Why Can’t You Test Out of Your COVID-19 Quarantine?

You can’t test out of your 14 day COVID-19 quarantine after you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Most people understand that they can’t test out of quarantine, right?

A quick reminder that close contacts of someone with COVID-19 need to quarantine for 14 days.
A quick reminder that close contacts of someone with COVID-19 need to quarantine for 14 days.

After all, if they are around others before their quarantine is over, they could end up exposing others to COVID-19!

Why Can’t You Test Out of Your COVID-19 Quarantine?

But why can’t you just test out of your COVID-19 quarantine?

Basically, if you have a negative COVID-19 test early in your quarantine period, it doesn’t mean that you can’t develop symptoms or test positive later on.

“If you are tested and the test is negative, do you still have to be quarantined?
Yes. Someone exposed to a person with COVID-19 needs a 14-day quarantine regardless of test results. This is because COVID-19 can develop between two and 14 days after an exposure.”

Coronavirus Questions and Answers

Testing negative doesn’t get you out of quarantine.

A negative test simply means that you don’t have an active infection. It doesn’t mean that the SARS-CoV-2 virus isn’t still incubating inside you. And no, we can’t test for that.

So why get tested?

“If you do not have symptoms, it is best to get tested between 5-7 days after you’ve been in a high-risk situation.  If your test is negative, get tested again around 12 days after the event. It can take 2-14 days for COVID-19 to develop, so even if you test negative once, you could still develop COVID-19 later and spread it unknowingly.”

Symptoms and Testing: COVID-19

Getting tested can be helpful because some people can test positive even if they don’t have symptoms, they can still be contagious, and this can help with contact tracing and can help you warn others that you exposed them to COVID-19.

Ideally, since you are in quarantine, you would not have exposed anyone else though…

And if you test positive?

Well, technically that does get you out of quarantine, but only to move you to a period of isolation, which is basically a stricter form of quarantine and lasts at least 10 days.

More on Testing out of Quarantine

How Long Are You Contagious When You Have COVID-19?

There are strict rules that dictate how long you are contagious and when you are most contagious when you have COVID-19.

Why is it so important to know how long you are contagious when you have COVID-19?

There are strict rules that dictate how long you are contagious when you have COVID-19.
There are strict rules that dictate how long you are contagious and when you are most 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.

Those people with severe symptoms or a severely weakened immune system might be contagious for a much longer period of time though, up to 20 days.
Those people with severe symptoms or a severely weakened immune system might be contagious for a much longer period of time though, up to 20 days.

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.

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 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 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, etc., and work to avoid getting COVID-19!

More on COVID-19

5 Things You Need to Know About COVID-19

5 things you need to know to protect yourself, your family, and your community until we finally get COVID-19 beat.

As cases start to rise again after our initial efforts to flatten the curve, you are either ready to throw up your hands, wondering what’s next, or are resigned to staying home for awhile.

“Plan A, don’t go in a crowd. Plan B, if you do, make sure you wear a mask.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci

But what if you do have to go out?

5 Things You Need to Know About COVID-19

While a lot of folks are making mistakes, it’s certainly not time to throw in the towel.

“It is important to remember that anyone who has close contact with someone with COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days after exposure based on the time it takes to develop illness.”

When You Can be Around Others After You Had or Likely Had COVID-19

Here are 5 things you need to know to protect yourself, your family, and your community until we finally get COVID-19 beat.

  1. While people probably aren’t contagious if they don’t have symptoms, they can be contagious in the days just before they develop symptoms. Unfortunately, you don’t know when that might be, which is why it is important to self-quarantine after you have been exposed (or think that you might have been exposed) for a full incubation period.
  2. Understand that SARS-CoV-2 is typically spread through close contact with someone who is infected (again, this is also in the days before they show symptoms). That means you can likely avoid getting sick if you practice social distancing (stay 6 feet away from other people), wash your hands often, and avoid touching your face, etc. To protect others, you should also cover your coughs and sneezes and wear a mask.
  3. Protect yourself if you are caring for someone at home with COVID-19, limiting contact, shared spaces, and shared personal items, etc.
  4. Avoid other people if you have COVID-19 until you are fever free for 3 days AND your respiratory symptoms are improving AND it has been at least 10 days since your symptoms first started.
  5. Get a viral test for current infection (not the antibody test) if you think you are sick and want to get tested for COVID-19.

Why is all of this important?

You can reduce your risk of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing your hands, and watching your distance.

Because there are still no real treatments for COVID-19, so while we wait for a vaccine, our best hope is simply to keep from getting sick.

More on COVID-19

What to Do if You Have Been Exposed to COVID-19

Folks need to understand that they should begin self-quarantine as soon as they learn that they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Do you know what to do if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19?

Because they could have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, anyone who attended the party should self-isolate.
Because they could have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, anyone who attended the party should self-isolate.

Hopefully you already know that you shouldn’t go to a party and expose lots of other folks…

What to Do if You Have Been Exposed to COVID-19

Unfortunately, lots of mistakes are being made that are causing COVID-19 cases to again rise.

“For COVID-19, a close contact is defined as anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before the person began feeling sick until the time the patient was isolated.”

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

One of them is that many people simply don’t understand the importance of self-quarantining themselves after they have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2.

In addition to watching for symptoms, it is important to self-quarantine for 14 days after a COVID-19 exposure, the incubation period for SARS-CoV-2, something the Florida Department of Health forgets to mention...
In addition to watching for symptoms, it is important to self-quarantine for 14 days after a COVID-19 exposure, the incubation period for SARS-CoV-2, something the Florida Department of Health forgets to mention…

What happens if you don’t self-quarantine?

You may expose others in the days before you start to show symptoms (presymptomatic transmission).

But can’t you just get tested after your exposure to see if you have it?

Sure, you can get tested, but if it is negative and you are early in your incubation period, it doesn’t mean that you still won’t become sick later on. For example, you could have a negative COVID-19 test four days after being exposed to the virus, but then develop symptoms of COVID-19 two days later.

“Yes, you are still considered a close contact even if you were wearing a cloth face covering while you were around someone with COVID-19. Cloth face coverings are meant to prevent someone from transmitting the disease to others, and not to protect someone from becoming infected.”

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

What if you’re not sure if you have COVID-19 and you are waiting on your test results?

That should be a no-brainer.

Self-isolate yourself why you are waiting for your COVID-19 test results!

Ideally, folks would be getting this information to self-quarantine after their COVID-19 exposure from a contact tracing team.
Ideally, folks would be getting this information to self-quarantine after their COVID-19 exposure from a contact tracing team.

And if you think you have COVID-19, be sure to tell all of your close contacts, which includes everyone who was within 6 feet of you for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before you began feeling sick.

Of course, social distancing and wearing a mask are important too.

But folks need to understand that they should begin self-quarantine as soon as they learn that they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. That’s the easiest way to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and the size of outbreaks.

More on COVID-19

Why Are Social Distancing Kids Still Getting Sick?

Why are some kids still getting sick if they are have been our of school and stuck in the house for weeks because of COVID-19?

COVID-19 has kept most kids out of school for some time now. Many are also out of daycare. And few are out playing with friends.

So why are some still getting sick? What else is going on with kids stuck at home while we are all social distancing to flatten the curve.

Why Are Social Distancing Kids Still Getting Sick?

The first thought of some parents and pediatric providers upon reading this might be, wait, what, kids are still getting sick?

Flu activity is low in most of the United States.
Flu activity is low in most of the United States.

And that’s because it does seem that in addition to flattening the COVID-19 curve, staying home from school and daycare, washing hands, and general social distancing techniques has worked to keeps from getting sick with the flu and most other contagious diseases!

So while pediatric providers are available to do telemedicine appointments, it certainly isn’t business as usual, even as their days have gotten quite unusual.

Some kids are still getting sick though, and while we know what you are thinking, most probably don’t have COVID-19.

Why?

It might be because:

  1. they aren’t social distancing as well as they think they are, keeping in mind that with many diseases, people can be contagious for a few days before they show symptoms and you can sometimes catch germs from touching fomites, or objects that a sick person has recently touched. That still doesn’t mean that they have COVID-19 though. If they have contact with others, they could catch almost anything.
  2. they caught something from someone who had a disease a few weeks or months ago and is still shedding. For example, some infants can shed RSV for as long as 4 weeks after they get better. And they can shed the virus that causes hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) for almost two months! Human parainfluenza viruses (HPIV), a common cause of colds and croup (seal bark cough), can also shed for many months.
  3. they caught something from someone who had a viral disease that causes a lifelong latent infection with periodic reactivation and shedding. Wait, what? While herpes (cold sores) is the main disease you might think of as causing a lifelong latent infection, there are others. You may not realize this, but after getting roseola (causes a high fever for a few days, followed by a rash after the fever breaks), HHV-6 (human herpes virus-6) kind of does the same thing. The big difference is that while you shed HHV-6 in your saliva from time to time, you don’t have any symptoms. You can get other folks sick though, especially older infants, once they lose the passive immunity they got from maternal antibodies.
  4. they have a sore throat caused by a virus, allergies, or reflux, but have tonsil stones and a positive strep test because they are a strep carrier. Nearly 20% of kids are thought to be carriers of strep, which means that every time they get tested, they will be positive, whether or not they actually have strep throat. That means that you don’t have to worry about testing the dog to see if they are carrying strep…
  5. they were exposed to a disease with a long incubation period. While the incubation period (the time between getting exposed to something to when you get sick) is just a few days for many diseases, it can be several weeks or months for others. In fact, your child might not get sick until 30 to 50 days after being exposed to someone with mono!
  6. they had a virus a few weeks ago and now have Gianotti Crosti syndrome (GCS), a post-viral rash on a child’s legs, arms, and buttocks. Although GCS might linger for weeks or months, it eventually goes away on its own. Another rash, this one likely caused by reactivation of the virus that causes roseola, might have you thinking your child is covered in ringworm (how would they get that if they haven’t left the house??). Instead, they likely have pityriasis rosea.
  7. their symptoms are caused by a non-contagious infectious disease that is spread from an animal or insect and not from another person – think Lyme disease (ticks), Cat scratch disease (cats), and West Nile virus (mosquitoes), etc.
  8. they got sick (bacteria, virus, or parasite) from contaminated lake or well water, which can cause diarrhea – giardiasis, Crypto, shigellosis, norovirus,
  9. they got sick (bacteria, virus, or parasite) from eating raw or contaminated food – giardiasis, shigellosis, norovirus, E. coli, salmonellosis
  10. their symptoms are caused by a non-infectious disease, which could be anything from allergies and asthma to poison ivy or herpes zoster (shingles).

It is also possible that their symptoms are being caused by anxiety, fear, and stress, which is not unexpected as they see schools closed, people getting sick and wearing masks, and are likely unsure about what’s coming next.

Has your child been sick recently?

Do you have a pet turtle or chickens in your backyard? They could be a source for Salmonella…

Do you understand why now?

Now call your pediatric provider if you have questions and need help getting them well, especially if they seem anxious or have extra stress from being home all of the time and away from school and their friends.

You especially want to call if you think that they might actually have COVID-19. While most kids have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, if your child has a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, you should call your pediatric provider or seek medical attention.

More on Covid-19 Kids Getting Sick

What to Know About Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Everything you need to know about Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.

Have your kids ever had a coxsackievirus A16 infection?

Don’t think so?

What about Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD)?

Symptoms of  Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is a very common childhood disease that most of us end up getting at some point, typically before we are about five years old. At least you hope you do, because you don’t want to get it as an adult…

Would you recognize these symptoms of HFMD?
Would you recognize these symptoms of HFMD? Photo courtesy Medicina Oral S.L.

Most people are familiar with the classic symptoms of HFMD, which can include:

  • a few days of fever, often up to about 102 degrees F
  • red spots that can turn into blisters on the child’s palms (hand) and soles (foot), but often also on their knees, elbows, and buttocks
  • sores or ulcers in a child’s mouth which are often painful, causing mouth pain or a sore throat and excessive drooling
  • a reduced appetite, which can sometimes lead to dehydration

Symptoms which can last up to 7 to 10 days.

Although that’s the end of it for most kids, a few weeks after the other symptoms have gone away, some kids will have peeling of the skin on the child’s fingers and toes. They might even lose their fingernails and toenails (nail shedding). This is only temporary though, and new nails should quickly grow back.

To confuse matters though, like other viral infections, not all kids have classic symptoms when they get HFMD. Some don’t have a fever, while others don’t have the rash on their hands and feet, which can make it easy to confuse with other viral infections that cause mouth ulcers, like herpangina.

Some kids don’t have any symptoms at all, but surprisingly, they can still be contagious.

Facts About Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

HFMD is caused by the coxsackievirus A16 virus and a few other enteroviruses, including enterovirus 71 and coxsackievirus A6. Because more than one virus can cause HFMD, it is possible to get it more than once.

Other things to know about HFMD include that:

  • it is very contagious, especially if you have close contact with nose and throat secretions, fluid from blisters, and feces of someone infected with HFMD, especially during their first week of illness
  • the incubation period for HFMD, the time when you were exposed to someone to when you develop symptoms, is about 3 to 7 days
  • people with HFMD disease can continue to be contagious for days or weeks after their symptoms have stopped, although this isn’t a reason to keep them out of school or daycare. In fact, as long as they don’t have fever and feel well, kids with HFMD can likely go to daycare or school.
  • there is no specific treatment for HFMD, except symptomatic care, including pain relief, fever reducers if necessary, and extra fluids
  • unlike other viruses which are common in the winter, HFMD season is during the spring, summer, and fall
  • complications of HFMD disease are rare, but can include viral meningitis, encephalitis, and a polio-like paralysis
  • HFMD is not the same as foot-and-mouth or hoof-and-mouth disease that affects animals
  • there is currently no vaccine to prevent you from getting HFMD, although cross reactivity between polio vaccines and enterovirus 71 might lead to milder symptoms if you are vaccinated and an EV-71 vaccine is approved in China

Most importantly, to avoid getting HFMD, wash your hands after changing your child’s diaper, teach them to cover their coughs and sneezes, and don’t share cups or other personal items.

Although many of us had HFMD when we were kids, remember that there are multiple viruses that can cause it. When outbreaks occur and we see more cases in adults, it is likely because it isn’t being caused not by coxsackievirus A16, but by a less commonly seen enterovirus that we aren’t immune to, like coxsackievirus A6.

More on Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

How Long Are You Contagious When You Have the Flu?

Although your child may be contagious with the flu for up to a week, your child only has to stay home from school or day care until they are feeling better and are fever free for at least 24 hours.

Do your kids have the flu?

When their kids have the flu, one of the first questions most parents have, after all of the ones about how they can get them better as quickly as possible, is how long will they be contagious?

How Long Is the Flu Contagious?

Technically, when you have the flu, you are contagious for about a week after becoming sick.

And you become sick about one to four days after being exposed to someone else with the flu – that’s the incubation period.

“Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.”

CDC on Information for Schools

That’s why the flu spreads so easily and it is hard to control flu outbreaks and epidemics once they begin.

Most school closures are not to prevent the spread of the flu and clean the school, but simply because so many kids and staff are already out sick.
Most school closures are not to prevent the spread of the flu and clean the school, but simply because so many kids and staff are already out sick.

Another reason it spreads so easily is that most people are contagious the day before they even begin to develop flu symptoms!

And again, they then remain contagious for another five to seven days.

When Can You Return to School with the Flu?

Does that mean kids with the flu have to stay home for at least seven days?

Not usually, unless they have a fever for that long, or severe flu symptoms, which is definitely a possibility for some kids with the flu.

“Those who get flu-like symptoms at school should go home and stay home until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medicine.”

CDC on Information for Schools

In general, as with many other childhood illnesses, you can return to school or daycare once your child is feeling better and is fever free for at least 24 hours.

Keep in mind that even if they don’t have a fever, if your child still isn’t feeling well and isn’t going to be able to participate in typical activities, then they should probably still stay home.

But Are They Still Contagious?

Many childhood diseases have contagious periods that are far longer than most folks imagine. That’s because we continue to shed viral particles even as we are getting better, and sometimes, even once we no longer have symptoms.

Teach your kids proper cough etiquette to help keep cold and flu germs from spreading.
Teach your kids proper cough etiquette to help keep cold and flu germs from spreading.

For example, some infants with rotavirus are contagious for up to 10 days and some with RSV are contagious for as long as 4 weeks!

Like the child with flu that doesn’t have a fever, that doesn’t mean that these kids have to stay out of school or daycare for that whole time. But since they are still contagious, it does raise the issue of what to do about non-essential activities.

Should you keep going to playdates after your child had the flu? How about the daycare at church or the gym?

In general, you should probably avoid non-essential activities while your kids are still recovering from an illness, even if they feel better, because they are likely still contagious.

Most parents have the expectation that their own kids won’t be exposed to someone who is sick in these settings.

So you probably don’t want to bring your sick kid to a playdate or birthday party, etc., even if he is already back in school or daycare.

And whether they have a cold or the flu or another illness, teach your kids to decrease their chances of getting sick by washing their hands properly, not sharing drinks (bring a water bottle to school), and properly covering their own coughs and sneezes. They should also learn to avoid putting things in the mouth (fingers or their pencil, etc.) or rubbing their eyes, as that helps germs that could have made their way onto their hands get into their body and make them sick.

What to Know About Staying Home When You Have the Flu

Although your child may be contagious with the flu for up to a week, your child only has to stay home from school or day care until they are feeling better and are fever free for at least 24 hours.

More About Staying Home When You Have the Flu

 

Incubation Periods of Childhood Diseases

The incubation period or latency period is the amount of time between being exposed to a contagious disease and when you begin developing symptoms.

The incubation period or latency period is the amount of time between being exposed to a contagious disease and when you begin developing symptoms.

This is not the same as the contagious period or the time during which your child can get others sick.

Incubation Period

Depending on the disease, the incubation period can be just a few hours or can last for several months. Knowing the incubation period for a disease can help you understand if your child is still at risk of getting sick or if he is in the clear — whether he is exposed to someone with strep throat, measles, or the flu.

“The incubation period is the time from exposure to the causative agent until the first symptoms develop and is characteristic for each disease agent.”

CDC

It can also help you figure out where and when your child got sick. For example, if your infant develops chickenpox, a vaccine-preventable disease, you can’t blame it on your cousin who doesn’t vaccinate her kids and who was visiting just three days ago. The incubation period for chickenpox is at least 10 to 21 days. So your child who is too young to be vaccinated likely caught chicken pox from someone he was exposed to a few weeks ago.

As we saw in recent outbreaks of Ebola and measles, a diseases incubation period can also help you figure out how long an exposed person needs to stay in quarantine. After all, if they don’t get sick once the incubation period is over, then they likely won’t get sick and can be released from quarantine.

Incubation Periods of Childhood Diseases

The incubation period for some common diseases includes:

  • Adenovirus – 2 to 14 days, leading to a sore throat, fever, and pink eye
  • vomiting after exposure to Bacillus cereus, a type of food poisoning – 30 minutes to 6 hours (short incubation period
  • Clostridium tetani (Tetanus) – 3 to 21 days
  • Chickenpox – 10 to 21 days
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections (Infectious Mononucleosis) – 30 to 50 days (long incubation period)
  • E. coli – 10 hours to 6 days (short incubation period)
  • E. coli O157:H7 – 1 to 8 days
  • Fifth disease – 4 to 21 days, with the classic ‘slapped cheek’ rash
  • Group A streptococcal (GAS) infection (strep throat) – 2 to 5 days
  • Group A streptococcal (GAS) infection (impetigo) – 7 to 10 days
  • Head lice (time for eggs to hatch) – 7 to 12 days
  • Herpes (cold sores) – 2 to 14 days
  • HIV – less than 1 year to over 15 years
  • Influenza (flu) – 1 to 4 days
  • Listeria monocytogenes (Listeriosis) – 1 day to 3 weeks, but can be as long as 2 months (long incubation period)
  • Measles – 7 to 18 days
  • Molluscum contagiosum – 2 weeks to 6 months (long incubation period)
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) – 2 to 10 weeks (long incubation period)
  • Mycoplasma penumoniae (walking pneumonia) – 1 to 4 weeks
  • Norovirus ( the ‘cruise ship’ diarrhea virus) – 12 to 48 hours
  • Pinworms – 1 to 2 months
  • Rabies – 4 to 6 weeks, but can last years (very long incubation period)
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) – 2 to 8 days
  • Rhinovirus (common cold) – 2 to 3 days, but may be up to 7 days
  • Roseola – about 9 to 10 days, leading to a few days of fever and then the classic rash once the fever breaks
  • Rotavirus – 1 to 3 days
  • gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhea and vomiting) after exposure to Salmonella – 6 to 72 hours
  • Scabies – 4 to 6 weeks
  • Staphylococcus aureus – varies
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (can cause pneumonia, meningitis, ear infections, and sinus infection, setc.) – 1 to 3 days
  • Whooping cough (pertussis) – 5 to 21 days

Knowing the incubation period of an illness isn’t always as helpful as it seems, though, as kids often have multiple exposures when kids around them are sick, especially if they are in school or daycare.

Conditions with long incubation periods can also fool you, as you might suspect a recent exposure, but it was really someone your child was around months ago.

More About Incubation Periods