A Doctor’s Advice: ‘Can I Use Expired COVID Tests?’
Don't throw them away immediately.
If you stockpiled a bunch of COVID tests during the pandemic, you’re not alone. Being able to get results within minutes gives you peace of mind, and not having to leave your house to do it makes healthcare a lot more accessible and stress-free. The only problem is that COVID tests can expire. What are you supposed to do when you’re staying home and not feeling well, but your tests are past their prime? We asked a professional for their advice.
Q: I bought a few at-home COVID tests last year, but I haven’t had to use them and now they’re expired. Can I still get an accurate result from them if I need to test myself?
A: It’s possible your tests might still be good. When at-home COVID tests were first released, the shelf-life was estimated, but the expiration dates were extended if manufacturers were able to prove that the tests were effective for a longer period of time. To check your test’s updated expiration date, visit the FDA’s database of over-the-counter tests. Using the lot number from the package, you’ll be able to see when your test was produced and view the updated expiration if there is one.
If your test is truly expired, however, it’s best not to use it. The reagents in the test that detect the virus grow weaker with time, so you may very well get a false-negative result. No matter what test you use, if you test negative and continue having symptoms, I recommend retesting 24 hours later.
Meet our expert
Heather Moday, MD, is director of the Moday Center in Philadelphia. She is board-certified in allergy and immunology, as well as integrative and holistic medicine. To ask her a question here, send an email to email@example.com.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.