This Is When You Should Get Tested for COVID After Thanksgiving
If you chose to see family or friends this holiday, you need to make sure you're healthy.
Although public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged Americans to avoid traveling this holiday season, some people decided to carry on with their Thanksgiving plans as usual. If you celebrated the holiday with people outside of your home, it would be wise to get a COVID test after Thanksgiving.
If you don't get tested at the right time, you could completely miss the infection, so when it comes to COVID testing after Thanksgiving, you have to go at just the right time. For expert advice on when to get tested, read on, and to find out what your results could mean for future travel plans, You Can't Enter These 8 States Without a Negative COVID Test.
When should I get tested for COVID after Thanksgiving?
Family physician Harris Cohen, MD, points out that "the strong science-based recommendation is for family and friends not to gather for Thanksgiving." However, if you did head home for the holidays, you should get a COVID test "five days after possible exposure," says Cohen. And for a testing misconception to ditch, discover The COVID Test Myth You Need to Stop Believing, Epidemiologist Says.
Why do I have to wait five days to get a COVID test?
The timing of your COVID test is crucial to getting an accurate diagnosis. Harvard Health says that if you get tested on the day you're infected—let's say Thanksgiving—your test will almost certainly come back negative, "because there are not yet enough viral particles in your nose or saliva to detect." For the most accurate results, experts suggest waiting until the fourth or fifth day after possible exposure to get tested.
"The chance of getting a false negative test result decreases if you are tested a few days after you were infected, or a few days after you develop symptoms," says Harvard Health, which gives the test the highest chance of being accurate.
A study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine in August examined false-negative rates in the days following exposure. The study found that on the fourth day of infection, which is generally just before symptoms begin, the possibility of getting a false positive from a PCR COVID test was 67 percent, but this dropped to 38 percent on the fifth day, which is usually when symptoms begin. Eight days after exposure, the test only has a 20 percent chance of showing a false positive.
Therefore, the window of five to eight days after exposure is the best time to get a COVID test with the most accurate results. While you wait to get the test, you should quarantine in case you do have COVID. And for more useful information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
What kind of COVID test should I get?
Cohen suggests getting a PCR test. This is the most widely used COVID test, which is done using a nasal swab. PCR tests work "by detecting genetic material from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the nose and upper throat," according to MIT Medical. These tests can be found at walk-in clinics, urgent care centers, hospitals, and drive-thru testing centers. And for more on the future of coronavirus management, These Are the COVID Vaccine Side Effects Doctors Are Worried About.
What should I do if my COVID test comes back positive?
The first thing you need to do after receiving news that your COVID test was positive is to contact anyone you saw on Thanksgiving and tell them to quarantine and get a COVID test immediately. You must also begin your own quarantine at home, away from other people for at least 14 days. The CDC suggests you stay hydrated, take over-the-counter medication to improve symptoms, wash your hands and surfaces often, and monitor how your condition develops. And for symptoms to keep an eye out for, These 4 Easy-To-Miss Symptoms Could Mean You Have COVID, Experts Say.