Why is it so important to know how long you are contagious when you have COVID-19?
Of course, it is so that you don’t expose anyone else and get them sick too!
How Long Are You Contagious When You Have COVID-19?
Fortunately, knowing how long you are contagious when you have COVID-19 isn’t as confusing as it might seem.
In general, you are contagious until 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared, as long as you are free of fever and your other symptoms are improving.
But what if you never had any symptoms of COVID-19?
“If you continue to have no symptoms, you can be with others after 10 days have passed since you had a positive viral test for COVID-19.”When You Can be Around Others
If you had a positive COVID-19 test, but no symptoms, then you will continue to be contagious until 10 days after the test.
“Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation for the public. People with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter. The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.”CDC Updates and Shortens Recommended Isolation and Quarantine Period for General Population
You are most contagious at the beginning of your infection though.
That’s why we have new guidelines to help shorten quarantine and isolation periods.
Other things you should understand about COVID-19 include that:
- although you are generally contagious for 10 days after your symptoms start or you had a positive test, you can be contagious even earlier, up to two days before you develop symptoms (presymptomatic transmission)
- you are most contagious in the first days when your COVID-19 symptoms start when viral load peaks
- it is possible that you could continue to test positive for up to three months, even though you are out of the range of time when you are considered contagious (viral load is too low to cause disease), which is why most experts don’t recommend retesting after someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, especially as a method to figure out when to end home isolation
- you should start making COVID-19 antibodies within 5-10 days of getting sick, which is thought to make you less contagious
- while you are likely contagious for at least 10 days (how long you should stay in full isolation) when you are sick with COVID-19, if on the other hand, you are exposed to someone with COVID-19, you need to quarantine for 14 days – that’s the full incubation period for COVID-19 – how long it might take to develop symptoms after being exposed
Don’t want to deal with any of this?
Wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands, and get vaccinated and boosted, etc., and work to avoid getting COVID-19!
More on COVID-19
- Going Back to School During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- What to Do if You Have Been Exposed to COVID-19
- What to Do if You Have Been Diagnosed with COVID-19
- COVID-19 Vaccination Questions and Answers
- Get All of Your COVID-19 Questions Answered
- Returning to Sports After Having COVID-19
- What is the COVID-19 Multi-System Inflammatory State?
- Why There is Still So Much COVID-19 Confusion
- CDC – CDC Updates and Shortens Recommended Isolation and Quarantine Period for General Population
- CDC – When You Can be Around Others
- CDC – Criteria for Return to Work for Healthcare Personnel with SARS-CoV-2 Infection (Interim Guidance)
- CDC – Discontinuation of Isolation for Persons with COVID-19 Not in Healthcare Settings (Interim Guidance)
- WHO – Criteria for releasing COVID-19 patients from isolation
- Frequently Asked Questions About Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- CDC – When to Quarantine
- CDC – Isolate If You Are Sick
- When is COVID-19 most contagious and why is self-isolation so important?
- Charting a Coronavirus Infection
- ECDC – Transmission of COVID-19
- MMWR – Presymptomatic Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 — Singapore, January 23–March 16, 2020.
- Coronavirus Questions and Answers
- Virus and antibodies during asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections
Last Updated on January 5, 2022 by Vincent Iannelli, MD
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