Effective COVID-19 testing protocols are an essential component in helping slow the deadly virus’s spread. Through it, those infected will know that they carry the virus, thus allowing them to start treating their symptoms and isolating to avoid further spread.
Aside from testing people with COVID-19 symptoms (fever, sore throat, shortness of breath, dry cough, loss of taste or smell), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also encourages testing for asymptomatic individuals who have been exposed to a confirmed case. This is due to the prevalence of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission.
If you’ve had close contact with a person that tested positive for COVID-19, you must get tested as well. However, you shouldn’t immediately head to the nearest testing facility. Getting tested one or two days after exposure will likely lead to a negative result even if you’ve been infected, leading to misplaced complacency and the possibility of further transmission.
When Is The Best Time to Get Tested for COVID-19?
Doctors and researchers learn more about the virus each day, so there is definitive data about transmission timelines and infection rates. Testing too early or too late into the virus lifespan could result in inaccurate results.
The best time to get tested for COVID-19 is five to seven days after exposure. The virus’s incubation period is 14 days, and it takes a bit of time for the viral load to build up in the system. Five days into an infection, enough COVID-19 genetic material will be present in the nostrils and throat to register as a positive result.
What To Do While Waiting for A COVID-19 Test
In the five to seven days between possible exposure and going in for a PCR test, it’s important to stay isolated at home to prevent further transmission. Stay in a separate bedroom and bathroom from others in your household, if possible. Take note of developing symptoms and check your temperature twice a day for fever.
Aside from that, it’s important to only leave your home if it’s medically necessary! Individuals who aren’t experiencing symptoms can still infect others. As such, we all must do our part in trying to control the spread of the virus.
It’s vital to continue isolation as you wait for your test results. You will need a definitive negative test result before you can interact worry-free with your household and go out—provided that you’re wearing a mask and keeping in mind social distancing protocols—for errands.
What To Do If You Test Positive For COVID-19
If you receive a positive COVID-19 result, all your close contacts should go in for tests, as well. If you are experiencing manageable symptoms or no symptoms at all, then it’s best to continue isolating at home to avoid further transmission.
Mild COVID-19 cases can only end isolation under these parameters:
- Ten days from the first onset of symptoms;
- 24 hours with no fever (without using fever medication); and
- Significant reduction of symptoms.
Immunocompromised patients and patients that experienced severe symptoms will need to consult with healthcare professionals on how and when they are free to interact with others. It is likely they will require at least one negative COVID-19 test before being declared non-infectious.
You should get a COVID-19 test if you’ve been exposed to a confirmed positive case. Remember, the timing is crucial to ensure an accurate result! For the most accurate results, you must stay isolated at home for the first five to seven days after exposure before going in for a test.
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