At this point in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, at-home rapid antigen tests are one of the key tools at our disposal when it comes to stopping the spread of the virus. And though it’s been less than a year since these tests were scarce and expensive, they’ve now become fixtures in most of our medicine cabinets.
In the past, we’ve discussed how to order these tests for free from the U.S. government, as well as how to properly store them so you don’t inadvertently make them less effective. Now, it’s time to talk about their expiration dates—more specifically, that the ones printed on the boxes of at-home COVID tests may no longer be accurate. Here’s what to know.
When do at-home COVID tests expire?
As you may have noticed, there is an expiration date printed on the box of every FDA-approved at-home COVID test (or on a sticker that’s on the box). The precise location differs from brand-to-brand.
Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved 22 rapid antigen COVID-19 tests for at-home use (the full list can be found on their website, in alphabetical order). Along with information on the manufacturer, 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 anywhere from four to 18 months.
How to check the expiration date on your at-home COVID test
Initially, most expiration dates were based on the tests having an estimated shelf-life of four to six months. But now that the tests have been around for a longer period of time, the FDA’s ongoing research is demonstrating that many remain accurate and effective beyond their original expiration date.
As of today, the FDA has extended the expiration dates on 12 out of their 22 approved self-tests. To find the most up-to-date expiration dates for the ones you have at home, consult this table on the FDA website. The column all the way on the right provides information on the shelf-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 look up the new expiration date, using your test’s lot number. (Here’s an example of what that looks like.)
If the FDA table doesn’t indicate that the expiration dates on your tests have been extended, continue to use them as directed.