What Should I Do If I Test Positive for COVID-19?

Dr. Hank Bernstein explains that those with a COVID-19 infection should watch for symptoms and get medical care if their condition worsens. Infected people should stay away from others for up to five days or until they’re fever-free for 24 hours and their symptoms have improved. Dr. Bernstein talks about when to consider using a mask and reminds listeners that those with moderate to severe symptoms or who are considered immune compromised may continue to spread COVID-19 for a longer period of time.


What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19?

Hank Bernstein, MD: Hi, I'm Dr. Hank Bernstein, and I'm speaking today on behalf of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The question, what should I do if I test positive for COVID-19? This is an incredibly common question these days. People with a positive test are infected. So first, you have to take care of yourself. What does that mean? You need to manage your symptoms. How are you feeling? Do you have fever? Are you having difficulty breathing? And you should seek medical care if you think you're not doing very well or your symptoms are actually getting worse.

And if you have COVID-19, remember that you can spread it whether or not you have mild symptoms or even no symptoms whatsoever. Therefore, you need to keep the virus to yourself. You don't want to spread it to your family, to your neighbors, or anyone you come in contact with. Stay home. Wash your hands often. Wash your hands well. Keep your distance from others. And it's a good idea to wear a mask if you have to come in contact with somebody.

You should stay out of contact with individuals for up to five days after you test positive for COVID-19. Why? Because you are most infectious during those five days. Once you're fever-free for 24 hours and your symptoms are much improved, you can end isolation. But I suggest you continue wearing a mask for the next five days because you can still spread COVID-19, although it's much less likely during those second five days.

If you test negative on two consecutive days during those last five days, then it's OK to end your isolation early. And remember, if you have moderate to severe symptoms or your immune system doesn't function well, you may continue to have COVID-19 and spread it for a longer period of time.

Thank you.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Oct 09, 2023