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What to do if you test positive for COVID - The Boston Globe

If you receive the dreaded positive test result, here is what health authorities recommend you do next.

You just tested positive. What now?

Once you receive confirmation that you have tested positive for COVID-19, the CDC recommends isolating for a full 10 days. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health also suggests that you inform your healthcare provider, who may be able to provide a specific treatment plan, about your positive result and remain in contact with them. The next step is to also let your close contacts — whether family, friends, or colleagues — know that they may have been exposed to the virus. The DPH proposes making a list of everyone you were in close contact with for the two days before you became sick or the two days prior to your positive test being taken if you are asymptomatic. Informing those individuals will help to limit further spread.

What does it mean to isolate? How long do you have to?

If you tested positive for the virus but do not develop symptoms, you should isolate yourself from other people for a full 10 days, with the clock starting the day after you receive your test result. But if you develop symptoms after testing positive, then your isolation period must start over, according to the CDC.

During this time, you should monitor your symptoms and watch for emergency signs, such as having trouble breathing or feeling persistent pain or pressure in the chest. While most breakthrough infections tend to be mild, more serious symptoms can arise, and it is advised that you seek medical care immediately if they do.

You should stay in a separate room from other household members if possible and also use a separate bathroom if you are able, according to the CDC. It is also recommended that you avoid contact with others and pets. But if you must be around others, or share space, you should wear a mask. The health protection agency also suggests not sharing personal household items, such as cups, towels, and utensils.

The DPH also urges infected people to not leave their homes except for urgent medical care, and that those who have tested positive wear a mask if they do. The health department recommends wiping down surfaces that you touch frequently and cleaning your bathroom every day using a household disinfectant.

What are the treatment options available at home? What warrants outside care?

When you first test positive, let your doctor know and continue to monitor your symptoms while isolating. Those who are fully vaccinated are less likely to develop serious illness when they experience a breakthrough infection, according to the CDC. There is a chance that you may only feel as though you have a cold for a few days before feeling better.

But there are steps you can take if you do feel unwell that may help to relieve symptoms and support your body’s natural defenses, according to the CDC, such as resting and staying hydrated. Your health care provider may also recommend over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to reduce fever or any muscle or body aches.

You can also use a pulse oximeter to measure the oxygen levels in your blood. Typically, a low blood oxygen level causes symptoms including fatigue or shortness of breath, according to Michigan Medicine. An oxygen reading of 95 to 100 percent is considered normal for healthy children and adults, according to the CDC. It is advised that you contact your doctor if your level drops below that range.

The DPH advises that you seek emergency medical care if you develop any serious symptoms, including experiencing new confusion, having trouble breathing, and being unable to stay awake.

How long will you be contagious?

During the entire 10-day isolation period, you are considered to be contagious. You are most likely to spread the disease at the beginning of your illness and will likely no longer be at risk of infecting others when 10 days have passed since your symptoms first started developing or when your positive test was taken, according to the DPH.

You can be around others again after that isolation period has ended, you have gone a full day without fever or without the use of fever-reducing medication, and other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving, according to the CDC.

Shannon Larson can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.