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COVID-19 Exposure, But No Symptoms


  • Exposure (Close Contact) to a person with diagnosed or suspected COVID-19.
  • CDC definition of close contact is being within 6 feet (2 meters) for a total of 15 minutes or more, over a 24-hour period.
  • Diagnosed (confirmed) patients have a positive COVID-19 test.
  • You or your child have no symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Care Guide Update: September 14, 2022. Version 20.

COVID-19 Disease: Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Trusted Sources for Accurate Information: CDC and AAP
    • To meet the high demand for COVID-19 information, when possible, find your answers online. Here are the most reliable websites:
      • CDC website:
      • American Academy of Pediatrics parent website:
    • Always follow the most current CDC recommendations if they are different than those in this care guide.
  2. COVID-19 Symptoms:
    • This COVID-19 coronavirus most often causes a respiratory illness. The most common symptoms are sore throat, headache, cough and fever. Some patients progress to shortness of breath (trouble breathing).
    • Other common symptoms are chills, shivering (shaking), runny nose, muscle pain, fatigue (tiredness) and loss of smell or taste.
    • The CDC also includes the following less-common symptoms: nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
    • Some people may have very mild symptoms. Some can have no symptoms, but still spread the disease.
  3. COVID-19 - How it is Spread:
    • COVID-19 is spread from person to person.
    • The virus spreads when respiratory droplets are produced when a person coughs, sneezes, shouts or sings. The infected droplets can then be inhaled by a nearby person or land on the surface of their eyes.
    • Most infected people also have respiratory secretions on their hands. These secretions get transferred to healthy people on doorknobs, faucet handles, etc. The virus then gets transferred to healthy people when they touch their face or rub their eyes.
    • These are how most respiratory viruses spread.
  4. Other COVID-19 Facts:
    • Incubation period: average 3 to 5 days (range 2 to 10 days) after coming in contact with the secretions of a person who has COVID-19. Incubation periods can vary depending on the variant.
    • No Symptoms, but Infected: more than 30% of infected patients have no symptoms.
    • Mild Infections: 80% of those with symptoms have a mild illness, much like normal flu or a bad cold. The symptoms usually last 2 weeks. If you have had a previous COVID infection or had the vaccine, the infections are usually mild to moderate.
    • Severe Infections: 20% of people not vaccinated with symptoms develop trouble breathing from viral pneumonia. Many of these need to be admitted to the hospital. People with complications generally recover in 3 to 6 weeks. Severe infections are very rare in people who are up to date with vaccines and boosters.
    • Deaths: children generally have a mild illness and recover quickly. Pediatric deaths are very rare. Older adults, especially those with chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, obesity or weak immune systems, have the highest death rates. The overall death rate in adults is 2 per 1,000 in the US.
    • Vaccine: safe and effective vaccines are available. At this time, vaccines have been tested and are now FDA approved for ages 6 months and older.
    • Breakthrough cases are COVID-19 infections that happen despite vaccine protection. They are more common with new variants. Most do not cause any serious symptoms. The vaccine prevents almost all hospital admissions and deaths.
    • Booster Vaccines: the CDC recommends a booster shot for those 5 years and older. Stay up to date by getting all recommended boosters when eligible.
    • Treatment: anti-viral treatments for COVID-19 are more widely available. They are mainly used for high-risk patients and those who are hospitalized.
    • Prevention: the COVID-19 vaccine and booster are the best way to prevent serious infections.

When To Call


  • Close contact with COVID-19 patient within last 10 days, BUT No symptoms

Self Care at Home

  • Close contact with COVID-19 patient more than 10 days ago AND NO cough, fever or trouble breathing.
  • COVID-19 exposure, BUT no symptoms: home care instructions
  • COVID-19 testing, questions about
  • COVID-19 prevention, questions about

Care Advice

COVID-19 Exposure, but NO Symptoms

  1. Exposure and No Symptoms
    • Although you may have been exposed to COVID-19, you do not currently have any symptoms. COVID-19 symptoms start, on the average, 3 to 4 days after the last exposure. The onset can range from 2 to 10 days.
    • Since it's been less than 10 days, you are still at risk for coming down with COVID-19.
    • You need to watch for symptoms until 10 days have passed.
    • Follow this medical advice.
  2. You Do Not Need to See Your Doctor
    • Your child does not have any symptoms. Exposed people don’t need to see a doctor.
    • You may need to get a COVID-19 test. See Testing section below.
    • If your child becomes sick and develops more than mild symptoms, you may need to see your doctor.
    • You can find the answers to most of your questions here or online.
  3. Self-Monitor for COVID-19 Symptoms
    • The most common symptoms are sore throat, cough, headache and fever. Some patients progress to shortness of breath (trouble breathing).
    • Other common symptoms are chills, shivering (shaking), runny nose, muscle pain, fatigue (tiredness) and loss of smell or taste.
    • Less common symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
    • If any of these symptoms occur, get a COVID-19 test.
    • Early detection of symptoms is the best way to reduce spread of the disease.
  4. Home Quarantine: Not Required for Those 2 and Older:
    • Quarantine means restricting people who were exposed to a contagious disease from contact with others who are well. They are monitored closely to see if they stay well or become sick (CDC).
    • Children under 2 years: Stay at home for a full 10 days. Reason: they don’t wear masks.
    • If you have questions about this advice, call your doctor during office hours.
    • Home quarantine means:
      • Do Not allow any visitors (such as friends).
      • Do Not go to stores, restaurants, places of worship or other public places.
      • Avoid public transportation or ride sharing.
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Fever occurs
    • Cough or trouble breathing occurs

Testing for COVID-19

  1. COVID-19 Testing: Who Needs It
    • Testing is the only way to know for sure who has COVID-19. You can’t tell by symptoms. Reason: most respiratory viruses cause similar symptoms.
    • Testing is offered at many sites without a doctor's order. Many doctor’s offices, retail clinics, and urgent care centers offer testing. Community drive-through sites or pharmacies may also be testing site options. At home self-tests can also be bought in most drugstores and grocery stores.
    • Your doctor is the best resource for up-to-date information on testing. If you have questions about testing, call them during office hours.
    • Here are some facts that may answer some of your questions:
      • Diagnostic tests: these are performed on nasal or mouth secretions. The tests can tell us if you have a COVID-19 infection now. Timing is important on when to do this test:
        • With Symptoms. Get a test within 3 days of onset of symptoms.
        • Without Symptoms and a COVID-19 close contact. Get a test on day 3 to 5 after exposure.
      • Repeat diagnostic tests: after a positive test, repeat tests are not recommended. Positive tests are reliable. Even after it is safe to stop isolation (usually 5 days), tests may stay positive. A positive test does not mean the patient can spread the infection once the required isolation period is completed. After a negative home test, if you have symptoms, re-test at home in 2 days.
      • Antibody Tests: these are performed on blood. They are rarely needed and currently not very helpful. They can sometimes tell us if you have antibodies from a previous infection. They are not done until at least 2 to 3 weeks have passed from the start of the infection. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about this test.

COVID-19 Prevention

  1. COVID-19 Vaccine - Get Your COVID-19 Shot and a Booster Shot:
    • Vaccines have saved more lives than any other public health action. They are the most powerful weapon we have against deadly infectious diseases. Follow the science.
    • Safe and effective vaccines are now available for people age 6 months and older.
    • If you have the chance to get a COVID-19 vaccine, get one. It could save your life and protect your family.
  2. COVID-19 - How to Protect Yourself and Family from Catching It - The Basics:
    • Get the COVID-19 vaccine and booster when recommended. It is your best protection against serious infection.
    • Avoid close contact with people outside your family unit. Avoid closed spaces (indoors) when possible and all crowds (even outdoors).
    • Wear a face mask when in public indoor settings. Also, observe social (safe) distancing.
    • Wash hands often with soap and water (very important). Always do this before you eat.
    • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if water is not available. Remember: soap and water work better.
    • Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are clean. Germs on the hands can get into your body this way.
    • Don't share glasses, plates or eating utensils.
    • If you need to be seen for an urgent medical problem, do not hesitate to go in. ERs and urgent care sites are safe places. They are well-equipped to protect you against the virus. For non-urgent symptoms, talk to your doctor's office first. Medical offices are also safe places.
  3. Social (Safe) Distancing and COVID-19 Prevention:
    • Avoid any contact with people known to have COVID-19 infection. Avoid talking to or sitting close to them.
    • Social Distancing: try to stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from anyone who is known to be sick, especially if they are coughing. Avoid crowds, because you can’t tell who might be sick.
    • If COVID-19 becomes widespread in your community, try to stay 6 feet (2 meters) away from everyone outside your family unit.
    • Wear a mask when entering any public building or crowded outdoor area.
  4. Face Masks and COVID-19 Prevention:
    • Mask requirements have been reduced in most parts of our country. The CDC website can tell you the COVID-19 community level in any county in the US. Your county will be listed as Low, Medium or High. High means everyone should wear a mask indoors in public. Medium means people at high risk for serious illness should wear a mask. Low means masks are not needed. Go to the CDC website and click on COVID-19 County Check.
    • Overview: face masks help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Reason: people with COVID-19 can have no symptoms, but still spread the virus. Masks also will reduce the spread of flu.
    • Mask wearing is even more important if you are in an area of high COVID-19 spread or have health problems.
    • Sick patients: must always wear a face mask, if you are around other people or need to leave the home. Example: for medical visits. Exception: patients with trouble breathing in a mask (CDC). Consider a loose face covering, such as a bandana.
    • Also, wear a mask if you have to be around someone who is sick with COVID-19 or has tested positive for it.
    • Well people: although mask mandates have been lifted, you should still consider wearing a mask if:
      • You are in indoor public spaces (such as a church or a grocery store).
      • You are in a crowded outdoor setting (e.g., concert, music festival, rally).
      • You are traveling on a plane, bus, train, or other form of public transit.
      • You are in a transportation hub such as an airport or train station.
      • Well People Exceptions: face mask or covering is optional if outdoors.
    • Age Limits: face coverings are not recommended for children less than 2 years (CDC).
  5. Keep Your Mind and Body Strong:
    • Get your body ready to fight the COVID-19 virus.
    • Get enough sleep (very important).
    • Keep your heart strong. Walk or exercise every day. Take the stairs. Go outdoors if you can. Caution: avoid physical exhaustion.
    • Think positive thoughts.
    • Stay well-hydrated.
    • Eat healthy meals.
    • Avoid the over-use of anti-fever medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Fever fights infections and ramps up your immune system.
  6. How to Protect Others - When Your Child Is Sick:
    • Stay home for at least 5 full days. Do not allow visitors.
    • You are most contagious (able to spread the virus to others) during those first 5 days.
    • Wear a mask for 10 days. Wear a face mask when around others or if you have to go to a medical facility.
    • Children under 2 years: home isolation will be needed for a full 10 days. Reason: they don’t wear masks.
    • Do Not go to school.
    • Cough and sneeze into your shirt sleeve or inner elbow. Don't cough into your hand or the air.
    • If available, sneeze into a tissue and throw it into a trash can.
    • Wash hands often with soap and water. After coughing or sneezing are important times.
    • Don't share glasses, plates or eating utensils.
    • Carefully avoid any contact with the elderly and people with weak immune systems or other chronic health problems.
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You have other questions

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Barton D. Schmitt, MD, FAAP
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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