The Public Health Agency of Sweden
Updated 6 October 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. 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 have symptoms of COVID-19

The Public Health Agency of Sweden recommends that adults with symptoms of COVID-19 (in Swedish) 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. This applies even if you are vaccinated against COVID-19.

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

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, 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 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. While waiting for your test results, you need to stay at home and avoid close contact with others.

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.

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 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
When should I take the test? When you have symptoms of COVID-19. When you have symptoms of COVID-19. After COVID-19. No sooner than 2-3 weeks after you fell ill.
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. At the earliest two weeks after recovery or vaccination.
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.
Do 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.  

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 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.

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. Those tests are sometimes used for screening at certain workplaces but should not be used when you have symptoms of COVID-19. If your self-test result shows that you have COVID-19, you have to self-isolate and contact a health care provider as soon as possible. That can be done by booking a PCR test. Visit 1177.se to see what procedures for testing that apply in your region.

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, but do not replace PCR in large-scale testing. LAMP and TMA are approved on entry in Sweden, when foreign nationals have to present a certificate that shows that they have tested negative for COVID-19.

Certificate requirements for foreign nationals travelling to Sweden

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

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 weeks after you have recovered. 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, or that you have been vaccinated.

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 

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.

Screening can help detect COVID-19

To reduce the risk of infection, antigen testing can be used for screening at certain workplaces. In this way, people with COVID-19 who do not experience symptoms can be detected. Regular screening can be used as a supplement and does not replace other measures to prevent the spread of infection at workplaces. Anyone who can work from home should still do so. Participation in screening is voluntary.

Antigen tests do not provide as reliable results as PCR tests because they are not as sensitive. This means that a person can have COVID-19 even if the test results are negative. This also means that some people who do not have the disease receive false positive test results. Antigen tests are also available as self-tests that can be used and analysed without the help of healthcare professionals. If a self-test shows that you have COVID-19, you should book a PCR test. Go to 1177.se to see what applies to testing in your region. This applies both if you have used the test yourself and during screening at your workplace. Please note that you should not use a self-test if you have symptoms that could be caused by COVID-19. Then you must book an appointment at 1177.se for testing by a health care provider.

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.

Watch films about testing

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.

COVID-19: Stay home this long if you are ill