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How to take a COVID-19 rapid test at home

Starting Friday, Albertans will be able to pick up free rapid test kits at select locations on a first-come first-served basis while supplies last. But how does the process work?

The kits are limited to one box per person every two weeks. Each box comes with detailed instructions and five test kits in total.

"The maximum benefit is to use two kits within a week, 72 hours apart," said Amandi Chehad, pharmacist at the Aspen Landing Shoppers Drug Mart.

"If it tests positive then they have to confirm it by going to Alberta Health Services or calling them to book a PCR test. If they have symptoms and it tests negative they still need to go and do the PCR test."

Rapid COVID-19 test kits aren't done exactly the same way as tests administered by Alberta Health Services.

To help Albertans understand what to expect if they pick up a kit, we've outlined below what you'll find in each test kit and how to do your test.

PLEASE NOTE: This article is not meant to replace the detailed instructions provided with the test kit, which should be followed explicitly for accurate COVID-19 test results.


  • A test device;
  • A sterile swap;
  • A tube stand;
  • An extraction tube;
  • A nozzle with filter; and
  • An extraction buffer.

A clock, timer or stopwatch is required for the test but not provided in the kit.


Testing materials should be at room temperature before use.

  1. Open the package the test device is in and lay it on a clean, flat surface.
  2. Place the extraction tube in the tube stand.
  3. Twist open the tag on the ampoule containing the extraction buffer and pour the buffer into the extraction tube.
  4. Blow your nose with a tissue before you collect your nasal specimen.
  5. Remove the nasal swab from the packaging. Avoid touching the tip while doing so.
  6. Tilt your head back 70 degrees and insert the tip of the nasal swab at least half an inch inside a nostril. 
  7. Swab the nasal orifice in a circular motion for at least five seconds.
  8. Press your nostril against the swab.
  9. While the swab is compressed, rotate the tip of the swab for at least five seconds.
  10. Repeat the procedure with the other nostril using the same swab.
  11. Process the swab for as soon as possible after collecting the sample.


  1. Insert the swab into the extraction tube.
  2. Tilt the tube so the entire swab head is submerged in the solution.
  3. Mix well and squeezing the swab 10 to 15 times by compressing the walls of the tube against the swab.
  4. Place the tube with the swab back into the tube stand.
  5. Set a timer and let the solution stand for two minutes.
  6. Pinch the swab in the tube to squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the swab.
  7. Remove the swab and dispose of it.
  8. Securely place the nozzle onto the tube.
  9. Invert the tube and add three drops of the solution into the sample well (marked 'S') on the testing kit.
  10. Set a timer for 15 minutes and wait.


A positive result is indicated by the presence of two lines – one in the control area (marked 'C') and one in the test region (marked 'T'), even if faint.

A negative result is indicated by the presence of one line in the control area of the test, and no line in the test region.

An invalid test will show either no lines at all, or a single line in the test area but none in the control area.

For more information on rapid test kits you can visit the Government of Alberta's website.