On March 18, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a Safety Communication about the dangers of improperly used FDA authorized at-home COVID-19 tests. The agency also reminded the public that these tests should be safely stored away from children and pets.
While such tests are an important and convenient way for people to determine if they are infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, they can pose safety risks if the user does not follow the test’s instructions to the letter, the FDA warns. The Safety Communication notes that the liquid solutions in these tests can cause harm if they are swallowed or come into contact with a person’s eyes, mouth, nose, or skin. The solutions include preservatives as well as chemicals that help the test work, but can be toxic or irritating.
The FDA recommends people do the following before using a COVID-19 test kit:
- Keep the test stored in its box until use
- Keep all parts of the test away from children and pets before and after use
- Follow the step-by-step instructions exactly
- Read all safety information included in the test in advance and the information on what to do if any of the chemicals touch your eyes or skin
- Don’t swallow the liquid solution and keep it away from the eyes, mouth, nose, and skin
- Use only the swab included in the kit to collect a nasal sample
After the test, users should:
- Follow all instructions for disposing the used test components
- Wash hands well with soap and water
While these recommendations seem common sense, the FDA notes that there have been several injuries reported relating to COVID-19 at-home test kits, caused by:
- People putting the liquid test solution in their eyes after mistaking it for eye drops
- People putting the nasal swabs into the liquid solution prior to swabbing their nose, thus allowing the solution to touch their skin
- Children putting test pieces in their mouths and swallowing the liquid test solution
The FDA also reminds people to always use an FDA approved test, as this ensures it is safe when instructions are followed properly. During the approval process, the FDA reviews all parts of the test to make sure it is safe for home use. Any kits deemed unsafe for home use are not approved by the FDA, the agency says.