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Tips for picking, using a COVID-19 self-test before the holidays

There are 12 COVID-19 tests authorized for use at home. Here's information about picking one and using them.

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If you're planning to visit family or host a holiday gathering, you might want to use a self-test to provide a little more confidence that everyone is negative for COVID-19.

Dr. David McManus, the chair of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School in Worcester, suggests using one at-home test about three days before the event and another on the morning you leave for your holiday gathering.

If both are negative, you can feel very confident that the virus isn't in your system.

"Nothing's 100%. And no test is perfect," McManus said. "But I will say that they're very accurate the vast majority of the time."

So far, the Food and Drug Administration has authorized 12 types of COVID-19 tests for use at home. Three of them look for genetic material from the virus and the rest are antigen tests, which look for a unique protein.

McManus said the differences between the two types are negligible. They need to be FDA authorized and meet the agency's criteria across all age groups and sexes.

"When I go to CVS, I see what's on the shelf," McManus said. "I take what's available to me."