What should I do if my COVID-19 test is negative?

Dana Fasano asked, updated on August 1st, 2021; Topic: covid-19
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A negative test result means that it is unlikely you have COVID-19. Your result may read "negative" or "not detected." Sometimes there are false negatives, which means you have the disease but the test doesn't detect it. If you have a fever, cough, or cold symptoms, you should remain home and minimize contact with others. If you are concerned about your symptoms, call your primary care provider.

If you don’t have a primary care provider, you can still call our Penn Medicine Coronavirus Hotline at 1-833-983-1350. If you are feeling better, you should continue to take precautions and practice social distancing to avoid getting sick. Our advice, whether you test positive or negative, is that you should be without symptoms for 72 hours before ending self-quarantine.

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So is, can someone test negative and later test positive on a viral test for COVID-19?

Yes, it is possible. You may test negative if the sample was collected early in your infection and test positive later during this illness. You could also be exposed to COVID-19 after the test and get infected then. Even if you test negative, you still should take steps to protect yourself and others. See Testing for Current Infection for more information.

Further, can you get a false negative on a COVID-19 test? False negatives — that is, a test that says you don't have the virus when you actually do have the virus — may occur. The reported rate of false negatives is as low as 2% and as high as 37%.

In short, what does false negative COVID-19 test result mean?

False negatives — that is, a test that says you don't have the virus when you actually do have the virus — may occur.

Do I need to quarantine after testing negative for the coronavirus disease?

You should stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19.

7 Related Questions Answered

What are the emergency warning signs of COVID-19?

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.
  • New confusion.
  • Inability to wake or stay awake.
  • Bluish lips or face.

This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Can the coronavirus disease cause gastrointestinal symptoms?

Many people with COVID-19 experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, sometimes prior to developing fever and lower respiratory tract signs and symptoms.

What are the most common underlying conditions for coronavirus disease patients?

Among 178 (12%) adult patients with data on underlying conditions as of Ma, 89.3% had one or more underlying conditions; the most common were hypertension (49.7%), obesity (48.3%), chronic lung disease (34.6%), diabetes mellitus (28.3%), and cardiovascular disease (27.8%). These findings suggest that older adults have elevated rates of COVID-19–associated hospitalization and the majority of persons hospitalized with COVID-19 have underlying medical conditions.

What is the most likely ecological reservoirs for coronavirus disease?

The most likely ecological reservoirs for SARS-CoV-2 are bats, but it is believed that the virus jumped the species barrier to humans from another intermediate animal host. This intermediate animal host could be a domestic food animal, a wild animal, or a domesticated wild animal which has not yet been identified.

How long after exposure do you develop symptoms for COVID-19?

Typically, a person develops symptoms 5 days after being infected, but symptoms can appear as early as 2 days after infection or as late as 14 days after infection, and the time range can vary.

How long does it take for a recovered COVID-19 patient to no longer be contagious?

Most people with coronavirus who have symptoms will no longer be contagious by 10 days after symptoms resolve. People who test positive for the virus but never develop symptoms over the following 10 days after testing are probably no longer contagious, but again there are documented exceptions.

Can I stay at home if I have the coronavirus disease?

Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.