The Public Health Agency of Sweden
Updated 21 December 2021

COVID-19 testing

The Public Health Agency recommends that those who develop symptoms of COVID-19 get tested to see if they have an ongoing infection. The recommendation applies to everyone from preschool class age and above. Younger children of preschool age are primarily advised to stay at home if they are ill, without taking a test. The regions decide which people should be tested. There may be regional variations from the national recommendations, so you need to find out what applies in the region where you are.

Get tested if you develop symptoms of COVID-19

The Public Health Agency recommends that everyone with symptoms of COVID-19 get tested to see if you have an ongoing infection. The recommendation applies to everyone from preschool class age and above.

Symptoms of COVID-19 (in Swedish)

While waiting for your test result you should stay at home and avoid close contact with others.

You do not need to get tested if the symptoms have a clear cause that you recognise, such as migraines or allergies.

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past six months you do not generally need to get tested.

You may be requested to get tested in connection with contact tracing, even without symptoms.

How to get tested

It is important to get tested to see if you have COVID-19 so that you do not infect others. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, visit the  website www.1177.se and select the region where you currently are to see what applies to testing there.

Getting tested for COVID-19 (www.1177.se)

A test that you book through a health care provider shows if you have an ongoing infection and should be taken the first days after you start to experience symptoms. It is at the beginning of the illness that you have the greatest amount of virus in your body.

Antigen tests in the form of self-tests, where you take the test and read it yourself, can be used for screening at certain workplaces. If your self-test result shows that you have COVID-19, you have to stay at home and self-isolate. A positive test result from a self-test needs to be confirmed through a PCR test that can be booked at 1177.se.

If you experience side effects after vaccination against COVID-19

If you have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the past few days and experience symptoms that are common side effects after a vaccination you do not need to get tested if the symptoms disappear within 24 hours. Common side effects are tiredness, fever, chills, muscle pain, and headache. Stay at home as long as you have symptoms. If your symptoms persist for more than 24 hours you should get tested for COVID-19.

If you have had COVID-19 in the past half-year

If you have previously had COVID-19 in the past half-year and this was confirmed through a PCR test, an antigen test or an antibody test, taken by a health care provider, you do not usually need to be retested for COVID-19, unless a doctor determines that you need to do so. However, you should stay at home as long as you have symptoms.

When you have recovered from COVID-19

If you are ill and have received a positive COVID-19 test result, do not take another test to see if you have recovered. The tests are used to diagnose when you are ill and not to see if you have recovered or to assess whether you are infectious. Therefore, do not take a new test to see if you have recovered. It is the number of days that have passed since you fell ill and how long you have been free of symptoms that determine when you stop being infectious. You should stay at home and follow the rules of conduct that you receive from healthcare. Then you can go back to work, school or other activities.

Different tests – it is important that you take the right test at the right time

There are tests that can show if you have an ongoing infection right now, and tests that can show if you have already had COVID-19 and developed antibodies.

Table. The table summarises differences between the test types, which are stated in the paragraphs below the table.
QuestionsPCR TestAntigen TestAntibody Test
What does a positive test result mean? That you have COVID-19. That you have COVID-19. That you have developed antibodies after COVID-19 or vaccination.
When should I take the test? When you experience symptoms of COVID-19

When you experience symptoms of COVID-19.

Antigen tests in the form of self-tests should not be used if you suspect that you have COVID-19, or in connection with contact tracing. Antigen tests are sometimes used in screening, initiated by employers.

After COVID-19. No sooner than 2-3 weeks after you fell ill
How is the test taken? Sample from nose and throat. Taken by healthcare staff or by self-sampling. Sample from nose and throat. Taken by healthcare staff. Blood sample from your arm or your finger. Taken by healthcare staff.
When do I get a test result? In a few days. The same day, often within 30 minutes. In a few days.
What will the test result not show? The test result will not show whether you have previously had COVID-19. The test result will not show whether you have previously had COVID-19. The test cannot rule out that you currently have COVID-19.
Di I have to take another test to confirm the result? No, unless a doctor determines that you need to take a second test.   If the test shows that you do not have COVID-19, you may need to take another test. This is decided by your doctor. No, unless a doctor determines that you need to take a second test.  

If you are ill and have received a positive COVID-19 test result, do not take another test to see if you have recovered. The tests are used to diagnose when you are ill and not to see if you have recovered or to assess whether you are infectious. Therefore, do not take a new test to see if you have recovered. It is the number of days that have passed since you fell ill and how long you have been free of symptoms that determine when you stop being infectious. You should stay at home and follow the rules of conduct that you receive from healthcare. Then you can go back to work, school or other activities.

Different tests – it is important that you take the right test at the right time

There are tests that can show if you have an ongoing infection right now, and tests that can show if you have already had COVID-19 and developed antibodies.

You take PCR tests while you are ill

The tests available to show ongoing COVID-19 infection are PCR tests. They are carried out while you are ill with symptoms of COVID-19, or if you are advised to get tested in connection with contact tracing. PCR tests are primarily used in the event of symptoms. A healthcare professional can administer the test, or you can take it by yourself through so-called self-sampling.

In addition to PCR tests there are other tests that show genetic material of the virus. LAMP and TMA are two examples, and they are performed when having symptoms. They can be used as a complement to PCR tests.

Certificate requirements for foreign nationals travelling to Sweden

Antigen tests provide fast test results but must be used correctly

Sampling for antigen tests as well as the analysis of the test itself is carried out by healthcare professionals, or by yourself through self-sampling. The antigen test is not as sensitive as the PCR test but provides fast results. It can be used to confirm that you have COVID-19 but it cannot be used to exclude COVID-19. This means that if you have a negative test result, in some cases you may need to take another test.

There are also antigen tests in the form of self-tests, where you take the test and read it yourself. This type of test is not recommended when you experience symptoms of COVID-19. If you develop symptoms, book a test via 1177.se.

Antigen tests in the form of self-tests are sometimes used for screening at certain workplaces.

When self-testing is used, it is important to follow the instructions carefully, so that you take the sample and read the result correctly.

The disease COVID-19 is notifiable and is subject to contact tracing. It is also classified as a disease that is a danger to the general public. If your self-test shows that you have COVID-19, you have to stay home and book a follow-up PCR test via the website 1177.se. On 1177.se you can read about the procedures for testing that apply in your region.

When using self-testing the test result is not reported to health care. Therefore, in case you get a positive test result, it is important that you, without delay, book a PCR test or contact a health care provider. The follow-up PCR test will confirm whether you have COVID-19 or not. If the PCR test result is positive, a notification is made in accordance with the Communicable Diseases Act and the result will reach those responsible for contact tracing. In that case, the infection chains can be broken quickly and the picture of the disease situation in society will be correct.

An antibody test can show if you have previously been ill or if you are vaccinated

An antibody test is taken as a blood test. It shows if you have previously had COVID-19 or if you have been vaccinated, and developed antibodies against the virus. It takes time for the antibodies to form. Therefore, an antibody test is taken no sooner than about 2 weeks after you have recovered, or been vaccinated. This means that you should not take an antibody test while you are ill with symptoms of COVID-19.

There are self-tests that you can use at home. You take the test and read it yourself. Note that the result from a self-test cannot be used when a certificate is required that shows that you have had COVID-19.

Recommendations for testing of children and young people

Children and young people of school age, including preschoolers

The aim of testing children and young people is to make it possible to go back to school and other activities earlier when the test result is negative. Testing is also an important part of the work to limit the spread of the pandemic.

Children and young people of school age move about in society more than younger children. Therefore, they should get tested to the same extent as adults to prevent spreading the infection. The Public Health Agency recommends that all pupils from preschool class and above with symptoms of COVID-19, get tested.

Children and young people may also be part of contact tracing if someone in the household, or a close contact, for example in school, is ill. You can get more information through the contact tracing procedures or through the infected person. The guidelines for testing of people without symptoms may differ in the different regions. At the website 1177.se you can see what applies to testing for COVID-19 in the region where you live.

Children of preschool age are recommended to stay at home without testing

Children of preschool age are primarily advised to stay at home if they are ill, without getting tested for COVID-19. Children of preschool age are ill with a cold more often than older children and adults. Testing of children every time they have a cold may be uncomfortable for small children. It could also be difficult for guardians to assess when and how often the child should get tested.

If you need medical advice, please contact 1177 or your health care provider.  

More about how long children need to stay at home when they are ill 

Find out what applies where you are

It is important to remember that the Public Health Agency of Sweden’s recommendations for testing apply nationally, and it is the regions that decide which people are tested. Among other things, this decision is based on the spread of COVID-19 and other infections in the region. You therefore need to find out what applies in the region where you are.

If you or your child share a household with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you may be advised by the health service to take a test even if you have no symptoms. In that case, you take the test as part of contact tracing.