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COVID-19 Antigen Tests: What You Need to Know

COVID-19 antigen tests are also known as ‘lateral flow tests’. They are the tests you buy in shops and pharmacies and can use at home yourself.

They are not as accurate as PCR tests, which are the tests you book with the HSE. These are tested in laboratories.

Antigen tests are an extra measure to help protect yourself and others from COVID-19. You should know how and when they can be used.

How to Know What Test to Use

You should only use an antigen test if you do not have symptoms of COVID-19.

If you have symptoms, you need to self-isolate (stay in your room) and get a PCR test.

Antigen tests are not as accurate as PCR tests. That is why you need to be careful when using them.

If your antigen test gives you a positive result – you need to self-isolate (stay in your room) and get a PCR test.

Even if your antigen test gives you a negative result – you may still have the virus.

We know that this is confusing but our data shows that antigen tests are not accurate enough to tell you that you don’t have the virus.

When to Use Antigen Tests

If you engage in higher risk activities, you should take an antigen test at least 2 times per week.

You can buy antigen tests in shops and pharmacies around the country.

Higher risk activities include:

  • Cinemas, theatres or concerts
  • Bars or restaurants
  • Participating in contact sports
  • Multi-household home visits
  • Car sharing with people from other households

How to Use an Antigen Test

Follow these instructions:

  • Only buy antigen tests with the CE mark.
  • Sanitise your hands.
  • Place the test on a flat, clean surface.
  • Carefully read the instructions that came with the antigen test. These are all different so make sure to follow the exact instructions on your own test.
  • Put your test and all the materials in the bin when you have got your result.

HSE Antigen Tests for Close Contacts

If you are a close contact of a person that tested positive for COVID-19, you can test yourself at home using the HSE’s free antigen tests if you:

  • Are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Do not have symptoms of COVID-19.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Self-isolate (stay in your room).
  • Get a COVID-19 PCR test.

Antigen Tests for Primary School Children

You’ll be offered free antigen tests for your child in primary school if there:

  • Is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in their pod.
  • Are 2 or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their class in different pods within a 7-day period.

A confirmed case is when someone has a positive PCR test result.

Your child can still go to school as long as they do not have symptoms of COVID-19. You do not have to tell the school that you’re doing the antigen tests or give anyone the antigen test results.

If your child has symptoms, keep them at home and get a COVID-19 PCR test.

Do this even if your child gets a negative antigen test result.


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