How to use self-test kits safely
You can get self-test kits for a range of health concerns, including infertility, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and some forms of cancer.
These kits are available on the high street, online and on the NHS.
Before buying a self-test kit, it's best to talk to a health professional, such as your pharmacist. They can help you decide which kit is best for you and tell you how to use it.
Remember, you can also get free high-quality tests through the NHS via your GP, hospital or sexual health clinic.
Buying self-test kits safely
If you're buying a self-test kit online, it's important to be wary of the claims they make, as they may be misleading.
Before using one, make sure the kit is sealed, without any damage to the packaging, and is within its expiry date.
Check that the instructions for use are clear and easy to follow.
You should also make sure it has a CE quality assurance mark. This means that, provided you use it correctly, the kit will work properly and is safe.
If you have concerns about the quality of a self-test kit (if it's damaged, for example), you should report it using the Yellow Card Scheme.
A self-test kit should never replace a health professional's advice or a result from a national screening programme, such as bowel, cervical or breast cancer screening.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has more advice about buying medical devices online.
Get advice from a health professional first
It's important to remember that, if you're taking any medicines, they may affect your test results.
It's worth getting advice from a health professional first, as using a self-test kit may not be appropriate for you.
It's rare for a self-test kit to give a 100% guarantee that you have or do not have a particular condition.
It may not be as helpful as having a consultation with a GP or another health professional.
If you have any concerns, speak to a healthcare professional, such as a pharmacist, practice nurse or GP.
When you get your results
No self-test kit is 100% reliable, and a CE mark is still no guarantee that a particular home test is suitable for you.
If you have any concerns about your results after using a self-help kit, make sure you get advice from a health professional.
If you do a self-test for HIV and the result is positive, it's important that you contact a health professional as soon as possible and get the emotional and medical support you need.
Examples of self-test kits
Your pharmacist can advise you on the range of self-test kits available, and your GP can tell you what's available on the NHS.
Self-test kits for infertility
If you're worried about your fertility after using a test, talk to a health professional.
Self-test kits for STIs
Everyone can get free tests for any STI, including HIV, from their GP or local sexual health clinic.
If you think you may have an STI, the most important thing is to get tested and get medical advice quickly so you can start treatment.
In some areas, people under the age of 25 can get free NHS testing kits for chlamydia, which are sent out to you and returned by post.
Some pharmacies provide an STI testing service (including those for chlamydia) and some can provide the treatment.
Free HIV tests if you're at higher risk
Free self-sampling HIV test kits are available online in many areas of the UK to people who are at higher risk.
To check whether you're eligible or find your local HIV service, go to freetesting.hiv.
HIV self-test kits are also available from some pharmacies, but you'll usually have to pay.
It's important to check that any test you buy has a CE quality assurance mark and is licensed for sale in the UK, as poor-quality HIV self-test kits are still available from overseas.
You may need emotional support and counselling if you're testing for HIV, particularly if the result is positive.
Self-test kits for cancer
But if you're worried or think you have the symptoms of cancer, it's best to get advice from your doctor straight away. They'll be able to refer you on to a hospital specialist if necessary.
The earlier you see a doctor, the earlier you can be referred and your cancer diagnosed so you can start treatment.
Page last reviewed: 28 February 2019
Next review due: 28 February 2022