If you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID and are watching for symptoms, what are some of the first signs you might be infected?
It’s a question many are asking as omicron cases surge across the country and as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update their quarantine and isolation guidelines, which now differ depending on whether or not you have a symptomatic infection.
Here’s what we know so far:
Sore throat continues to be a symptom reported, particularly in mild breakthrough infections, health officials say. Those with any flu- or cold-like symptoms should assume they have COVID until proven otherwise.
What are the other symptoms to watch for after COVID exposure?
With some omicron cases, particularly breakthrough infections in those who are boosted and vaccinated, remaining mild, many are wondering how to tell if it’s a cold, the flu or COVID-19.
Those who are fully vaccinated aren’t necessarily getting seriously ill and having fevers for days and difficult breathing, but are instead experiencing a more mild illness, similar to a cold. But they still have the ability to transmit the virus to others.
Those who are unvaccinated, however, are experiencing similar symptoms to early on in the pandemic, health officials said.
Dr. Katherine Poehling, an infectious disease specialist and member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, told NBC News last week that a cough, congestion, runny nose and fatigue appear to be prominent symptoms with the omicron variant. But unlike delta, many patients are not losing their taste or smell.
The evidence so far, according to Poehling, is anecdotal and not based on scientific research. She noted also that these symptoms may only reflect certain populations.
Still, CDC data showed the most common symptoms so far are cough, fatigue, congestion and a runny nose.
Overall, the symptoms for COVID reported by the CDC include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
The CDC also has what it calls a “coronavirus self checker” that allows people to answer a series of questions to determine if they should seek medical care.
“The Coronavirus Self-Checker is an interactive clinical assessment tool that will assist individuals ages 13 and older, and parents and caregivers of children ages 2 to 12 on deciding when to seek testing or medical care if they suspect they or someone they know has contracted COVID-19 or has come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19,” the CDC’s website reads.
How soon might COVID symptoms appear?
According to earlier CDC guidance, COVID symptoms can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after someone is exposed to the virus.
Anyone exhibiting symptoms should get tested for COVID-19.
Some people may never experience symptoms, though they can still spread the virus.
A person is also considered contagious before symptoms appear.
When are people with COVID most contagious?
The CDC says that its guidelines were updated to reflect growing evidence that suggests transmission of COVID-19 often occurs one to two days before the onset of symptoms and during the two to three days afterward.
For those without symptoms, CDC guidance states they are considered contagious at least two days before their positive test.
When should you call a doctor?
The CDC urges those who have or may have COVID-19 to watch for emergency warning signs and seek medical care immediately if they experience symptoms including:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
“This list is not all possible symptoms,” the CDC states. “Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.”
You can also notify the operator that you believe you or someone you are caring for has COVID.
How long after COVID exposure could you test positive?
According to the CDC, the incubation period for COVID is between two and 14 days, though the newest guidance from the agency suggests a quarantine of five days for those who are not boosted, but eligible or unvaccinated. Those looking to get tested after exposure should do so five days after the exposure or if they begin experiencing, the CDC recommends.
Those who are boosted and vaccinated, or those who are fully vaccinated and not yet eligible for a booster shot, do not need to quarantine, but should wear masks for 10 days and also get tested five days after the exposure, unless they are experiencing symptoms.
Still, for those who are vaccinated and boosted but are still looking to be cautious, health experts say an additional test at seven days could help.
When is the best time to get tested after exposure?
The CDC states that anyone…