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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 lab test.
  • Suspected patients are those whom a doctor suspects of having COVID-19, based on symptoms and exposure (CDC definition).
  • You or your child have no symptoms of COVID-19.
  • People who have not been fully vaccinated and exposed need to quarantine. They will need to monitor at home for any symptoms.
  • Care Guide Update: June 1, 2022. Version 18.

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 cough and fever. Some patients progress to shortness of breath (trouble breathing).
    • Other common symptoms are chills, shivering (shaking), runny nose, sore throat, muscle pain, headache, 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. Exposure to COVID-19: Levels of Risk
    • Household Close Contact. Lives with a person who tested positive for COVID-19. This carries the highest risk of transmitting the infection. Quarantine requirements start on the 10th day of being with the infected household contact.
    • Other Close Contact. The CDC defines 6 feet (2 meters) as how far coughing can spread the virus. How long the close contact lasts can also be important. The CDC defines close contact as a total of 15 minutes or more, over a 24-hour period. Close contact includes kissing, hugging or sharing eating and drinking utensils. It also includes close conversations. Direct contact with secretions with a person with COVID-19 is also close contact. Includes being in the same childcare room, classroom or carpool. These exposures are usually lower risk than living with an infected person.
    • In Same Building - Low Risk Exposure. Being in the same school, place or worship, workplace or building carries a small risk for exposure. The risk increases if several people have the infection.
    • In Same City - Low Risk Exposure. Living in or traveling from a city or country where there is major community spread of COVID-19, also carries a small risk. These "hot spots" are identified by the CDC at Coronavirus. Outdoor contacts are much safer than indoor contacts.
  4. 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.
  5. COVID-19 - Travel:
    • Avoid non-essential air travel.
    • If you must travel, go to the CDC website for updates on travel advisories: Travelers.
  6. Other COVID-19 Facts:
    • Incubation period: average 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 vaccinated. Older adults are at the greatest risk.
    • 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 and boosters have been tested and are FDA approved for 5 years and older. Vaccine testing is wrapping up for young children ages 6 months up to 5 years. If proven safe and effective, vaccines will be available soon for this age group.
    • Breakthrough cases are COVID-19 infections that bypass vaccine protection. They are more common with new variants. Many of these infections do not cause any symptoms. Most are mild to moderate and do not require healthcare visits. The vaccine prevents almost all hospital admissions and deaths.
    • Booster Vaccines: the CDC recommends a booster shot for those 5 and older. For Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, a booster shot is needed if 5 or more months have passed since the first ones. For Johnson and Johnson vaccine, a booster shot is needed 2 or more months after the first one.
    • Treatment: new anti-viral and monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 are becoming more available. They are mainly used for high-risk patients. The earlier in the illness they are taken, the better chance they have of helping.
    • Prevention: the COVID-19 vaccine and booster are the best way to prevent infections.

When To Call

Home-Quarantine; Self-Monitor

  • 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. You can stop quarantine.
  • 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, 5 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.
    • Stay at home if you are not vaccinated and 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 do 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. Measure Temperature
    • Measure your temperature 2 times each day.
    • Do this for 10 days after your exposure to COVID-19.
    • If a fever occurs, get a COVID-19 test.
    • Early detection of symptoms and quarantine is the only way to reduce spread of the disease.
  4. Self-Monitor for COVID-19 Symptoms
    • The most common symptoms are cough and fever. Some patients progress to shortness of breath (trouble breathing).
    • Other common symptoms are chills, shivering (shaking), runny nose, sore throat, muscle pain, headache, fatigue (tiredness) and loss of smell or taste.
    • Less common symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
    • A rare symptom is red or purple toes ("COVID toes").
    • If any of these symptoms occur, get a COVID-19 test.
    • Early detection of symptoms and home isolation are the only ways to reduce spread of the disease.
  5. Home Quarantine: How to Do
    • 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). The CDC recommendations are different for up-to-date (fully vaccinated) versus not-up-to-date (unvaccinated or partially vaccinated) people.
    • Up-to-date Fully Vaccinated people are defined as having received the primary vaccine series and a booster shot, if eligible.
    • Not-Up-to-date people are defined as:
      • not vaccinated at all OR
      • completed Pfizer or Moderna primary series over 5 months ago but not yet boosted OR
      • completed J&J primary series over 2 months ago but not yet boosted
    • People Not Up-to-date Vaccinated for COVID-19: need to home quarantine.
      • Stay home for 5 days on quarantine.
      • After that, wear a mask around others for another 5 days.
      • Get tested on day 5 after close contact with an infected person. If positive, see other Care Guide.
      • If you have questions regarding the timeframe for quarantine, call your doctor during office hours.
    • Home quarantine means:
      • Do Not allow any visitors (such as friends).
      • Do Not go to school or work.
      • Do Not go to stores, restaurants, places of worship or other public places.
      • Avoid public transportation or ride sharing.
      • Other family members are not on quarantine unless the exposed person becomes sick.
    • People Up-to-date and Fully Vaccinated for COVID-19: do not need to home quarantine.
      • Wear a mask around others for 10 days.
      • Get tested on day 5 after close contact with an infected person. If positive, see other Care Guide.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Fever occurs
    • Cough or trouble breathing occurs
    • Other symptoms occur

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.
    • It is easiest to test at home using a COVID-19 test kit (rapid antigen). Free kits can be ordered to have on hand using this link: These kits are also available at most pharmacies. 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.
    • 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. If you test negative on day 1 and continue to have cold-like symptoms, re-test on day 3.
        • Without Symptoms and a COVID-19 close contact. Get a test on day 5 after exposure. To be safe, people who have the COVID-19 vaccine should also be tested (CDC).
      • 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. If the test is again negative and you live with a high-risk person, talk with your doctor about getting a more accurate PCR test. Reason: negative home tests are not always reliable.
      • Antibody Tests: these are performed on blood. They are rarely needed. 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 5 and older. The CDC suggests everyone age 5 years and older should also get a COVID-19 booster, when eligible. Here is a link to the CDC booster tool: CDC booster shots.
    • Vaccine testing is wrapping up for young children ages 6 months up to 5 years. If proven safe and effective, vaccines will be available soon for this age group.
    • Get your COVID-19 vaccine and booster when recommended. It could save your life and protect your family.
    • Vaccine Sites: find a nearby vaccine site at or call your doctor’s office.
  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 this serious infection.
    • Avoid close contact with people outside your family unit. Avoid closed spaces (indoors) when possible and all crowds (even outdoors).
    • Always 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.
    • No longer shake hands. Greet others with a smile and a nod.
    • 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 sick, especially if they are coughing. Also called physical distancing. 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.
    • Stay at Home Orders: follow any stay at home (stay in place) orders in your community if they occur. Leave your home only for essential needs such as buying food or seeking medical care.
    • After Stay at Home Orders are Lifted: continue social distancing. Also wear a mask when entering any public building or crowded outdoor area. These precautions will be needed for many months. Your state public health department will decide when they are no longer needed.
  4. Face Masks and COVID-19 Prevention:
    • 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 will also reduce the spread of flu.
    • Sick patients: should 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.
    • Well people: although mask mandates have been lifted most places, 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.
      • You must be around someone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or has tested positive for COVID-19.
    • Age Limits: face coverings are not recommended for children less than 2 years (CDC).
  5. Keep Your 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. Caution: avoid physical exhaustion.
    • Stay well-hydrated.
    • Eat healthy meals. Avoid overeating to deal with your fears.
    • Avoid the over-use of anti-fever medicines. Fever fights infections and ramps up your immune system.
  6. Keep Your Mind Positive
    • Live in the present, not the future. The future is where your needless worries live.
    • Stay positive. Use a mantra to reduce your fears, such as "I am strong."
    • Get outdoors. Take daily walks. Go to a park if you live near one. Being in nature is good for your immune system.
    • Show love. As long as they are well, hug your children and partner frequently. Speak to them in a kind and loving voice. Love strengthens your immune system.
    • Stay in touch. Use regular phone calls and video chats to stay in touch with those you love.
  7. How to Protect Others - When You or Your Child are Sick:
    • Stay home from school or work if you are sick. Your doctor or local health department will tell you when it is safe to return.
    • 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.
    • Do not share glasses, plates or eating utensils.
    • Wear a face mask when around others.
    • Always wear a face mask if you have to leave your home (such as going to a medical facility).
    • Carefully avoid any contact with the elderly and people with weak immune systems or other chronic health problems.
  8. Breastfeeding and COVID-19:
    • Breastfeeding experts recommend you continue to breastfeed even if you are sick with COVID-19. Research has shown that the virus is not passed through breastmilk.
    • Wash your hands before feeding your baby.
    • The CDC recommends wearing a face mask. Be careful to avoid coughing on your baby.
    • Breastmilk gives beneficial antibodies your body is making against this illness to your baby. This should provide some protection against this illness for your baby, like it does for influenza and most other viral illnesses.
    • Breastfeeding mothers should also get the COVID-19 vaccine and a booster (CDC). Your protective antibodies from the vaccine will be passed to your baby in your breastmilk.
    • Call your doctor if breastfeeding isn't going well OR your baby becomes sick.
  9. 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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