A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Waiting on COVID-19 test results? Precautions while you wait

Editor’s note: This article was last updated on March 6, 2024. COVID-19 information and recommendations are subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

COVID-19 testing has become more readily available to the public and more people are opting to get tested due to symptoms or exposure. Waiting for your test results could take a couple days, and it’s important to continue to take precautions while you wait.

Steps to take while you wait

A woman looks out a window.

While you wait for your COVID-19 test results, you should take proper precautions.

  • If you are not feeling well:

If you chose to get tested because you had symptoms or knew you were exposed to COVID-19, you should follow isolation instructions or quarantine while you wait for results.

Isolation separates a person because they are known or believed to be infected with a communicable disease; whereas, quarantine separates a person believed to be exposed to a communicable disease but not symptomatic.

An exposure is if you were within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before illness onset until the time the infected person was isolated.

The rule for isolation and quarantine remain the same – separate yourself from others in the community. Family and friends in your household may need to quarantine, too, as they may have been exposed to the virus. Close contacts should contact their provider for guidance or follow public health instruction.

You also should inform your workplace if you are currently being tested to find out their restrictions.

If you are a household member of a student, ask the student’s school district about their policies for household members’ guidance quarantine.

  • If you are feeling well:

Follow health safety precautions like hand hygiene, social distancing and wearing a mask in public. In addition, you will want to clean high-touched surfaces in your home or belongings, and do not spend time with others who are sick. If instructed by public health to quarantine, you should not visit someone in the hospital.

Although you may be feeling well, symptoms can arise at a later date or you could get others sick. Each situation can vary. Follow instructions from your health care provider and public health.

Watch for symptoms

Keep track of your temperature daily and any new symptoms. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to:

  • Fever/chills.
  • Cough.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Fatigue, muscle or body aches.
  • Loss of taste and smell.
  • Sore throat.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • GI issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Contact your primary care provider if symptoms worsen or if you have questions, and call 911 immediately for any medical emergencies.

Test results

Regardless of whether your test is positive or negative, you need to continue to protect yourself and others using the health safety precautions. If you were in close contact with someone with COVID-19 and your test result was negative, you may need to complete a full quarantine before going back to work or being around others.

Download the attached handout for more information on what to do for positive and negative COVID-19 test results.

Need testing?

If you would like to get tested or have questions about COVID-19, click here.

Visit marshfieldclinic.org/patient-resources/patient-testing for more information.

Source: Department of Health Services

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