In Brief

At-home COVID-19 tests linked to accidental injuries, FDA warns

A woman squeezing liquid solution from an at-home COVID-19 test onto a test strip.
(Image credit: Getty Images/Tang Ming Tung)

Some people are accidentally hurting themselves by using at-home COVID-19 tests incorrectly, such as mistakenly putting the liquid test solution in their eyes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned.

On Friday (March 18), the FDA issued an alert warning that at-home COVID-19 tests can cause harm if they are used improperly, for example, if the liquid test solution touches a person's skin or eyes, or if the small vials of liquid solution are swallowed, the agency said in a statement. The agency also reminded people to keep the tests out of reach of children and pets.

Some test solutions contain the chemical sodium azide, which can cause harm if it comes into contact with the skin, nose, mouth or eyes, or if the chemical is swallowed, the agency said.

The FDA has received reports of injuries that occurred when people accidentally put the liquid test solution in their eyes because they mistook the small vials of liquid for eye drops.

The agency has also received reports of injuries that occurred when people put the tests' nasal swabs into the liquid before they swabbed their nose. (The liquid should not touch the body, the agency noted.) In addition, children have been injured when they put the test parts in their mouth and swallowed liquid test solutions.

At-home COVID-19 tests can be a convenient way for people to check if they are infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The tests are safe when people follow the tests' step-by-step instructions, the FDA said.

People should immediately call poison control or contact their health care provider if they experience skin or eye irritation after exposure to test chemicals that does not go away, or if a person or animal swallows the liquid test solution, the agency said.

Originally published on Live Science. 

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.