Public Health

How long after exposure should I get tested for COVID-19?

Mira Research Team15 Oct 2020

What are the different types of COVID-19 tests? 

There are currently three main types of tests for COVID-19: the PCR test, the antigen test, and the antibody test. For more information on the accuracy of these tests, how they work, and when to get each test, see our article: Coronavirus Blood Test (Antibody) Vs. Swab Test (PCR) Vs. Rapid COVID Test - Which Is Best?

PCR Test: This test detects an active infection of COVID-19. The sample for this test can either be taken through a nasal swab or a saliva sample. The results for PCR tests are typically available within several days. 

Antigen Test: This test, also referred to as a rapid diagnostic test, is also used to detect an active infection of COVID-19. The sample for this test is taken through a nasal swab and test results are typically available in less than one hour.

However, these tests are more prone to a false negative result than the PCR tests. Thus, a negative result on an antigen test does not necessarily mean that you do not have COVID-19. 

Antibody Test: This test detects a past infection of COVID-19. The sample for an antibody test is done by drawing blood from the arm. Having COVID-19 antibodies does not mean that you cannot be reinfected with the virus and it is currently unknown how long antibodies remain in the body. For more information on when to get an antibody test, see our article here. 


How long after exposure to coronavirus COVID-19 should you get a test? 

If you were exposed to someone who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19, you should either get a PCR Test or an Antigen Test. If you get tested the day of your exposure, your test result will come back negative. Therefore, you need to wait a few days after the exposure to get the most accurate test results

In general, if you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested at least 4-5 days after your exposure. If you have developed symptoms, you should get tested 3-4 days after the first symptom onset. 

It is important to note that false negative tests are common, so getting a negative test result cannot certainly rule out the chance of having coronavirus. If you were in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should self-quarantine for 14 days regardless of your test result. 

Contact tracing is another method of slowing the spread of COVID-19. Contact tracing helps protect you, your family, and your community by:

  1.  Letting people know they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and should monitor their health for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. 
  2. Helping people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 get tested.


Sources: and


Should you get a rapid or regular test for coronavirus COVID-19? 

In general, the standard PCR tests are more accurate than the rapid antigen tests, meaning that you are more likely to get a false negative result from a rapid test. Therefore, in order to have the most accurate results, you should get a standard PCR test. 

However, sometimes a rapid test is the best option for individuals who need quick results or need to get back to work. If you need to get a rapid test due to time constraints, you should consider getting a PCR test as well. 


Where can you get a test for coronavirus COVID-19?

In general, many doctor's offices, urgent care facilities, hospitals, clinics, and drive through centers offer COVID-19 testing. Below are testing locations for some cities in the United States:


What should you do if you were exposed to someone with coronavirus COVID-19?

As a general rule, the centers for disease control (CDC) constitute an exposure as being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes. However, these guidelines are not exhaustive - you can still get COVID-19 from being in contact with someone for fewer than 15 minutes, and even if you are more than 6 feet apart. It's also essential to wear a mask while around others.

If you believe you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should immediately begin to isolate yourself for 14 days since COVID-19 may have an incubation of up to 2 weeks. Since cases are currently rising in the United States, it is important that we all play our part to avoid spreading coronavirus. In addition, you should notify all coworkers, friends, or family members that you have been in contact with. You should contact your doctor about getting a test and monitor your symptoms.

If you get a positive result, the CDC is recommending that you quarantine for 10 days. If you are feeling sick during this time, reach out to a health care provider to monitor your symptoms. 




How do you know if you have COVID-19, the flu, or the common cold?

If you are feeling ill this winter, it is possible that you are showing symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, or a common cold. See our article A Cold Vs. The Flu Vs. COVID-19- Similarities And Differences In Symptoms for more information on how to distinguish between these three illnesses. 

In general, the best way to know what sickness you have is to get a test for the flu and for COVID-19. A membership with Mira can help you get a home-delivered COVID-19 test for free.  



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