How long are you contagious when you have COVID?

Nobody wants to give COVID-19 To a loved one (or anyone). But determining how long you’re contagious isn’t an exact science, as it can vary from person to person.

So you may have a hard time knowing if you are putting others at risk. However, there are rules you can follow and things you can know to help protect those around you — and to ease other concerns about infection, too.

Here, experts share guidance for how long you might be able to spread COVID-19 and when you’re most contagious, including the currently dominant viral strain.

Most people are contagious for about 10 days.

It is not always clear how long the infection has been transmitted to a person, Like so many things with COVID-19He said, the exact schedule depends on many factors Dr. Stewart RayProfessor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

But, Ray said, the conventional wisdom is that you are contagious and should isolate for a full five days after symptoms start — with the first day of symptoms counted as day zero.

But keep in mind that you are not in the clear after five days.

“It’s often said that you should wear a mask afterwards to try and protect others because it’s hard to be sure how long you’re going to be infected,” Ray said.

“This period often lasts up to 10 days” – and again, you have it, he added The first day of symptoms is counted as day zero.

Long story short, you are likely to be contagious for about 10 days after your symptoms start. You must isolate for the first five days and wear a mask for at least the six to ten days.

But you are more contagious at certain points.

The stage in which you are contagious begins about 48 hours before a positive test and ends five days after symptoms begin, according to the Doctor. Neha Vyasa family medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. I have called this “the period of maximum contagion.”

So, you’re going to want to be very careful at this point — although it’s hard to know if you’re sick before symptoms appear, which makes those first 48 hours really difficult.

Meanwhile, the amount of time between infection and symptoms It got shorter and shorter As COVID-19 mutates, that means sub-omicron variants like XBB — the strain currently dominant in the United States — can spread faster.

If you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you can get yourself tested even before symptoms appear. Or, if you recently attended a crowded indoor event, you can take a test a few days later. Furthermore, there is no actual way of knowing that you are infected before you start showing symptoms.

And later in your illness, remember that you can still spread COVID-19, which is why it’s important to wear a mask until at least the 10-day mark.

If you develop symptoms after 10 days, you can still spread the virus.

anyone has symptoms It lasts until the 10th day and it is likely that he will still test positive Transmit the virus to others. If this is the case, continue to wear a mask and avoid indoor places and events. Ray said.

“IIf you are immunocompromised or have [severe] COVID infection…so you can still be contagious for 20 days” after symptoms start Fyas.

She stressed that long periods of infection like this are rare. But if you fall into either of these categories, talk to your doctor for further guidance.

If possible, you should isolate from others in your home for five days.  After that, it is important to wear a mask.
If possible, you should isolate from others in your home for five days. After that, it is important to wear a mask.

Home antigen tests are a good way to find out if you are still contagious.

It’s not uncommon for someone to test positive on a lab test weeks after contracting COVID-19, Ray said, “but it would be very unusual for someone to test positive weeks on an antigen test.”

Antigen tests are the kind you might have picked up at the pharmacy (from brands like iHealth) or received from the government (which still sends them out). Free testsBy the way).

Ray added that a positive antigen test correlates with the virus’s ability to grow and infect. So if you have a positive antigen test, you are likely to be infectious.

This goes in the opposite direction as well.

“We generally say that if your symptoms resolve completely and you have a negative test, you are unlikely to be infectious,” Ray said.

If you want to be extra careful, you can get two COVID tests.

If you’ve passed the 10-day mark and you’re no longer showing symptoms, but you’re concerned you may have spread the virus to a loved one, there are things you can do.

“You can take two COVID tests 48 hours apart,” Vyas said. “If they are both negative, you can [be] Fairly certain you are no longer contagious.”

She added that most people won’t need to do this as long as they follow the 10-day guidelines. But if you are concerned about transmitting the virus, this is a good approach.

If you live in a home with others, you should do what you can to protect them.

“If possible, the affected individual should use a separate bedroom and bathroom, especially during this five-day period [after symptoms begin],” He said Dr. Ali KhanChief Medical Officer of Oak Street Health.

When this is not possible, wear an appropriate mask – ideally N95 or KN95 – around other people in your home.

Khan added that the affected person should have their own cutlery and papers, and avoid high-touch items.

“Don’t forget to wash your hands often,” Khan said – and this also applies to people who are not infected.

Finally, to protect yourself and your loved ones, be sure to keep your COVID-19 boosters up to date.

“It is certainly never too late to get a COVID-19 and flu vaccine, as it will still be possible to reduce severe symptoms, even if you do get sick,” Khan said.

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