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How to do a rapid lateral flow test

Rapid lateral flow tests are for people who do not have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). You can see the result on a device similar to a pregnancy test, usually in 30 minutes.

There's separate information on how to do a PCR test, the type of test you usually do if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

Before doing a rapid lateral flow test

If you're doing the test at home:

  • do not eat for 30 minutes as it may affect the result
  • read the instructions carefully
  • clean the surface you're putting the test on
  • check that nothing in the test kit is damaged or broken
  • start the test within 30 minutes of opening the test kit

Main steps for doing a rapid lateral flow test

You'll be given detailed instructions with your test kit. If you're doing the test at a test site and need support, a trained helper can guide you.

These are the main steps for doing a rapid lateral flow test:

  1. Wash your hands with soap or use a hand sanitiser.
  2. Lay out all the items in the test kit on the clean surface.
  3. Fill the tube in the test kit with the liquid provided and close the lid.
  4. Blow your nose and wash your hands again.
  5. Open your mouth wide and rub the swab over your tonsils (or where they would have been). Avoid the end of the swab touching your teeth, tongue and gums.
  6. Put the same swab inside your nose (about 2.5 cm up or until you feel some resistance).
  7. Put the end of the swab into the tube so it's in the liquid.
  8. Squeeze the liquid from the tube onto the test strip.
  9. Wait 30 minutes and read your result.

It's important you do not leave it longer than 30 minutes as it may affect the result.

Taking a sample may be uncomfortable and make you gag, but it should not hurt.

Doing the test on someone else

If you're doing a rapid lateral flow test on someone else, it might help to:

  • talk them through the steps
  • try to remain calm
  • get another person to help you
  • use a torch to see their tonsils
  • get them to say "ahhhhhhh" loudly so you can see their tonsils

Stop doing the test if the person becomes distressed.

It's important to use a separate test kit for each person.


If you cannot swab their tonsils, you can swab both nostrils instead. The test result may be less accurate than a nose and a tonsil swab.

Getting your result

How you get your result depends on if you do the test at a test site or at home.

Find out how you get your test result

Page last reviewed: 13 May 2021
Next review due: 27 May 2021