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What to do after exposure to COVID-19

If you have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, you can spread the virus even if you don't show any symptoms. It is important to take precautions to protect others from the virus. You should take these steps whether you are vaccinated or not and even if you have had COVID-19 in the past.

Take Precautions Right Away

If you have been exposed to COVID-19 or have been told by a health care provider or public health authority that you were exposed, you should take the following steps.

  • Start wearing a high-quality mask or respirator (such as N95) as soon as you find out you were exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • You should wear a mask any time you are around others either inside your home or around other people in public.
  • Start counting from day 1 of exposure. Day 1 is the first FULL day after your last exposure to the virus. You can develop COVID-19 for up to 10 days after exposure.
  • Get tested on day 6 after your last exposure. You should test even if you do not have symptoms.
  • If you test negative for COVID-19, you should continue to wear a mask around others at all times through day 10.
  • On day 11, you can remove your mask.

If you test positive, you should go into home isolation immediately, and follow guidance for how long to isolate at home.

When to Call the Doctor

You should contact your health care provider:

  • If you have symptoms and think you may have been exposed to COVID-19
  • If you have COVID-19 and your symptoms are getting worse

Call 911 or your local emergency number if you have:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Confusion or inability to wake up
  • Gray, blue, or pale lips or face
  • Any other symptoms that are severe or concern you

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. COVID-19: Isolation and precautions for people with COVID-19. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/isolation.html. Updated August 11, 2022. Accessed August 15, 2022.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. COVID-19: What to do if you were exposed to COVID-19. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/if-you-were-exposed.html. Updated August 11, 2022. Accessed August 15, 2022.

  • Face masks prevent the spread of COVID-19

    Face masks prevent the spread of COVID-19 - illustration

    Using face masks correctly in public settings helps reduce the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 spreads to people within close contact via small droplets sprayed into the air by someone with the disease who coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes. Wearing face masks or cloth face coverings that cover the nose, mouth, and chin and fit snuggly across your cheeks helps reduce the spray of respiratory droplets from the nose and mouth. Wearing a face mask may also protect you from infection.

    Face masks prevent the spread of COVID-19

    illustration

  • How to wear a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19

    How to wear a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 - illustration

    Wearing well-fitting face masks helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. For masks to work, they have to be worn properly. Choose a mask with two or more layers that completely covers your mouth and nose and fits snugly against the sides of your face, leaving no gaps. Do not wear a mask that is too loose on the sides. Do not pull the mask low on your nose, below your nose, or below your mouth or chin. Do not leave your chin or your mouth exposed or dangle the mask from one ear. Do not wear the mask in any other way that does not entirely cover your mouth and nose. Wash your hands before and after wearing the mask and use only the loops of the mask to put it on and take it off. Do not touch the front of the mask while wearing it. If you use a cloth mask, wash it and dry it daily and keep it in a clean, dry place.

    How to wear a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19

    illustration

    • Face masks prevent the spread of COVID-19

      Face masks prevent the spread of COVID-19 - illustration

      Using face masks correctly in public settings helps reduce the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 spreads to people within close contact via small droplets sprayed into the air by someone with the disease who coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes. Wearing face masks or cloth face coverings that cover the nose, mouth, and chin and fit snuggly across your cheeks helps reduce the spray of respiratory droplets from the nose and mouth. Wearing a face mask may also protect you from infection.

      Face masks prevent the spread of COVID-19

      illustration

    • How to wear a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19

      How to wear a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 - illustration

      Wearing well-fitting face masks helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. For masks to work, they have to be worn properly. Choose a mask with two or more layers that completely covers your mouth and nose and fits snugly against the sides of your face, leaving no gaps. Do not wear a mask that is too loose on the sides. Do not pull the mask low on your nose, below your nose, or below your mouth or chin. Do not leave your chin or your mouth exposed or dangle the mask from one ear. Do not wear the mask in any other way that does not entirely cover your mouth and nose. Wash your hands before and after wearing the mask and use only the loops of the mask to put it on and take it off. Do not touch the front of the mask while wearing it. If you use a cloth mask, wash it and dry it daily and keep it in a clean, dry place.

      How to wear a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19

      illustration

    Self Care

     
     

    Review Date: 8/5/2022

    Reviewed By: Frank D. Brodkey, MD, FCCM, Associate Professor, Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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