COVID-19 tests: Which one is best for you?
A few types of COVID-19 tests are available to help you identify if you have COVID-19. The attached chart provides testing options to help you decide what is best for you and your family members.
Next steps after testing positive with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test
If you test positive for COVID-19 using a PCR test, follow these Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to find what you need to do:
- Isolate for at least five days. You can end isolation after five full days if you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved. Day 0 is your first day of symptoms. NOTE: You should also check with your employer, school district or public health department for exact isolation guidelines for you and/or your family if you test positive for COVID-19 as those guidelines may be different.
- If you test positive for COVID-19 and never develop symptoms, commonly referred to as asymptomatic, isolate for at least five days and wear a mask around others at home. Day 0 is the day the sample was collected for a positive test result.
- Contact your health care provider to let them know you tested positive for COVID-19 so it can be documented in your electronic medical record. You can do this by sending a secure message to your care team using your Mayo Clinic Patient Online Services account if the PCR test was not completed at a Mayo Clinic location. If it was completed at a Mayo Clinic location, it will automatically be entered into your medical record.
- At the end of your isolation, wear a surgical/procedural mask in all public settings.
- If you still have a fever regardless of how many days you've been in isolation, continue to stay home and monitor your symptoms until you no longer have a fever.
- You may need to have a negative COVID-19 test result, either a PCR or at-home antigen test before you can return to work or school. Check with your employer, school district, or public health department to determine if this is needed.
- Wear a surgical/procedural mask in all public settings.
If you test negative for COVID-19 using a PCR test, you are likely not infected, provided you do not have any symptoms.
If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19 using a PCR test, you are likely not infected, provided you do not have any symptoms.
If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19 and do not have a known exposure to a person infected with COVID-19, you do not need to quarantine. You should continue to wear a surgical/procedural mask in all public settings.
Next steps after testing positive with at-home antigen test
If you take an at-home COVID-19 antigen test and your results indicate you are positive for COVID-19, Mayo Clinic answers some common questions to help you determine your next steps:
Can I trust the results of an at-home antigen test?
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, take an at-home antigen test and if it is positive, you likely have COVID-19 and should isolate at home per CDC guidelines.
Sometimes an at-home COVID-19 antigen test can have a false-negative result. A negative at-home test is not a free pass, if the person taking the test has symptoms.
If you use an at-home test that comes back negative, and you do have symptoms that persist or get worse, it's a good idea to get a lab-based PCR test for COVID-19, and influenza. You also should stay home and isolate until you get the PCR test results back — the antigen test may have missed an early infection.
How do I need to stay in isolation if I test positive for COVID-19 using an at-home COVID-19 antigen test? Is isolation time the same for a PCR test?
Generally, if you are positive for COVID-19, by either the COVID-19 antigen or PCR test, you will need to be in isolation for a minimum of five days from the onset of your symptoms and/or a positive test for COVID-19.
Do I need to have another PCR COVID-19 test completed before I return to work or normal activity following the five days of isolation?
You may need to have a negative COVID-19 test result, either a PCR or at-home antigen test, before you can return to work or school, depending upon specific requirements for the organization and where you live.
Should I let my local healthcare provider know I tested positive for COVID-19 with an at-home antigen COVID-19 test?
Yes. You should let your Mayo Clinic healthcare provider know that you tested positive for COVID-19 using an at-home antigen test. You can do this easily by taking a photo of your positive COVID-19 antigen test result and submitting it to your care team via a new message using Patient Online Services and attaching the photo. This will ensure your care team can help you if you need to seek additional care related to COVID-19.
If you tested positive for COVID-19 using an at-home antigen test and receive your care from a health care organization other than Mayo Clinic, contact your local health care provider so your positive result can be documented.
Do I need to take another at-home COVID-19 antigen test to make sure I'm negative after a certain amount of time to make sure I no longer have COVID-19 before I return to normal activity?
No. If you no longer have symptoms after five days or are fever-free for at least 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication, you do not need to take another COVID-19 test to confirm you are no longer positive, unless you have been directed to by your workplace or school. However, if your symptoms persist longer than five days you should remain isolated until you no longer have symptoms for at least 24 hours.
Does my entire household need to be tested to make sure they are not positive following my positive at-home COVID-19 antigen test?
No. If others in your household do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, they do not need to be tested. However, if they experience symptoms, they also should be tested.
If someone in my family also tests positive using an at-home COVID-19 antigen test, do I need to quarantine again even though I've already had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis?
If you have a member in your household that tests positive for COVID-19, and you also tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days, you do not need to quarantine based on guidance from the CDC.