Symptoms and testing
Call your doctor
If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice.
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Or at least two of these symptoms:
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
Read about COVID-19 Symptoms
Maybe; not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested, call your healthcare provider first. Most people have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care and may not need to be tested.
CDC has guidance for who should be tested, but decisions about testing are made by state and local health departments and healthcare providers.
You can also visit your state or local health department’s website to look for the latest local information on testing.
For more CDC testing resources, see
The process and locations for testing vary from place to place. Contact your state, local, tribal, or territorial department for more information, or reach out to a medical provider. State and local public health departments have received tests from CDC while medical providers are getting tests developed by commercial manufacturers. While supplies of these tests are increasing, it may still be difficult to find someplace to get tested. See Testing for COVID-19 for more information.
In general, for diagnostic tests, samples are collected from a person’s nose and/or throat using swabs or other collection devices by a healthcare provider in a health care setting. A healthcare professional swabbing the back of the nasal cavity through the nostril is the preferred way to collect a sample to test for COVID-19. Alternatively, a healthcare professional may swab the back of your throat or the inside of the front of the nose. Certain tests may also allow collection of alternative sample types. Additionally, the FDA has authorized some tests for use with home sample collection kits that are prescribed by a doctor and allow the patient to collect the sample at home and send it directly to the lab for analysis.
Learn more about Coronavirus Testing Basics.
Two kinds of tests are available for COVID-19: viral tests and antibody tests.
- A viral test tells you if you have a current infection.
- An antibody test might tell you if you had a past infection.
Find out who should get tested. Protect yourself and others. Wear a mask, wash hands often, and stay 6 feet from others.
Antibody testing checks a sample of a person’s blood to look for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. These antibodies are produced when someone has been infected, so a positive result from this test indicates that person was previously infected with the virus.
CDC is working with other federal agencies to evaluate the performance of commercially manufactured antibody tests that are becoming increasingly available from healthcare providers. This evaluation is expected to be completed in early May.
We do not know yet if the antibodies that result from infection with SARS-CoV-2 can protect someone from reinfection with this virus (immunity) or how long antibodies to the virus will protect someone. Scientists are conducting research to answer those questions.
Antibody tests may not be able to tell you if you are currently infected because it typically takes 1 to 3 weeks to develop antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. To tell if you are currently infected, you would need a test that identifies the virus in samples from your upper respiratory system, such as a nasopharyngeal swab.
If you have been around someone who is sick with COVID-19, local authorities, the health department, or your doctor may recommend that you get tested for COVID-19. The health department may be able to provide resources for testing in your area.
- While you are waiting for your COVID-19 test result, stay home away from others (self-quarantine) and monitor your health for symptoms of COVID-19 to protect your friends, family, and others from possibly getting COVID-19.
- If your test is positive, you should continue to stay home and self-isolate away from others and monitor your health. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and they worsen or become severe, you should seek emergency medical care. Severe symptoms include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, or bluish lips or face. Someone from the health department may call you to
- Check on your health
- Discuss who you have been around, and
- Ask where you have spent time while you may have been able to spread COVID-19 to others.
- If your test is negative and you don’t have symptoms, you should continue to stay home and self-quarantine away from others for 14 days after your last exposure to COVID-19 and follow all recommendations from the health department. This is important because symptoms can appear up to 14 days after you’ve been exposed and are infected. A negative result before the end of your quarantine period does not rule out possible infection. Additionally, you do not need a repeat test unless you develop symptoms, or if you require a test to return to work.
- If your test is negative and you have symptoms, you should continue to self-quarantine away from others for 14 days after your last exposure to COVID-19 and follow all recommendations from the health department. Additional medical consultation and a second test may be needed if your symptoms do not improve.
Using the CDC-developed diagnostic test, a negative result means that the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in the person’s sample. In the early stages of infection, it is possible the virus will not be detected.
For COVID-19, a negative test result for a sample collected while a person has symptoms likely means that the COVID-19 virus is not causing their current illness.
No, at this time, the FDA has not authorized any COVID-19 test to be completely used and processed at home. However, the FDA has issued emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for certain COVID-19 molecular diagnostic tests to be used with samples collected by a person using a home collection kit that is sent to a laboratory for processing and test reporting. In general, a healthcare provider determines whether a person can use a home collection kit as explained in each test’s EUA.
The FDA sees the public health value in expanding the availability of COVID-19 testing through safe and accurate tests that may include home collection options, and we are actively working with test developers to expand the use of such options.
We learn more about COVID-19 every day. As more information becomes available, CDC will continue to update and share information. As our knowledge and understanding of COVID-19 evolves, this guidance may change. Based on the best available evidence at this time:
- CDC does not currently recommend universal symptom screenings (screening all students grades K-12) be conducted by schools.
- Parents or caregivers should be strongly encouraged to monitor their children for signs of infectious illness every day.
- Students who are sick should not attend school in-person.
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, someone from the health department may call you to check on your health, discuss who you have been around, and ask where you spent time while you may have been able to spread COVID-19 to others. You will also be asked to continue to stay at home and self-isolate, away from others.
- Your name will not be shared with those you came in contact with.
- The health department staff will not ask you for
- Social Security number
- Bank account information
- Salary information, or
- Credit card numbers
- Self-isolation means staying at home in a specific room away from other people and pets, and using a separate bathroom, if possible.
- Self-isolation helps slow the spread of COVID-19 and can help protect the health of your family, friends, neighbors, and others you may come in contact.
- If you need support or assistance while in self-isolation, your health department or community organizations may be able to provide assistance.
Watch for or monitor your symptoms of COVID-19. If your symptoms worsen or become severe, you should seek medical care.
If you have had close contact with an infected person, stay home for 14 days and maintain social distance (at least 6 feet) from others at all times.
- Self-monitor for symptoms.
- Check temperature twice a day.
- Watch for fever, cough, or shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
- Avoid contact with people at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
- If symptoms develop, contact your health provider and follow CDC guidance.
For more information about how to protect yourself, see the CDC’s How to Protect Yourself & Others.
You can be around others after:
- 10 days since symptoms first appeared; and
- 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications; and
- COVID-19 symptoms have improved (for example, cough, shortness of breath).
Most people do not require testing to decide when they can be around others; however, if your healthcare provider recommends testing, they will let you know when you can resume being around others based on your test results.
Note that these recommendations do not apply to persons with severe COVID-19 or with severely weakened immune systems (immunocompromised). For more information, visit CDC’s guidelines.
At this time, the FDA does not recommend using laboratory tests to screen blood. Someone who has symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath, is not healthy enough to donate blood. Standard screening processes already in place will mean that someone with these symptoms will not be allowed to donate.
If you receive any calls like this, please know that it is a scam to get your private personal information. Beneficiaries are being targeted in a number of ways, including telemarketing calls, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits. Do not give out your Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security numbers. And be cautious about any unsolicited requests for your personal information. If you think you need to be tested for the Coronavirus, please call your doctor, who can advise you on what tests you may need.