COVID-19 Testing - Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs)

COVID-19 Testing - Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs)

If your child or someone in your house has COVID-19 symptoms, they need a rapid antigen test (RAT). Anyone can get a free pack of RATs from a range of locations, including testing sites, marae and pharmacies.  

How do you do a Rapid Antigen Test on a child?

Watch a surgeon explain how to do a rapid antigen test on a child.


What is a rapid antigen test (RAT)

A rapid antigen test is a test which checks if someone has COVID-19.

Flowchart - got any symptoms?

Results are available in about 20 minutes and sometimes sooner.

How to get your child tested for COVID-19

If your child has COVID-19 symptoms they need a test. The most common symptoms are a cough, sneezing, runny nose and a fever.

Check symptoms of COVID-19

When does my child need a rapid antigen test?

Your child needs to have a test as soon as possible if they have symptoms.

Household contacts of a COVID-19 positive case should test daily for 5 days with a rapid antigen test (RAT) from the day the person with COVID-19 tested positive.

The recommendation at the Unite Aganist COVID-19 website is for a household contact to stay home for 5 days if they cannot test daily.

If anyone else in your house tests positive for COVID-19, they must self-isolate for 7 days.

Check the Unite Against COVID-19 website for information about household contacts and what they should do.

Where can my child get a rapid antigen test?

Free rapid antigen tests (RATs) are now widely available. Anyone can get free RATs. You do not need COVID-19 symptoms to order RATs.

Free packs of RATs for you and your whānau are available from a range of locations, including testing sites, marae and pharmacies.

Find a community testing site.

Order a RAT test.

Read more information about getting a COVID test at the Unite Against COVID-19 website

How do I use a rapid antigen test?

A rapid antigen test usually uses a front of the nose swab which detects specific proteins from the COVID-19 virus.

There are different tests available, so make sure you follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Guidance on using a rapid antigen test

See how to use a RAT at the Unite Against COVID-19 website. You can also check the guidance on how to use a rapid antigen test (PDF, 719KB) at the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

Learn how to do a rapid antigen test by watching this video of Dr Rachelle Love and Ruby, courtesy of Hāpai Te Hauora and Counties Manukau District Health Board.

You can also learn how to do a rapid antigen test on a child by watching the video of a surgeon doing one on his daughter at the top of this page.

The ear, nose and throat surgeon also posted this image with the following comment: "The nose goes back, not up. Aim for the back, not for the brain. Take care, friends".

The nose goes back - not up. Go low and aim for the back - that's the lower swab in the photo below.  

A model of a nose showing the right and wrong way to do a RAT test

Keep all rapid antigen tests in a place young children can't reach. Store them according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Learn more about rapid antigen tests.

Find out how wearing masks and creating airflow help protect against COVID-19

What do I do after my child has tested for COVID-19?

Report the test result whether your child has tested positive or negative for COVID-19.

You can do this online through My Covid Record or by calling the COVID-19 helpline on 0800 222 478 (choose option 3).

If your child is under 12 you have to report the results over the phone.

Read more about reporting COVID-19 test results.

Learn more about caring for a child with COVID-19

Read about how to self-isolate with children

Are there other tests my child can do?

PCR tests are still being used in some situations. A PCR test is more accurate but to relieve the pressure on the PCR testing system, rapid antigen tests are the main test being used now. 

Testing negative but feeling positive?

You can read a quick guide to why some people who return a negative rapid antigen test result may still be infected - and infectious. The guide is written and illustrated by Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris and is on the Spinoff website.

Check why some positive people return negative results

More KidsHealth content on COVID-19

See KidsHealth's section on COVID-19

See all KidsHealth's content on COVID-19 immunisation in children

This page last reviewed 24 February 2023.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it