As COVID-19 continues to impact our daily lives, it's important to be aware of other respiratory illnesses that cause similar symptoms. One of these illnesses is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common illness that typically affects children but can also affect adults. Another illness that can be mistaken for COVID-19 is influenza, known as the flu. It's important to know how to tell COVID-19, RSV, and the flu apart.
In this blog post, you will learn about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, RSV, and the seasonal flu, how to tell them apart, whether you can have more than one virus at the same time, what to do if you test positive, when to seek medical care, and how to prevent getting sick in the future.
Fast Facts About COVID-19, RSV, and the Flu
COVID-19, RSV, and the flu have similar symptoms, like fever, cough, fatigue, and body aches. However, some differences in symptoms can help you distinguish between these illnesses.
COVID-19 symptoms range from mild to severe, and may include a sore throat, cough, loss of taste or smell, and trouble breathing. Some people are asymptomatic, which means they don’t experience any symptoms.
RSV symptoms are similar to the common cold, such as a runny nose, cough, and mild fever. In severe cases, RSV infection can lead to more serious illnesses like pneumonia or bronchiolitis.
Flu symptoms are similar to COVID-19 and RSV but may include chills, headaches, and vomiting.
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It's important to note that not everyone with these viruses will experience all of these symptoms, and some people may experience other symptoms not listed here.
Symptoms vary in severity from person to person. If you are experiencing symptoms of any of these viruses, you should get tested and follow the advice of your healthcare provider.
COVID-19, RSV, and the flu are all respiratory illnesses that can cause similar signs and symptoms. However, some key differences help distinguish them from each other.
COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and primarily spreads through respiratory droplets from an infected person's nose or mouth. Some common symptoms of COVID-19 include:
While some people experience mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, others can become severely ill, particularly those who are older, have weakened immune systems, or have underlying chronic medical conditions. COVID-19 can cause serious complications, such as pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and organ failure.
Visit our FAQ about Symptoms for more information and treatment options.
Respiratory syncytial virus is a common respiratory virus that can cause illness in people of all ages, but is most severe in very young infants, children, and older adults. RSV spreads through respiratory secretions and contact with contaminated surfaces. Some common RSV symptoms include:
Most people recover from RSV without treatment, but severe symptoms can lead to bronchiolitis or pneumonia, particularly in infants and older adults.
The flu is caused by influenza viruses and is highly contagious. It is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Some common flu symptoms include:
Most people with the flu recover within a few days to two weeks, but some develop severe complications, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. The flu can be particularly dangerous for young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
It is possible to have more than one virus at the same time. For example, you could be infected with COVID-19 and RSV simultaneously. If you have symptoms of multiple illnesses, you should get tested so you can receive appropriate medical care.
Getting tested for COVID-19, RSV, and the flu is essential for accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. In the United States, testing for these respiratory illnesses is widely available through healthcare providers and testing centers.
There are Test to Treat locations in communities across America where you can get tested and receive follow-up treatment.
You can also access COVID-19 testing from your healthcare provider, pharmacy, or local health department.
At-home tests can be purchased from retailers in your community and online. You can also get free COVID-19 tests from the United States Postal Services website. Click here to submit an order.
COVID-19 tests are typically done using a nasal or throat swab, and results can be available within hours to several days, depending on the type of test. Check out our recent article about the different types of COVID-19 tests to learn more.
Testing for RSV and the flu can be done through your healthcare provider, pharmacies, or local health department. RSV testing typically involves a nasal swab, and flu testing is done through a nasal or throat swab or a blood test.
It's important to note that testing availability and requirements may vary depending on your location and individual circumstances. Some testing sites may require an appointment or a referral from a healthcare provider, while others may offer walk-in testing.
The United States Food & Drug Administration recently authorized over-the-counter tests that can detect COVID-19 and the flu, helping people quickly receive a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
If you're experiencing symptoms of a respiratory illness, getting tested right away can help prevent the spread of the virus, and ensure you receive timely medical care. If you test positive for COVID-19, RSV, or the flu, follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and local health department.
If you test positive for COVID-19, RSV, or the flu, you should follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations. Here are some additional things you can do after being diagnosed with a respiratory illness.
As soon as you receive a positive test result, it's crucial to stay home and isolate yourself from others, including family members and friends, to prevent the spread of the virus. Follow the guidelines your local health department or doctor provides on how long you should isolate, which may vary depending on the specific virus.
If you had close contact with anyone when you were contagious, you should notify them so they can take appropriate measures to protect themselves and others. Close contacts typically include people you have been within 6 feet of for at least 15 minutes, starting two days before your symptoms (or two days before your positive test if you are asymptomatic).
Always consult your healthcare provider for specific medical advice and follow their instructions carefully. They may prescribe medications, provide guidance on managing symptoms, and monitor your condition. In some instances, you may be eligible for antiviral medication to help control the duration and severity of your illness.
Be sure to promptly communicate any changes in your symptoms or health status to your healthcare provider and seek emergency medical attention if needed.
Rest, stay hydrated, and take over-the-counter medications as directed by your healthcare provider to relieve symptoms such as fever, cough, or congestion. Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption, as these can worsen respiratory symptoms. If you have any underlying health conditions, follow your healthcare provider's advice on managing them while you are ill.
Follow proper hygiene practices to prevent the spread of the virus to others. This includes covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze, disposing of used tissues properly, and washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, RSV, or the flu, monitor your symptoms closely and seek medical attention if they worsen. Symptoms such as difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, bluish lips or face, or severe or persistent symptoms warrant immediate medical attention.
Stay informed and follow the latest public health guidelines and recommendations from local health authorities, the CDC, or other reputable sources. This may include guidance on mask-wearing, social distancing, and other preventive measures to help reduce the spread of the virus in your community.
Remember, testing positive for COVID-19, RSV, or the flu does not necessarily mean you will experience severe illness. Still, it's important to take appropriate steps to prevent the spread of the virus to others and take care of your health.
Here is a summary of five things to watch for to help you decide when to seek medical attention if you have COVID-19, RSV, or the flu:
Remember, it's always better to err on the side of caution and seek medical advice if you have concerns about your health. Your healthcare provider can provide the best guidance on when to seek additional medical attention based on your circumstances.
Preventing the spread of COVID-19, RSV, and the flu involves individual and collective measures. Here are some effective prevention measures:
Get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu when vaccines are available. Vaccines are the most effective way to protect yourself and those around you from these viruses. The flu vaccine is updated annually based on the dominant strain, and helps provide robust protection from flu complications.
Our FAQ section has details on approved COVID-19 vaccines, vaccination schedules, and where to get vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends RSV immunizations to protect those at higher risk, including:
Check the CDC website for more information on who can receive the RSV vaccine.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
Wearing a mask is an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses. Make sure the mask covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly against the sides of your face.
Visit the CDC website for details on how to access free high-quality masks.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay at least six feet away from others in public settings.
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, RSV, or the flu, stay home and avoid contact with others to prevent the spread of the virus.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, and phones, using a household disinfectant.
Increase ventilation by opening windows or using air filters to help reduce the concentration of respiratory droplets in the air.
Following these preventive measures can help protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19, RSV, and the flu. Read our blog post about COVID-19 prevention tips to learn more.
COVID-19 is a serious illness that has significantly impacted our lives, but it's not the only virus we need to be aware of. By knowing the signs and symptoms of other respiratory illnesses, seeking medical care when necessary, and taking steps to prevent getting sick in the future, you can help protect yourself and those around you during peak flu season and year-round.
Picture this scenario: You fall ill with COVID-19 and feel overwhelmed and unsure about your next steps. Now, imagine the immense relief that washes over you when you have a COVID-19 home care kit ready to go. It's more than just a kit; it's peace of mind.
Life has a way of surprising us, and COVID-19 is a testament to that. While none of us ever expects to get this virus, we can absolutely prepare ourselves for the unexpected.
In this blog post, we're covering everything you need to know about:
Stock up on alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content, and ensure you have ample soap for regular handwashing. It is important to wash your hands regularly, especially when you are contagious.
Masks are an effective barrier against the spread of COVID-19. Have high-quality and appropriately sized masks on hand for everyone in the family caring for someone sick or using shared spaces. Click here to find free masks in your community.
Gloves come in handy (pun intended!) when touching items from a sick family member or taking care of them.
Cleaning high-touch areas like door knobs, light switches, and shared devices is a must when you or a family member is contagious.
A reliable thermometer can help you accurately monitor your fever, a common symptom of COVID-19. Visit our FAQ section for more information about common symptoms of COVID-19.
An oximeter measures your oxygen levels and can provide early warning signs if your respiratory health is declining.
Ensure you have a supply of prescription medications and regular vitamins or supplements so you don't run out while recovering from COVID-19.
Keep fever reducers, cough medicine, anti-inflammatories, lozenges, and other common illness medications on hand.
Build a stash of non-perishable food items like soup, juice, crackers, pasta, rice, and canned fruits and vegetables. Prioritize nutrient-rich grab-and-go options to ensure you can continue nourishing yourself even when you're not feeling well enough to cook.
Stay hydrated with an adequate supply of bottled water. Bottled water is helpful when you are too sick to regularly refill your water.
The path to recovery from COVID-19 can be long, and the symptoms may take a toll on your well-being. Consider adding these extras to your kit for a touch of comfort and distraction:
Recovering from an illness sometimes feels like an eternity, especially if you're isolated from the outside world. To combat the monotony and boost your spirits, include items like books, puzzles, or even a streaming service subscription in your kit. These forms of entertainment provide a much-needed escape from reality and keep your mind engaged.
Little comforts can make a big difference when you aren't feeling well!
Soft, cozy blankets and comfortable pillows transform your space into a haven of relaxation. Aromatherapy can create a soothing atmosphere through candles and essential oil diffusers with scents like lavender or eucalyptus.
And don't forget to treat yourself to your favorite snacks or comfort foods to lift your spirits and help you stay nourished.
Prioritizing your mental health when you are sick is important, and having access to the right resources makes a big difference.
Consider diving into self-help books or journaling. Meditation and mindfulness apps teach you to manage your stress and anxiety, which might be at an all-time high as you recover!
Virtual therapy sessions, readily available from many therapists, offer professional support if you are overwhelmed or struggling.
Unlocking the full potential of your COVID-19 home care kit involves more than just stocking it with essentials. We've got a few additional tips to help you maximize its effectiveness.
In the unfortunate event that you or a household member falls ill with COVID-19, you should have a plan in place to minimize the potential impact of the virus.
If possible, designate specific rooms for isolation and separate bathroom use to minimize the risk of spreading the virus within your household. Make sure the sick individual has access to all necessary items from the kit to support their recovery. Check out our blog post about preventing the spread of COVID-19 for more tips on staying safe.
Regular maintenance of your COVID-19 home care kit will help ensure its effectiveness. Keep these things in mind:
A well-stocked COVID-19 home care kit might make all the difference in your comfort and well-being if you get sick. We encourage you to assemble your kit now, so that you have everything you need if you contract COVID-19 and are stuck at home.
While COVID-19's unpredictability is a constant, proactive preparedness is a powerful way to regain a sense of control and readiness.
COVID-19 cases are rising again, serving as a stark reminder that the virus remains present in our lives. It's time for a refresher on how to stay safe amidst rising cases in the United States.
This blog post will touch on updated information about current variants and give you tips on how to avoid contracting COVID-19. We will also review extra precautions that high-risk individuals should consider.
Together, we can navigate these challenging times and come out stronger on the other side. Let's get started!
There has been a recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the United States, and many wonder about the role of variants in driving the virus's spread. Two specific variants have recently come under the spotlight in the scientific community: BA.2.86, known as Pirola, and EG.5, which goes by the moniker Eris.
BA.2.86, or Pirola, has made its presence known within the United States, albeit in limited numbers so far. Initially, there was apprehension due to the variant's remarkable number of mutations.
These mutations sparked concerns that Pirola could circumvent immunity developed through vaccinations or previous infections. Preliminary data suggests that this variant may not be as contagious or immune-evading as initially feared, offering a glimmer of hope amid the ongoing challenges.
The predominant variant currently in circulation across the United States is EG.5, also known as Eris. All the variants we're grappling with are rooted in the Omicron lineage, and they share a common characteristic: mutations with the potential to enhance transmissibility and capacity to bypass prior immunity.
Despite the recent increase in cases attributed to these Omicron-based variants, there's a noteworthy difference in the severity of illness. Compared to the early days of the pandemic, current cases tend to be less severe, and mortality rates have decreased.
Now is the perfect time to revisit the preventive measures that medical experts have been encouraging since 2020. These practices help us protect ourselves and our communities. Let's refresh our memory on how to stay safe and healthy.
Vaccination is an essential tool in our COVID-19 defense arsenal. It significantly reduces your risk of falling seriously ill, winding up in the hospital, and spreading the virus to others.
The best part? Vaccines are as easy to find as your favorite takeout spot! Visit our Vaccine Information page for more information and an online tool to help you find a vaccination location in your community.
Face masks might not be as flashy as capes, but they're superheroes in their own right when it comes to stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Slip on a mask when you're indoors, especially in places where it gets cozy and crowded. A well-fitted, high-quality mask, like an N95 or KN95, helps filter out particles as you breathe, making it harder for the virus to enter your body through your nose or mouth.
Check out the Mayo Clinic’s article about masks and how to use them effectively.
Social distancing is all about giving yourself literal breathing room, especially in crowded places.
The COVID-19 virus can only travel so far, and the more distance you have between yourself and others, the less likely it is that the virus can reach you and cause infection. Social distancing helps break the chain of person-to-person transmission.
A simple rule of thumb is to keep at least 6 feet of distance from people who aren't part of your household.
Hand washing is your secret weapon against lots of contagious illnesses! The key is to do it right: wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Sing "Happy Birthday" twice in your head – that's about the right amount of time.
Wash your hands before you eat, when you return home from public spaces, and after using the bathroom. You should also wash your hands if you have sneezed or coughed into them, and after blowing your nose.
Hand sanitizers are helpful when you’re on the go and soap and water are not readily available. Look for sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content for peak effectiveness.
Good ventilation is like a breath of fresh air for indoor spaces, especially when it comes to reducing the concentration of viral particles.
Open windows are one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to improve ventilation. You can also keep doors ajar and turn on fans to decrease the accumulation of virus particles in the air.
This interactive home ventilation tool from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help you learn more about how ventilation affects virus particle levels.
Some individuals continue to face a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Adopting the right strategies can make a difference, whether you or someone close to you falls into this category. Below are some things to consider.
High-risk individuals should minimize their exposure to crowded places and situations where maintaining physical distance is challenging.
Opting for outdoor activities provides better airflow and more space to keep a safe distance from others while still enjoying social gatherings. When shopping or running errands, consider off-peak hours or take advantage of delivery services to reduce contact with people.
Regardless of vaccination status, high-risk individuals should continue following preventive measures diligently. This includes wearing masks, practicing thorough hand hygiene, and maintaining social distancing.
Healthcare professionals can offer valuable insights into whether additional precautions are necessary. Discuss your specific risks and seek tailored guidance based on your health conditions.
Staying updated on regional COVID-19 trends, vaccination recommendations, and specific guidelines for high-risk individuals in your area is also helpful.
As we face another upswing in COVID-19 cases, it's a good time to refresh the habits that protect ourselves and our communities. The emergence of new variants like BA.2.86 and EG.5 reminds us that the virus is still a threat, but our collective actions can make a significant difference in controlling its spread!
Check out our Latest News page for even more COVID-19 updates and resources.
If you're wondering, "how soon should I exercise after COVID?" or "can I exercise with post-COVID effects?", you are not alone. COVID-19 has affected the workout routines of countless people.
Since the emergence of COVID-19 in December 2019, medical knowledge about the virus and its effects on the body has rapidly evolved. Today, exercise medicine experts have helpful guidelines for exercising after infection.
Let’s explore how to safely return to exercise after recovering from COVID-19. This blog post will cover the following topics:
Symptoms after infection vary, and return to physical activity is highly individual. Establishing a new baseline relies on understanding your COVID journey— be it a mild or severe case.
As a result of battling the virus, your body has undergone significant physiological stress. COVID-19 affects multiple systems, including the respiratory, cardiovascular, and immune systems. The body's immune response to the infection, along with the lingering effects of the illness, can leave you feeling drained. This fatigue can persist even after the acute phase of the infection has passed.
Post-COVID fatigue is a common phenomenon reported by many individuals who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that feeling tired or weak after infection is a normal body response to the virus. As you start thinking about resuming your exercise routine after recovering from COVID-19, listening to your body and prioritizing adequate recovery time is essential.
The period before returning to exercise after COVID depends on your individual case. A comprehensive research study found in the National Library of Medicine recommends that, in general, people with no or minimal symptoms can resume their exercise routines in approximately 7 to 14 days, while people who experienced severe infection should wait longer and consult their healthcare provider for guidance.
One of the common symptoms of COVID-19 is breathlessness or dyspnea, which may persist even after recovering from the infection.
Before gauging your physical fitness for working out, assess your respiratory health carefully in partnership with your healthcare provider. Pay attention to lingering breathlessness during light activities or daily tasks. Starting slowly and gradually is crucial. Begin with gentle exercises like walking or yoga and increase the intensity as you feel comfortable and your respiratory symptoms improve.
Most people recover entirely from COVID, while others continue to experience symptoms for longer than normal, a condition referred to as Long COVID. For those who experience chronic symptoms, returning to exercise may seem challenging. However, it's important to note that low-intensity physical activity may help manage symptoms. According to one observational study, physical activity helped to alleviate some Long COVID symptoms, like fatigue.
Before you jump back into your workout routine, get the green light from your doctor first.
Here are some actionable steps for a safe return to exercise after COVID:
Don’t rush the recovery process. Even light sessions of yoga or stretching can help regain lost strength.
Recovery needs optimal hydration and nutrition. You should also try to prevent reinfection so that your body has the best chance for a full recovery. Check out our blog post on COVID prevention measures for tips on avoiding the virus.
Avoid pushing past your limits. If you experience any concerning symptoms, consult your healthcare provider.
Abide by your doctor’s guidelines on returning to exercise after COVID.
Remember, the journey back to fitness after COVID is like a marathon, not a sprint. So, don't rush it, and be gentle with yourself. Your health and safety are the top priorities, and rest may be the best workout you can do while in recovery. So, keep calm and exercise on... but only when you're ready!
As we continue to deal with the ongoing effects of COVID-19, a new concern has emerged: Long COVID. Long COVID is when people experience symptoms for an extended period of time after recovering from acute COVID.
Studies suggest that Long COVID is relatively common. Approximately 10% to 30% of adults who contract COVID-19 develop prolonged symptoms, making it an alarming healthcare issue in the USA.
In this article, we provide you with a comprehensive overview of Long COVID, including:
Long COVID is a complex condition that is a significant concern in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike the acute phase of COVID-19, where symptoms are immediate and short-term, Long COVID manifests as a range of symptoms that linger for an extended period after the initial viral infection has resolved. This condition can impact a person's quality of life, causing physical, emotional, and cognitive challenges.
Long COVID is characterized by symptoms that continue for weeks or months after a COVID-19 infection has resolved. These symptoms can affect various body systems and differ from the acute phase of the illness. Visit our Symptoms page to learn more about typical COVID symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with Long COVID experience a range of symptoms, including but not limited to:
While the acute phase of COVID-19 typically lasts for a few weeks, Long COVID becomes evident in the weeks or months following the initial illness.
Individuals often notice the first signs of Long COVID around four to eight weeks after getting sick. However, the timeline varies from person to person, with some experiencing symptoms earlier or much later. The reason behind the varied onset is not fully understood, and ongoing research is working to unravel the underlying mechanisms of Long COVID.
There is no definitive answer regarding the permanence of Long COVID. While some individuals experience improvement in their symptoms over time, the condition has become more severe for others.
Many people with Long COVID experience gradual improvement as they move through the recovery phase. However, this process can be slow and frustrating while symptoms linger for weeks or months. The course of Long COVID is different for everyone, and the factors influencing its duration and severity are still being studied.
Long COVID symptoms typically resolve within a few weeks. However, the recovery phase can be prolonged for some people, with symptoms lasting for several months.
Many individuals with Long COVID experience symptoms for over three months after the initial infection. Long COVID can extend for six months or longer in more persistent cases. Those affected may face additional challenges in their daily lives, such as returning to work or resuming regular activities.
While each case is different, studies are being done to help the medical community understand and treat this condition. Recently, there has been more information about the positive impact of exercise on Long COVID symptoms. Check out our blog post, Exercise After COVID, to learn more.
Your healthcare provider is your ally in this journey of recovery. To get a comprehensive understanding of your condition, they may conduct various evaluations and tests. For added support, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created a helpful checklist to assist patients and their providers during Long COVID-related appointments.
Healthcare providers are equipped with resources to help you cope with the challenges of Long COVID. They can connect you with support groups, paramedical services, and mental health professionals.
Long COVID can lead to disabilities, and it is covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act. If you are experiencing Long COVID-related disabilities, your healthcare provider will play a crucial role in helping you access support. They can fill out necessary paperwork, such as disability benefit applications or medical documentation needed for workplace accommodations.
If you are looking for specific health-related services for Long COVID, the USA Department of Health and Human Services has compiled a comprehensive list of available resources. You can find the support you need by clicking here.
Understanding Long COVID is a journey we are all on together. Stay informed and proactive, and don't hesitate to seek help when needed! Knowledge is our most powerful tool in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.
At-home tests. Throat swab. PCR. Antibodies. Test strip. These words were not part of our regular vocabulary before 2020. Now, they are commonplace as we navigate a new normal that includes testing for coronavirus.
Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, testing has been critical in helping to identify cases, access treatment, and slow the spread of the virus. There are two main types of COVID tests; diagnostic tests and antibody tests.
Now that millions of tests have been administered and the results analyzed, we’ve got more information about the difference between COVID tests, how they work, and which one is most accurate.
A PCR test, also known as a polymerase chain reaction test, is a diagnostic molecular test that detects the presence of the virus. Molecular tests can confirm if you are actively infected.
PCR tests were developed several decades ago and, by 1985, had been refined to the point they could be used reliably in a laboratory setting. PCR tests were the first to be widely deployed as coronavirus spread across the United States.
There are a few ways to get a sample for PCR testing. The Mayo Clinic explains that samples can be taken from:
Once a sample is obtained, it is sent to a laboratory for analysis. If there are lab facilities onsite, the results may be available in minutes. Results are typically available within one to three days for tests sent to an offsite lab.
PCR tests are considered to be the gold standard for detection and accuracy, especially when done by a trained healthcare provider. They are unlikely to produce false positives or false negative results.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends a PCR test if:
There are over 15,000 sites across the United States where you can access a free PCR test. Use the online locator to find a location near you.
Rapid tests detect viral proteins called antigens. The COVID-19 virus has several antigens that rapid tests can identify. Rapid antigen tests have a long history of being used for infectious diseases and are popular due to their low cost, simplicity, and quick turnaround time.
These tests are most accurate when taken by someone who has developed COVID-19 symptoms. A sample is obtained using a nasal swab and analyzed in 15 to 30 minutes.
Antigen tests can be less accurate than PCR tests, especially when taken by people who are asymptomatic. It is unlikely to get a false positive, but a false negative test result is possible.
The CDC recommends a few strategies to help increase the accuracy of antigen tests.
1. Don’t test too soon.
The test will be more accurate if you have symptoms or wait a few days after close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
2. Test more than once.
If you get a negative antigen test result, consider testing again after 48 hours. If that test is negative, test again after another 48 hours have passed. If that result is negative but you suspect it is a false negative, go for a PCR test.
3. Follow the test instructions as precisely as possible.
Obtaining an adequate sample and ensuring it is processed properly is critical. You may get inaccurate antigen test results if any part of the testing process or sample is compromised.
Consider using an antigen test when you have symptoms and want results quickly. Rapid antigen tests are convenient because they can be used anywhere and don’t require going to a testing location or healthcare provider.
Antigen tests can be taken at home and are also offered at some testing facilities. You can order free testing kits from the United States Postal service.
The United States government has approved several rapid antigen tests for use at home. They can be purchased online and found in-store at local pharmacies and grocery stores. Antigen test kits cost anywhere from $5 to over $35, depending on the brand and retailer. Your insurance provider or group health plan may cover the costs of these tests.
This checklist combines guidance and recommendations provided by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, and is one tool you can use to help determine which test to take. This does not replace the counsel of a qualified healthcare provider.
If you are experiencing severe symptoms, a sudden worsening of symptoms, or have health concerns, you should seek medical attention.
Under certain circumstances, viruses can produce mutations, and COVID-19 has mutated several times since 2020. When a virus has one or more mutations, it is called a variant. Each variant differs in symptoms, severity, transmissibility, and other factors. As viruses change, they may become harder to detect.
At this time, neither test has shown a significant advantage when it comes to detecting new variants.
The United States Food and Drug Administration reported that some variants might result in an initial false positive on both PCR and antigen tests. For anyone potentially infected by a COVID-19 variant, experts recommend repeat testing when there is a negative result on diagnostic or antigen tests.
Today we have quick and easy access to reliable testing, compared to when the coronavirus pandemic began. There are options for free and paid tests that can be administered in person or taken at home. If you think you might have COVID-19, testing is an important step that will help you get faster access to treatment and keep others safe from infection.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this is definitely true when it comes to COVID-19. Prevention measures can protect you from becoming severely ill and limit the spread of COVID-19 in your home and community.
A prevention measure is something that helps limit the spread of a virus like COVID-19. These strategies can be implemented by individuals, communities, businesses, and workplaces. Even when public health measures are no longer in effect, prevention by individuals can impact coronavirus levels in the community and shield others from severe illness. There are several preventative measures you can incorporate into daily routines.
Physical distancing, also referred to as social distancing, is the habit of keeping a certain distance between yourself and other people, especially if they have COVID symptoms. The CDC website recommends staying at least 2 meters, or 6 feet, away from others. The virus is spread through respiratory droplets, and this disease control measure protects you from coming into contact with the respiratory droplets of an infected person. Avoiding crowded areas and maintaining a buffer of physical space between you and others is an easy preventative measure to use regularly.
If you can’t maintain your physical distance from others, a high-quality mask offers 2-way protection from the COVID-19 virus. Masks can reduce the volume of respiratory droplets you inhale and protect others from your respiratory droplets. Consider wearing a mask in crowded public places or when you are caring for someone who has coronavirus.
Masks are most effective when:
In addition to social distancing and masks, vaccines are another preventative measure that help protect you from severe illness caused by coronavirus. A vaccine teaches your body how to develop immunity to a specific virus.
Vaccine developers were able to create the COVID-19 vaccine so quickly since there was already a significant amount of research and information related to other coronaviruses. Once the genetic code for COVID-19 was available, scientists used that information and previous decades of analysis to create an mRNA vaccine.
Today, there are three approved vaccine types for COVID-19. They are:
Each vaccine has several things in common.
After being vaccinated, you can still get sick but are less likely to suffer severe outcomes like hospitalization or death.
Vaccines are most effective when administered according to evidence-based protocols. You may need subsequent doses or boosters depending on the type of vaccine you receive. These additional doses help to fortify you against waning immunity.
One sometimes overlooked preventative measure is testing for coronavirus. The CDC recommends that you get tested, either at home or at a testing location, if you develop symptoms, have been in close contact with someone who tested positive, will be in close proximity to people who have compromised immune systems, or are attending an indoor event where social distancing will be difficult.
There are two benefits to testing. First, if you test positive, you can talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options and quickly access one of the approved antiviral medications. Second, you will protect people by preventing the spread of coronavirus.
Ventilation is a preventative measure that brings outdoor air into an indoor space. When done correctly, it can improve indoor air quality by decreasing the concentration of pollutants like viruses. Improving ventilation is easy; It is as simple as opening windows, keeping exterior doors ajar, or using a ventilation fan. Ventilation can be used effectively in homes, schools, workplaces, and other indoor public places.
When the weather permits, moving group gatherings and activities outdoors can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. In outdoor settings, it is easier to practice physical distancing, and the constant movement of air diffuses respiratory droplets making it harder for the virus to spread.
Examples of activities that you can move to outdoor settings include:
Outside activities also offer other benefits. The Mayo Clinic reminds us that outdoor activities can boost our moods, decrease stress, help us get Vitamin D, and encourage physical movement.
Stopping the spread of COVID-19 doesn’t mean you can’t continue to do the things you enjoy! It just means that you might need to make a few modifications to stay safe. Preventative measures are an effective tool that slow the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne viruses. It can help keep you, your family, and your community safe from severe illness while spending time together.