The Public Health Agency of Sweden
Updated 4 January 2021

COVID-19 testing

The Public Health Agency of Sweden recommends that adults with symptoms of COVID-19 get tested to see if they have an ongoing infection. The same recommendation applies to children of school age and older, i.e., from about 6 years of age. Younger children of preschool age are primarily advised to stay at home if they are ill, without taking a test. It is the regions that decide which people to test, and there may be regional variations from the national recommendations. You therefore need to find out what applies where you are.

N.B. There are recommendations for those travelling or who have travelled to Sweden from the United Kingdom or South Africa.

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 and antigen tests while you are ill

The tests available to show ongoing COVID-19 infection are PCR tests and antigen tests. Both PCR tests and antigen tests are taken 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 currently used on a large scale. A healthcare professional can administer the test, or you can take it by yourself through so-called self-sampling. The PCR test checks for the presence of genome parts from the virus that causes the infection.

An antigen test checks for the presence of protein parts of the virus. Sampling for antigen tests as well as the analysis of the test itself is carried out by healthcare professionals. 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.

You take an antibody test if you have previously been ill

An antibody test shows if you have previously had COVID-19 and developed antibodies. It takes time for the antibodies to form. Therefore, an antibody test is taken no sooner than about 2–3 weeks after you became ill. This means that you should not take an antibody test while you are ill with symptoms of COVID-19.

Read more about antibody tests

Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19

The Public Health Agency of Sweden recommends that adults with symptoms of COVID-19 get tested to see if they have an ongoing infection. The same recommendation applies to children of school age and older, i.e., from about 6 years of age.

To avoid infecting others, it is important that you get tested to find out if you have COVID-19.

If you have temporary, mild symptoms that go away within 24 hours, you do not need to get tested for COVID-19. But you need to stay at home and be completely symptom-free for at least two days to be certain that the symptoms were truly temporary and not caused by an infection. You also do not need to get tested if the symptoms have a clear cause that you recognise, such as migraines or allergies.

If you still have symptoms after 24 hours, visit the website www.1177.se/covid-19-prov (in Swedish) and select the region where you currently are to see what applies for testing there.

A test that shows whether you have an ongoing infection should be taken no later than five days after you start to experience symptoms, because it is at the beginning of the illness that you have the greatest amount of virus in your body. At the moment, many people are getting tested. This means that the capacity for testing is strained in some regions. Check what applies in your region. While waiting for your test results, you need to stay at home and avoid close contact with others.

If you have previously had COVID-19 and this was confirmed through a PCR test, an antigen test or an antibody test, you generally do not need to be retested for COVID-19, unless a doctor determines that you need to do so. But you should stay at home as long as you have symptoms and are ill.

It is recommended that preschoolers stay at home without getting tested

Children of preschool age are primarily advised to stay at home if they are ill, without getting tested for COVID-19. Sometimes children aged 1–6 years have mild health issues that quickly pass and that are not signs of illness. In such instances, there is no need for the child to stay home from preschool or daycare. For example, a child may cough once or have a runny nose after spending time outdoors.

Read more here about how long children need to stay at home when they are ill (In Swedish)

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, but 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. Read more about contact tracing (In Swedish)

What applies after I have taken the test?

While waiting for your test results, you need to stay at home and avoid close contact with others.

Click here to read more about how long you need to stay at home depending on what your test results show (in Swedish)

You can also find information about what your family needs to keep in mind when you are ill (In Swedish)

Learn more about PCR tests (In Swedish)

Watch films about testing

What is a PCR test and what is an antibody test? Tests for COVID-19

There are two different tests for COVID-19. Book a PCR test if you feel ill and believe that you have COVID-19. An antibody test can show you if you have previously had the disease.

Get tested if you have any symptoms of COVID-19

If you feel ill and have any symptoms of COVID-19 then book a PCR test. It’s important to get tested to know if you have COVID-19 so that you do not infect others.

PCR-test or antibody test for COVID-19? (short version)

Get tested if you have symptoms for COVID-19 (short version)