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When Do COVID Symptoms Appear?

Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus,” according to the CDC. 
Woman Feeling Sick or Sad Wrapped in Cozy Blue Blanket

When do COVID Symptoms appear? If you went to a social event with a person who later tested positive for COVID-19, you could have easily contracted the virus yourself, and might be wondering, am I sick? Common symptoms of coronavirus include shortness of breath, fatigue, fever, muscle or body aches, headache, or a new loss of taste or smell, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Less common symptoms could be diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, congestion, a runny nose, or a sore throat. But when do COVID symptoms appear?

When do COVID Symptoms Appear?

If you're worried that you may have been exposed to the virus, get tested while you wait on pins and needles to see if you develop any of these symptoms. So, how long do you have to wait? "Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus," according to the CDC. 

About four to five days after exposure is generally when most people start to experience COVID-19 symptoms if they've become infected, according to Harvard Health. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine analyzed the general incubation time of 181 COVID-19 cases. It concluded that the average time for patients to begin feeling symptoms was 5.1 days after exposure.

But just because you don't feel any symptoms yet doesn't mean you can't spread the virus to other people. While you're waiting to see if you contracted the virus, it's important to quarantine away from the general public and even other household members for a full 14 days after exposure.  

"We know that a person with COVID-19 may be contagious 48 to 72 hours before starting to experience symptoms. Emerging research suggests that people may actually be most likely to spread the virus to others during the 48 hours before they start to experience symptoms," Harvard Health affirms.

The first few days after exposure may be your most contagious, even if you're not experiencing any symptoms of coronavirus yet. Even if your exposure risk was low, your 14-day quarantine is an important safety measure to protect the ones you love. 

Get Tested After Symptoms Pass, Too

After you quarantine, if you still don't feel any symptoms of COVID-19, don't assume you're in the clear. Consider getting tested for coronavirus to be sure your exposure to the virus didn't result in infection. 

If your test comes out negative, you're safe to break your quarantine but don't assume you're invincible. It's still important to follow federal and local health regulations, including wearing a face mask in indoor public places and remaining socially distanced from those who don't live with you. So make sure you use precautions, and also don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Kelly Hernandez
Kelly Hernandez is a health and wellness writer and certified personal trainer. Read more
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