COVID-19 and Your Health (2022)

COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know

Updated Sept. 28, 2022

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When you get tested:

  • Make sure to test at the right time
  • Choose the right type of test for your circumstance
  • Follow test directions as recommended by FDA

If you do not, your results may be less likely to correctly indicate whether you have COVID-19 or not.

(Video) COVID-19 and Your Health

On This Page

  • When to Get Tested
  • Types of Tests
  • Choosing a COVID-19 Test
  • Positive Test Result
  • Negative Test Result
  • Testing for Antibodies

When to Get Tested for COVID-19

COVID-19 and Your Health (1)

Key times to get tested:

  • If you have symptoms, test immediately.
  • If you were exposed to COVID-19 and do not have symptoms, wait at least 5 full days after your exposure before testing. If you test too early, you may be more likely to get an inaccurate result.
  • If you are in certain high-risk settings, you may need to test as part of a screening testing program.
  • Consider testing before contact with someone at high risk for severe COVID-19, especially if you are in an area with a medium or high COVID-19 Community Level.

For guidance on using tests to determine which mitigations are recommended as you recover from COVID-19, go to Isolation and Precautions for People with COVID-19.

Types of Tests

Viral tests look for a current infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by testing specimens from your nose or mouth. There are two main types of viral tests: nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) and antigen tests. In certain circumstances, one test type may be recommended over the other. All tests should be performed following FDA’s requirements.

  • NAATs, such as PCR-based tests, are most often performed in a laboratory. They are typically the most reliable tests for people with or without symptoms. These tests detect viral genetic material, which may stay in your body for up to 90 days after you test positive. Therefore, you should not use a NAAT if you have tested positive in the last 90 days.
  • Antigen tests* are rapid tests which produce results in 15-30 minutes. They are less reliable than NAATs, especially for people who do not have symptoms. A single, negative antigen test result does not rule out infection. To best detect infection, a negative antigen test should be repeated at least 48 hours apart (known as serial testing). Sometimes a follow-up NAAT may be recommended to confirm an antigen test result.

*Self-tests, or at-home tests, are usually antigen tests that can be taken anywhere without having to go to a specific testing site. Follow FDA and manufacturer’s instructions, including for the number of times you may need to test. Multiple negative test results increase the confidence that you are not infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

  • You can order free self-test kits at COVIDtests.govor purchase tests online, in pharmacies, and retail stores.
  • You can also visit FDA’s websiteto see a list of authorized tests.
  • As noted in the labeling for authorized over-the-counter antigen tests: Negative results should be treated as presumptive (meaning that they are preliminary results). Negative results do not rule out SARS-CoV-2 infection and should not be used as the sole basis for treatment or patient management decisions, including infection control decisions. Please see FDA guidance on the use of at-home COVID-19 antigen tests.

About Self-Tests

(Video) Covid-19 and Your Lung Health

Choosing a COVID-19 Test

I am in a circumstance where I should get tested and:

I have not had COVID-19 or I have not had a positive test within the past 90 days.

You may choose NAAT or antigen tests.
If you use an antigen test and your result is negative, multiple tests may be necessary.

My first positive test result was within:

30 days or less

I have symptoms
Use antigen tests. If negative, multiple tests may be necessary.

(Video) Your Health - COVID-19 Long Haulers

I do not have symptoms
Testing is not recommended to detect a new infection.

My first positive test result was within:

31-90 days

I have symptoms
Use antigen tests. If negative, multiple tests may be necessary.

I do not have symptoms
Use antigen tests. If negative, multiple tests may be necessary

After a positive test result, you may continue to test positive for some time after. You may continue to test positive on antigen tests for a few weeks after your initial positive. You may continue to test positive on NAATs for up to 90 days. Reinfections can occur within 90 days, which can make it hard to know if a positive test indicates a new infection. Consider consulting a healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about your individual circumstances.

Interpreting Your Results

If Your COVID-19 Test is

Positive

Any positive COVID-19 test means the virus was detected and you have an infection.

  • Isolate and take precautions including wearing a high-quality mask to protect others from getting infected.
  • Tell people you had recent contact with that they may have been exposed.
  • Monitor your symptoms. If you have any emergency warning signs, seek emergency care immediately.
  • Consider contacting a healthcare provider, community health center, or pharmacy to learn about treatment options that may be available to you. Treatment must be started within several days after you first develop symptoms to be effective.
    • You are more likely to get very sick if you are an older adult or have an underlying medical condition. Possible treatment may be available for you.

If Your COVID-19 Test is

Negative

A negative COVID-19 test means the test did not detect the virus, but this doesn’t rule out that you could have an infection. If you used an antigen test, see FDA instructions on repeat testing.

  • If you have symptoms:
    • You may have COVID-19, but tested before the virus was detectable, or you may have another illness.
    • Take general public health precautions to prevent spreading an illness to others.
    • Contact a healthcare provider if you have any questions about your test result or if your symptoms worsen.
  • If you do not have symptoms, but were exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, you should continue to take recommended steps after exposure.
  • If you do not have symptoms and you have not been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, you may return to normal activities.
    • Continue to take steps to protect yourself and others, including monitoring for symptoms. Get tested again if symptoms appear.
(Video) Fear of Contracting COVID-19 Can Be Dangerous to Your Health

Need additional help? Use the Viral Testing Tool to get personalized recommendations and resources.

Testing for Antibodies

Antibody or serology tests look for antibodies in your blood that fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Antibodies are proteins created by your immune system after you have been infected or have been vaccinated against an infection. They can help protect you from infection, or severe illness if you do get infected, for a period of time afterward. How long this protection lasts is different for each disease and each person.

Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose a current infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. An antibody test may not show if you have a current infection, because it can take 1 to 3 weeks after the infection for your body to make antibodies.

Science at CDC

Scientific evidence and studies behind specific COVID-19 guidance and recommendations
MMWR: Minimizing the impact of COVID-19 on Individual persons, Communities, and Health Care Systems

Resources

Professional Resources on Testing: Healthcare Workers | Health Departments | Labs

  • COVID-19 Testing Resources [1 page, 59 KB]
  • Don’t Delay: Test Soon and Treat Early [1 page, 361 KB]
  • How to Collect an Anterior Nasal Swab Specimen for COVID-19 Testing [2 pages, 372 KB]
  • How to Collect a Nasal Mid-Turbinate Swab Specimen for COVID-19 Testing [2 pages, 4 MB]
  • Using Your Self-Test [1 page, 295 KB]
  • Using Your Self-Test (Customizable File) [1 page, 279 KB]
(Video) Your Health: Heart Attack & COVID-19

FAQs

How does COVID-19 affect your health? ›

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may experience stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. And mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, can worsen.

How long does Covid last in your body? ›

Most people with COVID-19 get better within a few days to a few weeks after infection, so at least four weeks after infection is the start of when post-COVID conditions could first be identified. Anyone who was infected can experience post-COVID conditions.

How long will I test positive for Covid after having it? ›

They are typically the most reliable tests for people with or without symptoms. These tests detect viral genetic material, which may stay in your body for up to 90 days after you test positive. Therefore, you should not use a NAAT if you have tested positive in the last 90 days.

What is the greatest challenge that you have experienced because of COVID-19? ›

Social isolation is one of the biggest mental health challenges we are facing with this crisis. Many people are living alone or away from their support systems, which are usually essential wellbeing boosters in a time of crisis.

What helps COVID recovery? ›

Most people with coronavirus (COVID-19) or symptoms of COVID-19 feel better within a few weeks.
...
Treating a high temperature
  • get lots of rest.
  • drink plenty of fluids (water is best) to avoid dehydration – drink enough so your pee is light yellow and clear.
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen if you feel uncomfortable.

What does COVID stand for? ›

COVID-19 – Coronavirus Disease 2019. DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid. ICU – intensive care unit.

How do you stop long Covid? ›

Tips for managing long Covid symptoms
  1. Pace yourself - plan what you're going to do and don't over-exert yourself.
  2. Try to break tasks which feel difficult down into smaller chunks, and alternate easier and harder activities.
  3. Consider the best time of the day to do certain activities based on your energy levels.
14 Oct 2022

How long is Omicron contagious? ›

We know that people tend to be most infectious early in the course of their infection. With Omicron, most transmission occurs during the one to two days before onset of symptoms, and in the two to three days afterwards.

Does Covid get better after 5 days? ›

If you test positive for COVID-19 and have no symptoms – you may end after day 5. If you test positive for COVID-19 and have symptoms – you may end after day 5 if: You are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) Your symptoms are improving.

How long do Omicron symptoms last? ›

How long do omicron symptoms last? Most people who test positive with any variant of COVID-19 typically experience some symptoms for a couple weeks.

Can you get Covid twice? ›

Reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 means a person was infected, recovered, and then later became infected again. After recovering from COVID-19, most individuals will have some protection from repeat infections. However, reinfections do occur after COVID-19.

What happens if I had Covid and get the vaccine? ›

Yes, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 because: Research has not yet shown how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 again after you recover from COVID-19. Vaccination helps protect you even if you've already had COVID-19.

How should you deal with difficulties and problems in your life? ›

10 Ways to Overcome Challenges in Life
  • Make A Plan. While you don't know what is going to happen in the future, you can always plan ahead. ...
  • Know You're Not Alone. Every person in this world has their low points. ...
  • Ask For Help. ...
  • Feel Your Feelings. ...
  • Accept Support. ...
  • Help Others. ...
  • Think Big. ...
  • Positive Mindset.

How did you overcome the pandemic? ›

Take care of yourself, eat regularly, exercise, sleep enough and reduce all other sources of stress. Do things that give you back the control of your own life. Dedicate time to activities that improve your mood.

How do you cope with challenges? ›

10 tips for coping with the hard stuff
  1. Talk to someone. Share your worries with a trusted friend, family member or health professional. ...
  2. Get journalling. ...
  3. Self-love. ...
  4. Take a break. ...
  5. Be nice to yourself. ...
  6. Take a step back. ...
  7. Think about the big picture. ...
  8. Focus on the positive.

What food is good for COVID? ›

Kiwis, berries, oranges, sweet potatoes, peppers—these all have lots of vitamin C, which support immune health. Put them in a salad or smoothie. If you feel well enough, eat protein. Protein improves healing capacity—after all, it is the building block of all cells, including immune cells.

What is the fastest way to heal with COVID? ›

To care for yourself, follow these steps:
  1. Keep a daily routine, such as taking a shower and getting dressed.
  2. Take breaks from COVID-19 news and social media.
  3. Eat healthy meals and drink plenty of fluids.
  4. Stay physically active.
  5. Get plenty of sleep.
  6. Avoid use of drugs, tobacco and alcohol.

How do you sleep when you have COVID? ›

Get Better Sleep During and After COVID-19
  1. Exercise and/or stay active. ...
  2. Reduce or cut out alcohol consumption. ...
  3. Turn off the screens. ...
  4. Do relaxing, soothing things just before bedtime. ...
  5. Get out of the bedroom. ...
  6. Avoid daytime naps. ...
  7. Try breathing exercises. ...
  8. Optimize your sleep environment.

What does C mean on Covid test? ›

If a control line (C) is visible (regardless of how faint it is) and a test line (T) is not visible, this means that the result is negative. It is unlikely that you have COVID-19. However, even if your test is negative, continue to observe all hygiene and safety measures.

What type of virus is Covid? ›

COVID-19 is caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2. It is part of the coronavirus family, which include common viruses that cause a variety of diseases from head or chest colds to more severe (but more rare) diseases like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

What's the name of new virus? ›

Separately, the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses has named the new virus severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2; however, this name has generated controversy in the public health and infectious disease community.

How do I get my energy back after COVID? ›

Fatigue is common after viral infections like COVID-19. Most people recover after 2 to 3 weeks. Fatigue is feeling like you lack energy.
...
It's important to:
  1. eat well.
  2. have a healthy sleep routine.
  3. drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.

What is mild COVID like? ›

Fatigue. Muscle or body aches. Headache. New loss of taste or smell.

What is Covid fatigue like? ›

Symptoms of Post-COVID fatigue generally mirror those of chronic fatigue syndrome. They can include physical, psychological, and behavioral complications, including: Persistent Tired and Sleepy Feeling. Mild to Severe Headaches.

What are Omicron symptoms if vaccinated? ›

What are the symptoms of Omicron? Symptoms of Omicron can be similar to the original COVID-19 virus and other variants, which can include a combination of the following: fever, cough, congestion, runny nose, headache, sore throat, muscle pains/aches and fatigue.

Can you have Covid and test negative? ›

A negative result means it's likely you are not infectious. But a negative test is not a guarantee you do not have COVID-19 and there's still a chance you may be infectious. You should follow advice on how to avoid catching and spreading the virus.

How long test positive Covid Omicron? ›

During the Omicron BA. 1 period, 80.2% of symptomatic persons with COVID-19 returning for repeated testing were RAT–positive after 5 days, and 34.9% were still positive after 10 days, regardless of vaccine status.

When does COVID cough start? ›

Based on what researchers have learned about COVID-19 thus far, the first symptoms—which generally occur within seven days after infection—can include the following, which are listed in order of their usual appearance: Fever or chills. A persistent cough.

What does your throat feel like with COVID? ›

Well, it can feel exactly the same as a cold, according to Brian Curtis, MD, vice president of Clinical Specialty Services for OSF HealthCare. That makes it hard to tell the difference between a cold and a mild case of COVID. It's even harder to tell the difference knowing that sore throat is a COVID symptom.

When do COVID symptoms get worse? ›

In some people, COVID-19 causes more severe symptoms like high fever, severe cough, and shortness of breath, which often indicates pneumonia. A person may have mild symptoms for about one week, then worsen rapidly. Let your doctor know if your symptoms quickly worsen over a short period of time.

How do you treat Omicron at home? ›

Take proper rest and treat the mild symptoms at home and be in a strict self-quarantine for 7 days to avoid further spread. Currently, there are no specific drugs and medication are available to prevent or treat Omicron variant of COVID-19.

How long does a Covid cough last? ›

In the case of COVID-19, this cough could last for as long as six months after the viral infection, especially if the patient contracted Omicron because it is more airway dependent than the original strain.

Does Omicron start with a sore throat? ›

Compared to other SARS-CoV-2 variants, the Omicron variant is associated with generally less severe symptoms that may include fatigue, cough, headache, sore throat or a runny nose.

Do dogs get Covid? ›

The virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals during close contact. Pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. The risk of pets spreading COVID-19 to people is low.

How many times can I catch Covid? ›

Can you get Covid-19 twice? Yes, it is possible to get Covid-19 two, three or even more times. Covid reinfections have become more common because of the Omicron variant, and because immunity from previous infection and immunisation has reduced over time.

Does your immune system get stronger after COVID? ›

Antibodies begin mobilizing within the first few days following an infection with COVID-19 or after receiving the vaccine. They steadily increase in concentration for weeks and months thereafter. So by three months following infection, people have a robust antibody response.

Can you get COVID twice within 90 days? ›

Studies suggest that reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 with the same virus variant as the initial infection or reinfection with a different variant are both possible; early reinfection within 90 days of the initial infection can occur.

What is COVID pneumonia? ›

COVID pneumonia is an infection in your lungs caused by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. You can get pneumonia as a complication of being sick with COVID-19. As your immune system attacks the infection in your lungs, they get inflamed and fill with fluid, making it hard to breathe.

› ... ›

Covid-19 is known to take anywhere from two to 14 days before it triggers symptoms, with a median of four to five days, according to the U.S. Centers for Diseas...
A persistent cough. Waves of fatigue. The inability to smell if the milk has gone bad. These are just a few COVID-19 symptoms that can linger for weeks or month...
How Long Are You Protected After Getting COVID and Can You Get COVID Twice? The question has been asked since the start of the pandemic, but as the virus contin...

Can Covid get worse after 10 days? ›

A hallmark of COVID-19 is its ability to get worse quickly and aggressively. While the 10 to 12 days after a positive COVID-19 test are when many patients are hospitalized, researchers do not understand what changes occur early in the disease and how they may predict hospitalization later.

When do Covid symptoms get worse? ›

In some people, COVID-19 causes more severe symptoms like high fever, severe cough, and shortness of breath, which often indicates pneumonia. A person may have mild symptoms for about one week, then worsen rapidly. Let your doctor know if your symptoms quickly worsen over a short period of time.

Can you get Covid twice? ›

Reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 means a person was infected, recovered, and then later became infected again. After recovering from COVID-19, most individuals will have some protection from repeat infections. However, reinfections do occur after COVID-19.

How long does Covid last on blankets? ›

A study published in found that at room temperature, COVID-19 was detectable on fabric for up to two days, compared to seven days for plastic and metal. However, when it was exposed to high heat, the virus became inactive within five minutes.

When does COVID cough start? ›

Based on what researchers have learned about COVID-19 thus far, the first symptoms—which generally occur within seven days after infection—can include the following, which are listed in order of their usual appearance: Fever or chills. A persistent cough.

How long does Omicron symptoms last? ›

How long do omicron symptoms last? Most people who test positive with any variant of COVID-19 typically experience some symptoms for a couple weeks.

What does your throat feel like with COVID? ›

Well, it can feel exactly the same as a cold, according to Brian Curtis, MD, vice president of Clinical Specialty Services for OSF HealthCare. That makes it hard to tell the difference between a cold and a mild case of COVID. It's even harder to tell the difference knowing that sore throat is a COVID symptom.

What is the fastest way to recover from Covid at home? ›

To care for yourself, follow these steps:
  1. Keep a daily routine, such as taking a shower and getting dressed.
  2. Take breaks from COVID-19 news and social media.
  3. Eat healthy meals and drink plenty of fluids.
  4. Stay physically active.
  5. Get plenty of sleep.
  6. Avoid use of drugs, tobacco and alcohol.

What's a good cough medicine for Covid? ›

Use medications containing guaifenesin, such as Robitussin, Mucinex, and Vicks 44E. keeping you from getting rest. Coughing is useful because it brings up mucus from the lungs and helps prevent bacterial infections. People with asthma and other lung diseases need to cough.

How long does the Covid cough last? ›

In the case of COVID-19, this cough could last for as long as six months after the viral infection, especially if the patient contracted Omicron because it is more airway dependent than the original strain.

Do dogs get Covid? ›

The virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals during close contact. Pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. The risk of pets spreading COVID-19 to people is low.

How many times can I catch Covid? ›

Can you get Covid-19 twice? Yes, it is possible to get Covid-19 two, three or even more times. Covid reinfections have become more common because of the Omicron variant, and because immunity from previous infection and immunisation has reduced over time.

Videos

1. The Power of Nutrition: Chronic Disease, COVID-19 and Your Health
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2. Your Heart Can't Wait | Heart Health During COVID-19
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3. Impact of COVID-19 on human resources for health and policy response
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4. The COVID-19 pandemic and mental health
(World Health Organization (WHO))
5. Recovering After COVID-19 | Your Health Means Everything
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6. What It's Like to Survive COVID-19 | UC San Diego Health
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