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Coronavirus

COVID Recovery: Why It Is Important To Score A Negative On RT-PCR Test?

Dr. Pragnya Rao

Do not feel discouraged as it will take a while to get back to the pink of your health.

The pandemic is still raging and the coronavirus cases are increasing steadily all around the world. While a lot is yet to be learned about COVID-19, one thing we definitely know is that the road to recovery isn’t always straightforward. If you have COVID-19, do not feel discouraged or overwhelmed as it takes a while to get back to the pink of your health.

Always remember that COVID-19 comes with a long list of symptoms — common ones being dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath. The severity and duration of these symptoms vary from person to person, but some symptoms linger longer than others. Fatigue and loss of taste/smell, in particular, can persist beyond testing negative.

If you have tested positive for COVID-19, your treatment and further medical management will be based on the severity of your symptoms and the presence of comorbid conditions.

Case 1: When you are COVID +ve but had no symptoms

If you are at the end of the quarantine period advised by the physician and are still asymptomatic, an RT-PCR re-test will reveal if you still have the active infection or not. Based on your result, your doctor may advise you to continue isolating yourself and watch out for symptoms in case you still tested positive.

Case 2: When you are COVID +ve and you had mild symptoms

If you are feeling better and you do not have any symptoms but are still in quarantine, it is natural to worry if you may infect your family or those living around you. An RT-PCR test will help clear your doubts

Case 3: When you are COVID +ve and have returned from COVID centre/ hospital care after treatment of your moderate symptoms

If you were briefly hospitalized due to the more persistent symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, chest pain, diarrhoea, intense fatigue or as a precaution if you have any comorbid health conditions, you may choose to be sent back to home quarantine if your health condition improves and your doctor permits the same. 

You can get an RT-PCR test done from the comfort of your home in such a case, after recovering from your symptoms. This becomes all the more important if you have weakness/fatigue, one of the most common post-viral sequelae that may hamper your ability to go for a walk-in RT PCR swab test. 

Case 4: During your recovery period, if you notice your family members or those living with you exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 

If you just want to be sure that those who are living around you were not infected while caring for you during your sickness and are now showing symptoms of COVID-19, then it would be best to recommend getting an RT-PCR test done. A swab test can come in handy for early detection of the infection even if they are not yet showing symptoms, but are at high risk since they have been in close proximity with you. 

How to protect yourself from infecting others while recovering at home?

Stay in a separate room

Isolate yourself in a separate room which has good ventilation. If arranging a separate room is not possible, then make sure you are maintaining a good 2ft distance from people living around you.

Wearing masks +handwashing are mandatory

If someone is to enter your room, make sure both of you are wearing masks at all times. Also, ensure that everyone in your house washes hand frequently with soap. If water is not available, ensure the use of a sanitizer. Keep in mind that COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease and can spread through droplets or surface transmission. 

Bathroom precautions

Ideally, the bathroom of a COVID positive patient should be separate. But if you are sharing a bathroom with a loved one, make sure you close the lid of the pot after you flush and disinfect the area properly.

No unnecessary movements

The first rule of home quarantine is total isolation and separation. This means in no circumstances, you must roam in the house unless it is absolutely necessary.

Separate everything

Keep your utensils and your laundry separately, ensure that you wash them by yourself. Also, make sure that your food is cooked separately.

Cleanliness is important

It is important that you maintain proper hand hygiene at all times by washing your hands regularly with alcohol-based soap and water. If water is not available, use a hand sanitizer. Make sure that all the high-touch surfaces in your quarantine area are regularly cleaned and disinfected.

Talk to your caregiver

It is important (government-mandate) that you communicate with your primary caregiver about your health. Be completely honest about your health status and inform if there are any changes. Your caregiver can also self assess for COVID-19 symptoms regularly to ensure they are not infected. 

Word of advice

Keep in mind that even if your symptoms are clearing up and you’re feeling better, it’s important that you continue to self-quarantine to ensure you don’t unknowingly spread COVID-19 to others.

After stipulated time in quarantine, if you have mild or no symptoms (except for symptoms like fatigue, loss of smell and taste that can take 3-6 weeks or more to recover from), then getting a negative on the RT-PCR test may help you with moving out of isolation to resume routine activities. On the other hand, if you have recovered and tested positive after the RT-PCR test, then the doctor may ask you to remain in isolation and retest may be needed after a few days.

In some people, RT-PCR tests may be positive months after recovery. But it is rare, in any case, a physician can tell what next steps should be based on your health status. 

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