When to Take a Test After Covid Exposure?

When to Take a Test After Covid Exposure?

Even though measures like physical distancing and wearing a mask are essential for staying safe from the novel coronavirus, getting exposed to the virus is inevitable. You may have come in contact with someone who has tested positive, or you may have been to a place that was identified as a Covid-19 hot spot. In such cases, it is important to get tested for Covid-19 and follow the necessary safety measures like quarantining. But when should you take the test?

This article will provide you with information on when to take the Covid-19 test after potential exposure. We’ll look at what you should do if you have been exposed to the virus and how long it takes to get accurate results.

What Should a Person Do if They Have Been Exposed to Covid-19?

Before we dive into when to take the test, let’s talk about what you should do if you have been exposed. There are a few steps that you should take if you have been exposed to the virus.

1. Isolate Yourself

If you think that you have come in contact with someone who has Covid-19 or you suddenly start to exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, it is important to isolate yourself immediately. This will help prevent the spread of the virus and protect those around you.

When isolating yourself, ensure that you stay in a separate room, ideally with its own bathroom. Avoid contact with other people and try to stay away from shared spaces like the kitchen. If possible, ask someone outside your home to bring you food or any necessities you may need during this time.

2. Have a Virtual Visit with Your Doctor

Most healthcare providers now offer virtual visits so you can easily connect with them without leaving your home. During the visit, discuss any symptoms you may be experiencing and get advice on what to do next. Your doctor can guide you on when and where to get tested, so take advantage of this option if it is available.

3. Seek Medical Attention Immediately if You Experience Severe Symptoms

If you develop a severe illness with symptoms such as difficulty breathing or chest pain, seek medical attention immediately. This is especially important if you are in a high-risk group or if you have underlying health conditions.

When to Take a Test After Covid Exposure?

There are several factors that will determine when you should take the Covid-19 test after potential exposure.

When You Were Exposed

The timing varies depending on when you have been exposed. If you were recently exposed to someone who has tested positive or if you visited a Covid-19 hot spot, it is best to get tested as soon as possible. This will help identify the infection in its early stages and ensure that appropriate steps are taken to contain the virus.

If you were exposed more than 14 days ago, it is generally not recommended to take the test as the virus may no longer be present in your body. Exposure lateral flow test kits may be beneficial in this scenario.

Severity of Your Symptoms

The other factor to consider is your symptoms. If you are experiencing any Covid-19 related symptoms, such as fever, dry cough, soar through, muscle aches, fatigue, or loss of taste and smell, it is best to get tested immediately. The earlier exposure lateral flow tests are taken, the more accurate results are likely to be.

If you are asymptomatic, it is still important to get tested. This will help identify potential sources of infection and may prevent the further spread of the virus in your community. A PCR test after exposure can help to detect the virus in its early stages and is therefore recommended. Provided you have not been tested within the last 72 hours, a PCR test can be taken up to 14 days after exposure to confirm Covid-19 infection.

Risk Profile

It is also important to consider your risk profile when deciding when to take a Covid-19 test after exposure. If you are in a high-risk category, such as being over the age of 65 or having underlying health conditions such as diabetes, respiratory infections, or asthma, it is best to get tested as soon as possible. Risk factors also include recent travel, attending large social gatherings, and close contact with somebody who has tested positive. They play an important role in deciding when to take the Covid-19 test.

Overall, it is important to consider all of the above factors when determining when to take a Covid-19 test after potential exposure. 

Covid-19 Incubation Period

The incubation period of Covid-19 is the time between exposure to the virus and when symptoms start to appear. The average incubation period for COVID-19 is 5 days but can range from 2 to 14 days, depending on individual cases. Most people will show symptoms within 1–2 weeks after exposure; however, asymptomatic cases can be present. It’s important to take precautions and get medical advice even if you don’t have any signs or symptoms of the virus.

It’s worth noting that different strains of the virus may have different incubation periods. For instance, the BA.1 Omicron variant has a slightly shorter incubation period of 3–4 days. The faster rate of transmission that can be seen with this strain is likely a result of its shorter incubation period. Therefore, the question of how long after exposure will I test positive is highly dependent on the incubation period of the specific strain of the virus.

How Long Will a Person Be Contagious?

The contagious period of a person infected with Covid-19 starts from 2 days before symptoms appear and can last for several weeks, depending on the severity of the illness. The virus is most contagious when its concentration in the body is the highest, which is usually during the first week after exposure.

It’s important to note that even if you do not have any symptoms of the virus, you can still be contagious and pass it on to others. It is, therefore, important that you take the necessary precautions even if you do not feel unwell.

What Type of Test It’s Better to Use?

There are different types of tests available to detect the presence of Covid-19 in the body. They include:

  • PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test: This test detects genetic material from the virus and is used to diagnose an active infection. It is the most sensitive and accurate test available.
  • Antigen testing: This test is used to detect proteins from the virus, usually found on the surface of infected cells. It can detect an active infection within 15 minutes but is not as accurate as a PCR test.
  • Antibody testing (serological testing): This type of test is used to detect antibodies produced by the body in response to an infection. Antibodies usually develop within 3–4 weeks after exposure and can remain detectable for months or even years.

The type of test used to detect Covid-19 will depend on the particular case and the symptoms present. It is best to speak to a medical professional for advice on which type of test is best for you.


The CDC recommends that you self-isolate and quarantine for 14 days after exposure. During this time, you should not leave home or have contact with other people outside of your household. If any symptoms develop during the incubation period, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible and continue isolation until the results come back.


In conclusion, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible after exposure to Covid-19. It is best to follow the guidelines set out by your local health authority and to consult a medical professional for advice if you are unsure about any symptoms or if you’ve been in close contact with someone with Covid-19. If possible, wait a few days weeks before taking a test to ensure the accuracy of results. By staying informed and following preventive measures, we can all help to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

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