Do At-Home COVID Tests Expire?

by | Jun 23, 2023 | Blogs

There’s a good chance that many people have at least one unopened COVID test lying around after the last couple of years. You might be tempted to open it the next time you’re feeling under the weather to see if you test positive or not, but make sure to check the expiration date first. While they were once an item that stores and pharmacies couldn’t keep on the shelves, now they’ve been sitting in medicine cabinets and store shelves, left unused. Using an expired test could lead to inaccurate results. 

Where to Find The Expiration Date

The answer to the question, “do at-home COVID tests expire?” is a definite yes, and we’ll tell you where to find the expiration date to prove it. For all FDA-advised home COVID-19 tests, the test expiration date will be located on the side of the box. It should be similar to if you were looking for the expiration date on a food item. If the “use-by” date has already passed, look for the lot number on the test box. The LOT number could be just numbers or a combination of letters and numbers. It should say “LOT” next to it and is normally located close to the expiration date. 

You might be wondering, “why look for the lot number if the test is already expired?” There are some circumstances where you can still use tests beyond their expiration dates. For example, if the control line on the test strip is still visible and is the same color as described in the test instructions, it shouldn’t yield an incorrect result. Once you find the lot number on your test box, look up the lot number and the brand of the test. It’s possible that the FDA extended the expiration date for the test. 

If it’s not an emergency situation, we’d recommend skipping the expired test altogether and buying a new one. If it is an emergency situation, then we’d strongly recommend taking an additional test (rapid antigen or PCR) to clarify if the test result was accurate or not. Once they’re invalid or past their expiration date, they can give false positive or false negative test results. 

boxes of at home COVID-19 tests

Should I Use an Expired Test?

Preferably, no. The FDA website will provide more detailed information regarding the safety and validity of different branded home test kits. The FDA advises to never use expired rapid antigen tests, but on occasion, they will extend the expiration dates. Since rapid and antigen test kits are still relatively new, there hasn’t been a ton of stability testing done on them, which takes time.

The Food and Drug Administration will typically authorize a four to six-month shelf life to all home COVID tests, and as data comes in regarding the stability testing, they will adjust it accordingly. This won’t occur with every test, but it can happen. For more information regarding expiration dates and shelf life on specific home COVID-19 antigen test brands, visit the FDA website to stay up-to-date. Many home tests have a shelf life of upwards of 20 months, but it varies based on the brand of the test. 

What if my Test is Expired? 

If the unopened COVID test you’ve had stored in the back of your medicine cabinet is expired or invalid, there are a few options available. You could buy a new at-home rapid antigen test at the store if you’re in a rush or you can reach out to your healthcare provider and get a rapid antigen test or a PCR test. If you’re looking for the most accurate results and the most widely accepted, a test done at a lab or a doctor’s office is the safest option. 

Although COVID-19 restrictions have largely been lifted, becoming infected is still a health risk to you and those around you. If you think you could have COVID-19 and want to prevent transmitting it to a loved one, the most accurate test is the safest option. If you’re in the Greater Houston area and need a quick rapid or PCR test for COVID-19, visit our website to learn more information about how to schedule your COVID-19 test

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OnPoint Lab


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