Accuracy of at-home COVID tests: Exposure to cold should not affect results, experts say

"Leave it unopened at room temperature for at least two hours before opening it and using it"

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Sunday, February 6, 2022
What you should do if your at-home COVID test is left out in the cold
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Free government COVID-19 tests are starting to arrive in mailboxes, but what happens to the accuracy if they sit outside in the cold too long?

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Free government COVID-19 tests are starting to arrive in mailboxes and the I- Team is getting answers about the accuracy of them.

One concern is if they are affected after sitting outside in the cold for too long.

You may not be home when your covid tests arrive in your mailbox or on your doorstep, which will expose your tests to the cold. One viewer said his test had a label that stated it had to be stored at room temperature, so the I-Team asked experts if that mattered.

Are those COVID tests, mailed in Chicago's February temps, going to be ruined? It's a question that Dr. Jacqueline Korpics, the Medical Director for COVID-19 Response at the Cook County Department of Public Health, said she's been hearing a lot lately.

"The test, developers have made them so that the test will be stable when the tests are stored at various temperatures -- so when they're really cold or really hot," Korpics said. "The FDA recommends that you bring it inside as soon as you can, and then leave it unopened at room temperature for at least two hours before opening it and using it."

There is also a way to check if the test works.

"As long as that control line is still showing up as it's supposed to, then your test is working fine," Korpics said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health told the I-Team that developers of the COVID test knew shipping conditions would vary drastically, so they researched the tests' performance at various temperatures. They found the tests "remained stable" but also found that when they are being used, the temperature of the testing setting should be between 59 and 86 degrees.

"In general, you can trust a positive test. So if you're in-home test is positive, we say treat it as a positive. Act like you have COVID isolate," Korpics added.

Health experts said that if you have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID and your test is negative, follow it up with a more accurate PCR test. If you think you had a problem with a COVID test, the FDA encourages you to report the problem through the MedWatch Voluntary Reporting Form.

If you have questions, email the Division of Industry and Consumer Education (DICE) at DICE@FDA.HHS.GOV or call 800-638-2041 or 301-796-7100.