Rapid antigen tests for COVID-19
Rapid antigen tests are a quick and easy way to detect COVID-19.
COVID-19 rapid antigen test updates
From 1 October 2023, you can no longer:
- register a positive rapid antigen test (RAT) result with Service NSW. This is because the Service NSW RAT portal closed on this date
- collect free RATs at Service NSW locations.
NSW Health still recommends you should stay at home and not visit high-risk settings such as aged care facilities and hospitals if you have cold or flu symptoms. This is to help protect other people. Find out what to do if your RAT is positive or negative.
If you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, speak to your doctor and make a plan about testing and antiviral medicines before you get sick. If you are unwell and can’t contact your doctor, call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 or use the online Service Finder.
What COVID-19 test should I do?
Follow the latest NSW Health advice to understand what COVID-19 test you should do. If you need to do a rapid antigen test, read the information below.
Rapid antigen test kits do expire so check the expiry date on the package before you test.
What happens if I get a positive rapid antigen test result?
If you have COVID-19 symptoms and:
- your result is positive, stay home and follow the advice for people testing positive to COVID-19 and managing COVID-19 safely at home.
What happens if I get a negative rapid antigen test result?
If you have COVID-19 symptoms and:
- you are at higher risk of severe illness, ask your doctor if you should have a PCR test. This will give a more accurate result.
- you are not at higher risk of severe illness, stay home until your symptoms have settled. If you are worried, talk to your doctor.
If you have no COVID-19 symptoms and:
- The rapid antigen test is negative you are unlikely to have COVID-19. If you are at higher risk of severe illness and have been recently exposed to COVID-19, speak to your doctor.
What type of rapid antigen tests should I use?
The Australian Government's regulatory agency, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), oversees the conditions of supply for rapid antigen test kits.
For your own safety you should only use a self-test kit that has been approved by the TGA. The TGA website has a list of all home use tests approved by the TGA, along with a copy of the manufacturer’s instructions for each test.
A consumer fact sheet is available on the TGA website.
More detailed information on rapid antigen self-tests can be found on the TGA website.
Video: Doing a 15 minute rapid antigen test – in your language
There are different self-test kits available. Follow the instructions provided within the test. Watch a quick video from NSW Health on how to use a basic nasal rapid antigen test.
All tests are for single use only. This means you can only use each test once. Do not use a test more than once or try to use one test on multiple people.
Can I eat or drink before using a saliva sample rapid antigen test?
No. NSW Health recommends you do not eat, drink or brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes before doing a saliva rapid antigen test. This will ensure a clean sample is taken.
If you still have food, drink or toothpaste residue in your mouth it might coat the swab stick and affect the test result.
Rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 can be very accurate and specific when used as directed. However, experience overseas has shown food and drink, especially acidic drinks like soft drink and fruit juice, can impact the ability of the test to read the sample correctly.
Where saliva rapid antigen tests are being used for routine testing, like before going to school, NSW Health recommends people do the test first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking, and supervised where required.
Can rapid antigen test kits be used for children?
Yes. Tests for children should always be done or supervised by an adult. Some kits cannot be used on young children and babies. Please carefully follow any instructions provided with the test kit if using the test on a child or baby.
How do I store and dispose of a rapid antigen test?
Store the test kit in a safe, dry, cool space. Refer to the test kit instructions.
Disposal will vary according to information provided with the test instructions. Some tests come with a plastic bag to place the contents of the test into (including the swab).
This bag is then placed into another bag for disposal with the household rubbish. Test kit materials are not recyclable.
If no bags are provided you can place the used items from the test into a small plastic bag that can be sealed. This bag should be put into another bag that can be sealed and disposed of in the household rubbish.
Wash your hands carefully after completing the test and disposing of the test kit contents.
More information and advice
Follow the NSW Health advice for:
- Rapid antigen testing fact sheet
- Rapid antigen testing information for businesses
- Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) QandA's on COVID-19 rapid antigen self-tests
- Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) factsheet on COVID-19 rapid antigen self-tests
- COVID-19 self-tests approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration