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'What Should I Do If I Test Positive for COVID?'

positive covid test
By Elizabeth Hanes, BSN, RNSeptember 16, 2020

We’re all a little paranoid about symptoms of illness these days. Could this be COVID?

Much of the time, it isn’t, thank goodness. But if you get a COVID-19 test and it does come back positive, what should you do?

The answer depends on the timing of your test results and how you’re actually feeling.

If you took a rapid “antigen” test and received a positive result and you’re feeling sick, then you need to immediately self-quarantine. Stay away from other household members and the general public. If you must leave the house for medical care, wear a mask, and stay at least 6 feet away from other people. You can begin to be with other people again when:

  • 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared and
  • Your fever has been gone for 24 hours (without using a fever-reducing medication) and
  • Your other symptoms are improving

Some people who test positive feel sick but never develop a fever. You should still follow the guidelines above.

If you’re waiting for regular, “molecular” test results (which can take 2 weeks or longer to receive) and you’re feeling sick, then you need to act as if you have COVID-19. Follow the same instructions as above.

If you tested positive using either the rapid or molecular test but feel fine and do not have a fever or other symptoms, then you should self-quarantine for 10 days after you receive the positive result. That’s because it’s possible to be contagious even if you don’t feel sick. If 10 days have already passed by the time you receive your positive results, then you don’t need to self-isolate.

Bottom line: if you think you have COVID-19, then act as if you do have it, whether or not you’ve received a positive test result yet. Keep other people safe by self-isolating for at least 10 days.



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