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No, you should not test for COVID-19 only if you are symptomatic

What test should you use? If you were exposed but don't have any symptoms, should you test?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There is a lot of confusion surrounding if and when you should test for COVID-19. 

What test should you use? If you were exposed but don't have any symptoms, should you test? 

As many people search for at-home rapid tests on bare shelves and stand in long lines to get a PCR test, many want to know do they even need a test if they don't have any symptoms but were exposed? 

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Should you only test for COVID-19 if you are symptomatic? 



This is false.

No, you should not test for COVID-19 only if you are symptomatic. Doctors suggest if you have come in contact with someone, get a PCR test if you can because that is more sensitive than a rapid test.

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DHEC, advises people who have had close contact with someone with a confirmed case of Covid-19 to test at least five days after the contact whether or not they have symptoms. Some doctors suggest getting it done sooner. 

"If I have been exposed to someone,  you want to use a PCR test which is very sensitive," Dr. Kohli said. 

The key is which test you are using. Dr. Kohli tells us a PCR test is the most accurate when it comes to people who do not have symptoms. Those are analyzed in a lab. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the test is so sensitive it can detect small amounts of virus material. 

RELATED: Catawba County Schools unable to notify students of COVID exposure, county says

WCNC Charlotte is part of seven major media companies and other local institutions reporting on and engaging the community around the problems and solutions as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a project of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, which is supported by the Local Media Project, an initiative launched by the Solutions Journalism Network with support from the Knight Foundation to strengthen and reinvigorate local media ecosystems. See all of our reporting at charlottejournalism.org.

"If you have had exposure to somebody who is known to have Covid-19, you want to give an incubation period of at least 2-3 days before you do a PCR, not a rapid test," Kohli said. 

An antigen test, also known as a rapid test, is what you would see in stores. They detect protein fragments specific to Covid-19. While these tests are less sensitive, Dr. Kohli tells us scientists believe the Omicron Variant shows up in your system fast than other COVID-19 strains. 

"This is a little different than we have seen with delta, we were waiting 3-5 days before we test, but the incubation period with the omicron variant appears to be shorter, so we want to test around day two or day three," Kohli said.

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