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 to be tested. Rapid antigen tests or RATs are the most common tests being used in New Zealand and give results within minutes. If the result is positive, everyone in your household must self-isolate.

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 or are a household contact 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?

When your child needs a rapid antigen test will depend on whether they have symptoms or are a household contact. 

  • your child needs to have a test as soon as possible if they have symptoms

  • if your child is a household contact, they need to have a test three days after the COVID-19 case in their home tested positive

Where can my child get a rapid antigen test? 

How to get a rapid antigen test if you have symptoms or are a household contact: 

  • RATs are free for people with symptoms and household contacts
  • you can get a RAT at testing sites, GPs, pharmacies and within workplaces
  • you can also order free RAT kits for home testing if you have symptoms or are a household contact - you need to have a mobile phone to order the tests and will need to collect them from a testing site

Find a community testing site.

Order a RAT test.

How to get a RAT if you don't have symptoms or aren't a household contact: 

If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms and you are not a household contact but want to take a test, such as before going to visit friends or whānau, you can buy a RAT. Some pharmacies, supermarkets and other retail outlets are now selling RATs. 

Read more information from the Ministry of Health about rapid antigen tests (RATs).

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

Check the guidance on how to use a rapid antigen test (PDF, 719KB). The guidance is from the Ministry of Health and the Unite Aganist 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? 

You need to 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 being used more often as the outbreak in Aotearoa grows.

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 11 March 2022.

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