: ‘Registered Kit’
  • your order confirmation email will say ‘You no longer need to register your kit, it has already been registered to you.’
  • the instruction leaflet inside the test kit will tell you on the front page that the test kit is registered

This means that you do not have to register it online yourself.

If your test kit has not been registered:

  • your order confirmation email will say: ‘Register your kit online, using your order ID, at https://gov.uk/register-home-test
  • the instruction leaflet will include the step: ‘Register the test kit online’

Before you start

Read these instructions before you open the test kit.

Wash your hands for 20 seconds before you handle the test kit.

If more than one person in your home is taking a COVID-19 test:

  • if your test kits are already registered, make sure each person takes the test kit individually assigned to them
  • If your test kit is not already registered make sure you register each person’s kit online

Checklist: what you need to do

Read through the instructions and follow the steps in the correct order. The preparation and test will take about 30 minutes.

  1. Check collection times at a priority postbox

    (Video) How to use the iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test

  2. Register the test kit online if not already registered

  3. Doing the test on yourself or someone else

  4. Set up your test

  5. Check test kit contents

  6. Take your swab sample

  7. Package the test kit

  8. Post the completed test kit

  9. Help and contact details

Who can take the test?

The test is suitable for the following people:

  • adults aged 16 and over – self-test (unless unable to do so)
  • teenagers aged 12 to 15 – self-test with adult supervision
  • children 11 and under – adult to test (see instructions on how to test a child)

Advice about taking the test

It is very important that you read the instructions and follow the steps in the right order.

Failure to follow the instructions may affect the performance of the test and invalidate the results.

General guidance and warnings

This includes:

  • do not use if package arrives damaged or missing components
  • this device is for single use only
  • keep out of the reach of children
  • these kits are only designed for human use
  • do not use excessive force, pressure or bending when collecting swab samples, as this may result in accidental breakage of the swab
  • clean spills from the plastic tube using household cleaner or disinfectant wipes
  • get medical advice if the solution is accidentally swallowed or comes into contact with the skin, mouth or eyes
  • if you have a nose piercing swab the other nostril. If pierced on both sides, remove the piercing on one side before swabbing
  • if you have had a nosebleed within the last 24 hours, swab the other nostril or wait 24 hours
  • if there is a reason you cannot take a throat swab, swab both nostrils instead
  • if you have problems with your hands or vision, you may need someone to assist you with the swabbing and testing process

1. Check collection times at a priority postbox

Before you take your sample, check the collection times at your nearest Royal Mail priority postbox.

You need to post your completed test kit on the same day you take the test and no later than 1 hour before the last collection.

Find a priority postbox

Download and use the Royal Mail app or find a priority postbox near you:

  1. Click ‘Show my nearest priority postboxes’.
  2. Enter the postcode of where you are staying and select the address.
  3. View priority postboxes near you.

If you cannot get to a priority postbox

Call the contact centre on 119 for guidance on when to take your test and how to book a courier collection if you are:

  • unable to get to a priority postbox without using public transport
  • symptomatic and unable to go to a priority postbox without contact with other people
  • shielding, classed as vulnerable or too unwell to leave your home
  • a resident of the NHS Highland area and do not have access to a priority postbox

2. Register the test kit online if not already registered

If your test kit is not already registered you need to register it before you take your test, or you will not get your result.

If your test kit has not been registered:

  • your order confirmation email will say: ‘Register your kit online, using your order ID, at https://gov.uk/register-home-test
  • the instruction leaflet will include the step: ‘Register the test kit online’

If you are not sure if your test kit is registered, try to register it. If your test kit is already registered, you will see the message ‘Test kit barcode already added’.

If you are testing more than one person in your household, you need to register each person’s kit.

(Video) How to do a COVID-19 Self Test (rapid antigen test)

Register your test kit online

You’ll need your:

  • 10-digit order ID from your Home test order confirmation email
  • 13-character Royal Mail barcode from the prepaid return label. Enter numbers and letters only and not the # hashtag symbol
  • 11-character test kit barcode. This is on the front page of the instruction booklet, plastic tube, leakproof bag and return box.

3. Doing a test on yourself or someone else

Follow the guidelines on how to prepare and test yourself, a child or a person who requires assistance.

Watch a video about how to do a PCR home test.

Children under 12 should be tested by an adult.

If you are testing a child, show them the test kit and talk to them about what you are going to do.

Try to explain the test to the child in words they can understand:

  • if possible, sit them on someone’s lap or have someone hold their hand
  • ask the child to blow their nose into a tissue – place the tissue in a bin
  • taking the test may feel a little uncomfortable and unusual – remain calm and confident as you go through the process

Watch a video about how to test a child.

Do not do this test if you do not feel confident or if the child has any pain or asks to stop.

If you cannot do the test, everyone in the household needs to follow the current government self-isolation guidance.

4. Set up your test

Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds using soap and water or hand sanitiser before handling the test kit to avoid contaminating it.

You will need: tissues, surface cleaner, hand sanitiser or soap and access to warm water.

  1. Read this instruction guide carefully.
  2. Clear, clean and dry a surface and place the home test kit content on it.
  3. Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds, using soap and warm water or hand sanitiser. If more than one test is being done, clean the surface and rewash your hands between each test.

5. Check test kit contents

Check the use-by date [YYYY-MMM-DD]. Do not use the test device after its use-by date.

Your test kit should have these items:

  • leak-proof bag
  • plastic tube, containing a small amount of liquid
  • return box with pre-paid Royal Mail return label
  • white absorbent pad
  • swab, inside a sealed wrapper
  • security seal, for the return box

The leakproof bag, plastic tube and return box have an 11-character barcode. Make sure they are the same on all the items.

Note that some components may differ from the picture.

If anything is broken or missing, or if any barcodes do not match, or if the test kit use-by date on the package has expired, do not use the kit. Call the contact centre on: 119 (free from mobiles and landlines). Lines are open every day, 7am to 11pm. We offer support in 200 languages as well as British Sign Language.

6. Take your swab sample

Try not to touch your tongue, teeth, cheeks, gums or any other surfaces with the swab’s fabric tip, as this may spoil your sample. If this does happen, complete and return the test anyway.

(Video) How to do a rapid antigen test for COVID-19

  1. Look inside the mouth and find the tonsils at the back of the throat (or the area they would be if you do not have them).

  2. Gently blow the nose into a tissue so excess mucus does not spoil the test. Throw the tissue away in a bin.

  3. Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds using soap and warm water or hand sanitiser before handling the test kit to avoid contaminating it.

  4. Open the package and gently take out the swab. Be careful not to touch the fabric tip with your fingers.
    You will use this for both tonsils and nose.

  5. Hold the swab in your hand, open your mouth wide and tilt your head back. Gently rub the fabric tip of the swab over both tonsils (or where they would have been).
    Do this with good contact 4 times on each side. Carefully remove the swab.

  6. Put the same end of the same swab gently into the nostril about 2.5cm or until you feel some resistance.

  7. Roll the swab firmly around making 10 complete circles – no force is needed. Carefully remove the swab. If you have a piercing, use the other nostril.

  8. Unscrew the lid from the plastic tube, while keeping it upright so the liquid stays inside. Put the swab into it with the fabric tip facing down.

  9. Snap off the stick end of the swab, so that it fits inside the tube without bending.

  10. Securely screw the lid on so no liquid can leak.

The liquid must stay in the tube.

7. Package the test kit

You need to post your completed test kit no later than 1 hour before the last collection.

Step 1

Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds using soap and warm water or hand sanitiser.

Step 2

Place the absorbent pad into the leak-proof bag.

Put the tube next to the absorbent pad in the same bag.

Step 3

Let some air out of the leak-proof bag and then seal it using its adhesive seal. Make sure that it is sealed properly.

How to assemble the return box

  1. Follow the assembly instructions on the return box.
  2. Fold both the sides upwards and inwards towards the centre.
  3. Fold the bottom part of the lid towards the centre on top of the sides.
  4. Put the sealed leak-proof bag containing the plastic tube and absorbent pad into the box.
  5. Close the box.
  6. Apply the security seal to close the box securely.
  7. Take a picture or note of the barcode so you can track the delivery.
  8. You are now ready to post your test kit.
  9. Dispose of any remaining test kit parts in your household waste.

8. Post the completed test kit

Post the completed test kit on the same day you take the test and no later than 1 hour before the last collection time (weekend and bank holiday times may differ from weekdays).

Only use a Royal Mail priority postbox with the label and one of the NHS regional logos.

If symptomatic, avoid contact with others, wear a face covering and do not take public transport.

(Video) How to use the iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test

You can walk, cycle or drive to your nearest priority postbox to post your test kit or someone can post it for you.

Do not enter any Post Office with your test kit.

Some priority postboxes have a Sunday collection. This will be clearly labelled on the postbox

Getting your results

You should get the results by email and text within 2 days of returning the kit. However, due to the volume of tests, it may take longer.

If you have not received the results after 5 days call the contact centre on 119.

Have you been harmed or had a reaction while using this kit?

If you are harmed by a device, reporting it could help others.

Use the Coronavirus Yellow Card reporting site to report injuries and reactions.

Advice

If you have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms or have contracted coronavirus (COVID-19), follow NHS guidance online.

Get more advice about coronavirus in children.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) and your condition gets worse, or you do not get better after 7 days, visit the NHS 111 online service.

If you do not have internet access, call NHS 111.

For a medical emergency dial 999.

Do not delay getting help if you are worried. Trust your instincts.

Get help to take your test

You can use the free Be My Eyes app to get help from trained NHS Test and Trace staff. Download the app, go to ‘Specialized Help’ and select NHS Test & Trace in the ‘Personal Health’ category.

If you need help call 119 (free from mobiles and landlines).

Lines are open 7am to 11pm every day.

FAQs

Are COVID-19 tests 100% reliable? ›

No test is 100% reliable, even those who meet regulatory standards for performance and safety. The results are also only relevant to that sample at that point in time.

How long does it take for COVID-19 booster to become effective? ›

It may take 7 days for a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose to work.

How long do COVID-19 booster side effects last? ›

Like all medicines, the COVID-19 vaccines can cause side effects, but not everyone gets them. Most side effects are mild and should not last longer than a week, such as: a sore arm from the injection.

Can you take ibuprofen if you have the coronavirus disease? ›

Patients can take paracetamol or ibuprofen when self-medicating for symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever and headache, and should follow NHS advice if they have any questions or if symptoms get worse.

How long does it take to get the COVID-19 antibody test result? ›

You should get your result within 3 to 7 days of taking the test (usually by text or email).

Can I develop immunity to COVID-19 after testing positive for PCR? ›

If you have previously tested positive for COVID-19, you will probably have developed some immunity to the disease. However, it cannot be guaranteed that everyone will develop immunity, or how long it will last. It is possible for PCR tests to remain positive for some time after COVID-19 infection.

Can asymptomatic people transmit COVID-19? ›

Yes, infected people can transmit the virus both when they have symptoms and when they don't have symptoms. This is why it is important that all people who are infected are identified by testing, isolated, and, depending on the severity of their disease, receive medical care.

What does a negative COVID-19 antibody test result mean? ›

A negative result means the test did not detect COVID-19 antibodies.

What is an antibody test for COVID-19? ›

An antibody test is a blood test to check if you've had coronavirus (COVID-19) before or been vaccinated.

When should you take a COVID-19 test before going into hospital for a procedure? ›

If you are going into hospital, you must take your coronavirus (COVID-19) PCR home test kit exactly 3 days before the day of your procedure.

Is Pfizer COVID-19 booster safe? ›

Yes, booster shots are proven to be safe. Pfizer released a study of 10,000 participants in which half of them received a booster dose and half a placebo. In terms of safety, they found no new adverse events, meaning it was consistent with what has been seen in previous studies.

Do smokers suffer from worse COVID-19 symptoms? ›

Early research indicates that, compared to non-smokers, having a history of smoking may substantially increase the chance of adverse health outcomes for COVID-19 patients, including being admitted to intensive care, requiring mechanical ventilation and suffering severe health consequences.

What should I do if I have COVID-19 vaccine side effects? ›

Most side effects are mild or moderate and go away within a few days of appearing. If side effects such as pain and/or fever are troublesome, they can be treated by medicines for pain and fever such as paracetamol.

What are the most common adverse reactions to the covid-19 vaccine? ›

The most frequent adverse reactions in trials were pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, myalgia (muscle pains), chills, arthralgia (joint pains), and fever; these were each reported in more than 1 in 10 people.

What are the common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine? ›

Some people have reported a sudden feeling of cold with shivering/shaking accompanied by a rise in temperature, often with sweating, headache (including migraine-like headaches), nausea, muscle aches and feeling unwell, starting within a day of having the vaccine.

Can you get COVID-19 infection and flu at the same time? ›

Study results from early in the pandemic show individuals who catch both flu and COVID-19 at the same time, known as co-infection, are around twice as likely to suffer death compared to those who only have COVID-19.

What is the best household disinfectant for surfaces during COVID-19? ›

Regular household cleaning and disinfection products will effectively eliminate the virus from household surfaces. For cleaning and disinfecting households with suspected or confirmed COVID19, surface virucidal disinfectants, such as 0.05% sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) and products based on ethanol (at least 70%), should be used.

What nutrition guidance should I follow during the coronavirus disease outbreak? ›

Proper nutrition and hydration are vital. People who eat a well-balanced diet tend to be healthier with stronger immune systems and lower risk of chronic illnesses and infectious diseases. So you should eat a variety of fresh and unprocessed foods every day to get the vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, protein and antioxidants your body needs. Drink enough water.

Are COVID-19 tests 100% reliable? ›

No test is 100% reliable, even those who meet regulatory standards for performance and safety. The results are also only relevant to that sample at that point in time.

Does the NHS COVID-19 app track my location? ›

It does not record or track where you or other app users are (for example, at home or in a public space). The app does not identify you or your location to other app users (or, as noted above, the government).

How long does it take for COVID-19 booster to become effective? ›

It may take 7 days for a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose to work.

Can I enter any Post Office with my COVID-19 test kit? ›

You must not enter any Post Office with your test kit.

Are CT scans helpful for diagnosing COVID-19? ›

Along with laboratory testing, chest CT scans may be helpful to diagnose COVID-19 in individuals with a high clinical suspicion of infection.

How long do COVID-19 booster side effects last? ›

Like all medicines, the COVID-19 vaccines can cause side effects, but not everyone gets them. Most side effects are mild and should not last longer than a week, such as: a sore arm from the injection.

Is Pfizer COVID-19 booster safe? ›

Yes, booster shots are proven to be safe. Pfizer released a study of 10,000 participants in which half of them received a booster dose and half a placebo. In terms of safety, they found no new adverse events, meaning it was consistent with what has been seen in previous studies.

Videos

1. How to use at-home coronavirus test kits
(KENS 5: Your San Antonio News Source)
2. How to do a rapid COVID test at home properly #shorts
(CBC News)
3. How to Do an At-Home COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test Correctly
(UC Davis Health)
4. How to use the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test (step by step)
(cleveland.com)
5. Chronomics PCR test step-by-step guide | TUI help & FAQs
(TUI UK)
6. How to take a PCR test at home
(UK Health Security Agency)

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