Covid self-test: price, positive or not, what to do?

The self-test is a quick way to get tested for Covid. The result is positive if two colored bands appear in areas (C) and (T), even if the T bar is light. Prices and instructions.

[Updated August 18, 2022 at 11:59 a.m.] The Covid screening can be achieved by self test for people who say ' cas contacts ' whether they are children (from 3 years old) or adults and for those who wish to test themselves before a private gathering for example. On the other hand, they should not not be used if you have symptoms suggestive of Covid. How to do a self-test? To the child? What is the reliability self-tests? What if he is positive ? How much does it cost in pharmacy? Is it always free for the cas contacts ? Information and manual.

Definition: what is a self-test?

The self-test is a screening test whose levy ( nasal and not nasopharyngeal therefore less deep), the realization and the interpretation are performed by the person himself . There is no intervention by a health professional. As part of the screening for Covid-19, self-tests validated by the Haute Autorité de Santé on March 16, 2021 and available since April 12 are nasal antigen self-tests. Antigenic self-tests look for the presence of DNA from coronavirus in the body to indicate whether the person is infected at the time of testing. More specifically, they must allow the detection of SARS-CoV-2 virus N protein . It is the same principle as nasopharyngeal antigen tests.

For whom are the self-tests free?

The self-tests are issued free of charge for contact persons in pharmacies (adult and child) on presentation of proof: school email for the child contact case, health insurance email for the adult... They are not not free if prescribed by prescription by a doctor, for example.

What if the self-test is positive?

  covid self-test result
Covid-19 self-test results: a line on the T line indicates that the person is Covid positive

The result is positive if two colored bands appear at areas (C) and (T) (even if the T bar is very light ). The positive result of a self-test must be confirmed by nasopharyngeal RT-PCR test within 24 hours . Performing a PCR or antigen test allows entry of its result into SI-DEP; the patient to benefit from the coverage by the Health Insurance ( issuance of a work stoppage ); to health insurance implement contact tracing to identify contact cases and break the chains of contamination. However, it is necessary self-isolate upon positive self-test result during 7 to 10 days depending on vaccination status and inform contact cases to get tested too. The risk of a 'false positive' is estimated at less than 1%.

What is the cost of Covid self-tests?

The selling prices of self-tests cannot exceed, per test and all taxes included, €5.20 but there are some around 3 euros in pharmacies per unit. They are free for contact cases on presentation of the proof provided by the health insurance (email/SMS), or by the school for the children concerned.

Video tutorial: how to do a self-test?

A self-test for Covid-19 must be performed by taking a nasal swab. In accordance with the instructions for use indicated on the site of the Ministry of Health :

  covid self-test diagram
Diagram for performing a Covid-19 self-test in adults
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or with hydroalcoholic gel.
  • Remove all items from the test box and place them on a well-cleaned flat surface. Identify each item in the test kit.
  • It's necessary introduce the swab vertically in a nostril about 2 to 3 cm without forcing , then the tilt gently horizontally and introduce it a little until you meet a slight resistance. Some swabs have a collar to help assess the depth of their introduction.
  • Then perform a rotational movement inside the nostril for about 15 seconds (10 to 20 depending on the self-test models) .
  • For some tests, the sampling of a second nostril is necessary. If this is the case, proceed in the same way in the other nostril with the same swab.
  • Then you have to immerse the swab in the tube containing a liquid for a few secondaries then pour a few drops of the liquid into the cassette where it says 'S'.
  • Then you have to wait 15 minutes to get the result.

How do I self-test the child?

Use of a Covid self-test in children.

The self-tests can be carried out at the children from 3 years old in accordance with the favorable opinion issued by the High Authority for Health ( HAS ) in April 2021. They are also authorized for children cas contacts (especially at school) and if they have minor symptoms compatible with Covid (runny nose, cough, moderate fever, etc.). Ministry of Health :

  • From 3 to 10 years old, the sampling and the reading of the result are carried out by an adult.
  • From 11 to 15 years old, the sample is taken by the child, but the reading of the result must be supervised by an adult.
  • The self-test is carried out after reading the instructions for use provided by the manufacturer.
  • The levy is easier when the child is seated , in a quiet place. It is recommended to explain the procedure of the test and the different stages to the child, in order to reassure him.
  • Introduce the swab horizontally and gently into a nostril for 2 to 3 cm, without forcing, until you feel a slight resistance (A). Perform 2-3 rotations, and if possible hold the swab in place for 5 seconds.
  • If the self-test is positive, the child isolates himself and must do a PCR test to confirm the result. If the PCR test confirms positivity, contact cases should test themselves and isolate themselves. The child must self-isolate for 7 days.
  • If the self-test is negative, the child continues to respect the barrier gestures.

What is the difference between a self-test and an antigen test?

So-called 'rapid' antigen tests (RDT/TROD) and antigen self-tests both involve the same type of in vitro diagnostic medical device detecting the viral proteins of the Sars-Cov-2 virus. They are also both performed by nasal swab but differ in their methods of use:

  • the antigenic RDTs/TRODs are performed by an authorized professional (mostly a healthcare professional) which ensures that the test is carried out correctly (do it deep enough and long enough),
  • while a self-test is carried out by the user himself (therefore may be poorly carried out).

Are self-tests reliable for detecting Omicron?

The self-tests are the least reliable tests for detecting Covid hence the fact that doctors recommend repeating them at 2-day intervals and doing at least two or even three. The reliability of antigen self-tests has been 'extrapolated' based on performance results observed for nasal antigen tests in the context of Covid-19 screening. According to the data analyzed by the HAS, the diagnostic performances of the self-tests reported by the few available studies are of the same order as those of antigenic tests on nasal swabs carried out by health professionals , whether for symptomatic or asymptomatic patients: these tests have clinical sensitivities of the order of 74-82% in symptomatic patients and of 50-60% in asymptomatic people . There are less than 1% false positives according to Ministry of Health . What about the Omicron variant? 'Despite information dated December 28, 2021 from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on a loss of analytical sensitivity of antigenic tests for the detection of the omicron variant based on preliminary US data (not further specified), i At this date, there is no conclusive evidence showing a loss of clinical sensitivity of the tests and self-tests antigen detection system for the detection of the omicron variant in the French context where the tests used must allow the detection of the N protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to be authorized (requirement not found in the United States)' indicates the HAS .

How to have your self-tests when you are in contact?

Contact persons should be tested. They can do this by self-test, the deliverance is free in pharmacies on presentation of a document justifying the status of contact person at risk (SMS/email from health insurance or sworn statement justifying being the contact person, school certificate for the children concerned).

Where to buy Covid self-tests?

Covid self-tests are exclusively sold in pharmacies (without prescription) . Their sale started in France on April 12, 2021. It was extended to large retailers (Intermarché, Carrefour, Leclerc) from the end of December 2021 until February 15, 2022. They are no longer authorized in large retail outlets.

How to do a self-test in pharmacy?

Covid self-tests have been available, over the counter, in French pharmacies since April 12, 2021. In Pharmacy:

► the person can buy a self-test and do it at home (it takes 5 euros for a self-test)

►Les case contacts can retrieve their self-tests in pharmacies for free.

Can we still buy self-tests in the supermarket?

Self-tests can no longer be sold in supermarkets since February 15, 2022. Their sale was there authorized on an exceptional basis in December 2021 to facilitate the screening of the many contact cases exposed to the Omicron variant, recalled the decree published in Official newspaper . They were found in brands like Carrefour, Leclerc or even Intermarché . The self-tests were sold there for 1 to 2 euros per unit against 5.20 in pharmacies.

Can you buy Covid self-tests online?

In accordance with the decree of April 11, the sale of Covid-19 self-tests is banned on the internet by the Ministry of Health in France.

In the event of the appearance of symptoms suggestive of Covid-19, do not under any circumstances use a self-test.

Are self-tests reimbursed?

► The self-tests carried out by contact cases are supported.

► The self-tests used in the private sphere except in contact cases are not covered by Health Insurance.

What is the turnaround time?

The self-tests deliver their result in 15 minutes.

How to interpret the result?

The reading of the result is done in a few minutes:

  • (+) The result is POSITIVE if two colored bands appear in areas (C) and (T) (even if the T bar is light).
  • (-) The test result is NEGATIVE if a colored band appears only in the control zone (C).
  • (X) If the control line (C) does not appear, the result is INVALID. You have to do a self-test again. If in doubt about the result, consult your pharmacist.
  • Dispose of kit items in a plastic bag to avoid contamination. Close the bag and place it in a second plastic bag. Throw everything in your usual trash can. Wash hands after handling.

What if the self-test is negative?

The test result is negative if a colored band appears only in the control zone (C). If a self-test is negative, it don't give up on barrier gestures and social distancing, especially when visiting relatives 'because the risk of false negative exists and which is a little higher than with the other tests' warned Olivier Véran during a conference in April 2021. For children contact cases at school, the negative self-test allows retention in class. If in doubt or if symptoms of Covid-19 arise, I do a PCR or nasopharyngeal antigen test.

What are the indications for Covid self-tests?

In its opinion of April 23, 2021, the High Authority for Health (HAS) came out in favor of the use of self-tests for the antigen detection of SARS-CoV-2 on nasal swabs in the following indications:

  • Medical indication: in asymptomatic people, as part of iterative large-scale targeted screening as an alternative to antigenic RDTs/TRODs on nasopharyngeal or nasal swabs;
  • Societal indication: in asymptomatic people in the context of use in the private sphere . The self-test must ideally be done the same day or failing that the day before the meeting/activities.

In January 2022, faced with the increase in contamination by Omicron, the HAS has expressed support for the use of self-tests' for all contact persons with a complete vaccination schedule, whether or not they are at risk of developing a severe form of Covid-19 or whether the contact took place inside or outside the home.' In the event of the appearance of symptoms suggestive of Covid-19, you should not use a self-test but do a PCR or antigen test (more reliable) and isolate yourself.

Are saliva self-tests allowed in France?

Nowadays, saliva self-tests are not authorized in France by the HAS. Only the self-tests with a swab in the nose are marketed.


The sale of self-tests authorized outside pharmacies. 25 January 2022.

RT-PCR, antigen and saliva tests. Ministry of Health. February 4, 2021.

Covid-19: HAS lifts the age limit for the use of antigen tests on nasal swabs. Press release posted on April 26, 2021.

Opinion of the COVID-19 Scientific Council April 19, 2021 Self-tests: a public health opportunity.

The self-tests. Ministry of Health. March 30, 2021, updated January 2, 2022.

Covid-19: what place for nasal antigen tests in the screening strategy? HAS press release March 16, 2021.

Opinion n° 2021.0015/AC/SEAP of March 15, 2021 from the College of the High Authority for Health relating to the rapid antigenic detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on nasal swabs (TDR, TROD and self-test)