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What to do after exposure to COVID-19

Quarantine - COVID-19

If you have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you can spread the virus even if you don't show any symptoms. Quarantine keeps people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 away from other people. This helps prevent the spread of the illness.

Examples of close contacts include:

  • Being within 6 feet (2 meters) of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or longer over a 24-hour period (the 15 minutes does not have to occur all at one time)
  • Providing care at home to someone who has COVID-19
  • Having close physical contact with someone with the virus (such as hugging, kissing, or touching)

If you need to quarantine, you should stay at home until it is safe to be around others. Learn when to quarantine and when it is safe to be around other people.

When to Quarantine

You should quarantine at home if you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 and:

  • You are unvaccinated
  • You have not had all the recommended COVID-19 vaccines plus a booster

You DO NOT need to quarantine after exposure to someone with COVID-19 if:

  • You have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccines plus a booster shot.
  • You have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered, as long as you do not develop new symptoms.
  • You should watch for symptoms of COVID-19 for 10 days after contact with someone with COVID-19. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, follow recommendations for isolating at home.

If you need to quarantine, you should:

  • Stay at home for at least 5 days after your last contact with someone who has COVID-19. The date of exposure is day 0.
  • You should wear a well-fitting mask or respirator that fits well over your nose and mouth without gaps around others at home and try to stay away from others in your home as much as possible for a total of 10 days after exposure.
  • Avoid travel for 10 days after exposure to someone with COVID-19.
  • Watch for symptoms of COVID-19 (such as fever [100.4 degrees Fahrenheit], cough, shortness of breath).
  • If you develop symptoms, get tested and isolate until you receive your results. If you test positive, follow recommendations for isolating at home.
  • If you do not develop symptoms, get tested 5 days after you last had close contact with someone with COVID-19.

After testing:

  • If you test negative, you can leave your home, but continue to wear a mask around others at home and in public for 5 more days (10 days total).
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, follow recommendations for isolating 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
  • Blue lips or face
  • Any other symptoms that are severe or concern you

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. COVID-19: Travel. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html#do-not-travel. Updated January 27, 2022. Accessed March 15, 2022.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. COVID-19: Quarantine and isolation. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/quarantine-isolation.html. Updated January 27, 2022. Accessed March 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: 3/15/2022

    Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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