How to tell if your home COVID test is really expired

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At this point in the current COVID-19 pandemic, rapid home antigen tests are one of the key tools at our disposal when it comes to stopping the spread of the virus. And while it’s been less than a year since these tests were rare and expensive, they’ve now become fixtures in most of our medicine cabinets.

In the past, we have discussed how to order these tests free from the US government, as well as how to store them correctly so you don’t inadvertently make them less effective. Now is the time to talk about your expiration dates, more specifically, that the ones printed on the COVID at-home test boxes are no longer accurate. This is what you should know.

When do home COVID tests expire?

As you may have noticed, there is an expiration date printed on the box of each FDA-approved COVID home test (or on a label that is on the box). the precise location differs from brand to brand.

Currently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved 22 rapid COVID-19 antigen tests for home use (the the full list can be found on their website, in alphabetical order). Along with information about the manufacturer, the type of test, and who is authorized to use it, the FDA also lists the length of its shelf life, which, depending on the test, is from four to 18 months.

How to check the expiration date on your home COVID test

Initially, most expiration dates were based on tests having an estimated shelf life of four to six months. But now that the tests have been around longer, ongoing FDA research shows that many remain accurate and effective beyond their original expiration dates.

As of today, the FDA has extended the expiration dates of 12 of its 22 approved self-assessments. To find the most up-to-date expiration dates for the ones you have at home, see this table on the FDA website. The column to the right provides information about the life of the test, including whether it has been extended and for how long.

If yours is among those with an extended shelf life, click the link below to find the new expiration date, using your test lot number. (here is an example what that looks like).

If the FDA table does not indicate that the expiration dates of your tests have been extended, continue use as directed.

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