Tested positive for COVID-19? Here’s what happens next – and why day 5 is crucial
With cases of COVID-19 on the rise, many are asking: what happens if I test positive? With no known cure and no vaccine, what are my treatment options?
Finding trusted answers amid the widespread coverage of questionable claims about COVID-19 and dubious data on unproven treatments is not easy. The good news is there are are clear guidelines and growing evidence on treatments that can have a dramatic effect on COVID-19.
Here’s a snapshot of how this knowledge and guidance is likely to apply to you, if you have mild, moderate or severe COVID-19.
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Antibody (Serology) Test
This is a blood test. It is designed to detect antibodies (immunoglobulins, IgG and IgM) against the coronavirus that causes the disease called COVID-19. Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system in response to an infection and are specific to that particular infection. They are found in the liquid part of blood specimens, which is called serum or plasma, depending on the presence of clotting factors. IgM and IgG may either be ordered together or separately.
Having an antibody test is helpful if:
you or your health care provider believes you may have been exposed to the coronavirus which causes COVID19 based on your current or previous signs and symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, difficulty breathing);
you live in or have recently traveled to a place where transmission of COVID-19 is known to occur;
you have been in close contact with an individual suspected of or confirmed to have COVID-19; or
you have recovered from COVID-19.
Antibody Test for IgG
This test detects IgG antibodies that develop in most patients within seven to 10 days after symptoms of COVID-19 begin. IgG antibodies remain in the blood after an infection has passed. These antibodies indicate that you may have had COVID-19 in the recent past and have developed antibodies that may protect you from future infection. It is unknown at this point how much protection antibodies might provide against reinfection.
What does it mean if I have a positive test result?
If you have a positive test result (antibodies are detected), you may have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 at some point in the past. There is still a chance that the antibodies indicate past infection due to other coronaviruses. These other coronaviruses cause the common cold. There is also a small chance that a positive result is incorrect (false positive).
The presence of IgG suggests that the infection happened weeks to months in the past. It also suggests that you may no longer be infectious. IgG indicates that you may have some immunity to the virus, though you may not. How much it might protect you from getting sick with COVID-19 in the future is unknown.
Our doctor or your health care provider will work with you to determine how best to care for you based on the test results along with other factors of your medical history, including any previous symptoms, possible exposure to COVID19 and the location of places you have recently traveled.
Antibody Test for IgM
This test detects IgM antibodies. IgM is usually the first antibody produced by the immune system when a virus attacks. A positive IgM test indicates that you may have been infected and that your immune system has started responding to the virus. When IgM is detected you may still be infected, or you may have recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection.
Testing positive and isolating at home
What does it mean if I have a positive test result?
The presence of IgM suggests that the infection happened within the last few weeks. It also suggests that you could still be infectious to others. Having a nasopharyngeal swab test may confirm if you are infectious. Your health care provider will work with you to determine how best to care for you based on the test results along with other factors of your medical history, including any previous symptoms, possible exposure to COVID19 and the location of places you have recently traveled.
If you test positive, you must self-isolate at home. Contact your local public health service for advice and information about how long you’ll need to do so.
If you are like most people with COVID-19, you won’t need to go to a clinic or hospital, and can safely self-manage the illness at home. Even so, it’s important to connect with an appropriate health-care service (either by contacting a dedicated COVID-19 service or by calling your doctor or using the telemedicine service included with our testing service) for an initial assessment and continuing contact throughout your illness.
Initially, you may experience flu-like symptoms such as cough, sore throat, fever, aches, pains and headache. You might temporarily lose your sense of smell and taste; less common symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Whatever your symptoms, you’ll need plenty of rest, fluids and paracetamol for aches, pains or fever.
Take particular note of how you’re feeling from day five onwards, as this is the time some people begin to deteriorate significantly. Around 20% of people fall into this category, with older people and those with pre-existing health conditions more likely to require hospitalisation. Watch out for intense fatigue, difficulty breathing or an overall deterioration in how you’re feeling.
If your symptoms worsen, you’ll need to contact your care provider, by phone or by Telemedicine, or if your symptoms are very serious (such as difficulty breathing), call 911 and ask for an ambulance, and don’t forget to tell them you have tested positive for COVID-19.
What if things get worse still?
If you are taken to hospital, most likely the doctors will measure your oxygen levels and perform a chest X-ray and blood tests to determine whether you have pneumonia (infection in the lungs, which is a sign of moderate or severe COVID-19). If pneumonia, low oxygen levels or other signs of severe infection are detected, you’ll need to stay in hospital and will probably be given oxygen or other treatment.
If this is the case, you’ll also be given a strong anti-inflammatory medicine.
For moderate or severe cases, doctors may also consider a newer antiviral medicine called remdesivir. Originally developed to treat Ebola, this drug has recently been shown to reduce the time to recover from more severe forms of COVID-19 — but not to reduce the risk of dying from the disease.
If you become even more unwell, these treatments will continue but you may need more support for breathing, such as high-flow oxygen or a ventilator, and will likely be cared for in an intensive care unit.
Your recovery depends on many factors, including your previous health and fitness, and how sick you became with COVID-19. The recovery phase is not yet fully understood, but we do know some people suffer prolonged symptoms, including fatigue, breathlessness, and joint and chest pains.
Telemedicine: Delivering Care Safely During COVID-19
Telemedicine has rapidly become the first point of care not only for COVID-19, but for nearly all non-emergency conditions. Telemedicine provides healthcare from the safety of your home.
During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, we don’t have to choose between medical care and social distancing. When patients can get health care through telehealth — and doctors can provide it — we protect ourselves and our communities.
During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, HHS has taken steps to make it easier to provide telehealth services. Telehealth — sometimes referred to as telemedicine — describes the use of 2-way communication technology for certain health care services.
We encourage health care providers to adopt and use telehealth as a way to safely provide care to your patients in appropriate situations, including: routine health care, like wellness visits; medication consultation; dermatology (skin care); eye exams; nutrition counseling; mental health counseling and more.
Visit telehealth.hhs.gov for helpful information about telehealth for patients and health care providers.
One Full Month of Unlimited Use Telemedicine is included with every COVID-19 Rapid Test Kit by Anytime Covid Test, No Co-Pay and No Visit Fee.