Can You Have Covid-19 Without Symptoms?

Symptoms of colds and the flu occur because our immune system is hard at work fighting off these viral invaders. An infection of Covid-19, however, is a little different, and you can have this virus without symptoms.

Why can you have Covid-19 without symptoms?

Scientists do not yet know why Covid-19 doesn’t cause symptoms in everyone. There’s a lot of speculation as to why this is. Age, gender, race, and preexisting conditions, among other factors, may be behind the absence of coughs and sniffles in asymptomatic cases.

Why should you get tested if you don’t feel sick?

Whether or not you have symptoms of Covid-19, it’s important to get tested if you’ve been exposed to someone with Covid-19. Getting tested helps prevent the spread of the virus among your friends, family, and local community.

Since asymptomatic carriers have been estimated to make up 40-45% of Covid-19 infections, it’s especially important to get tested if you think you’ve been exposed to the virus. Asymptomatic carriers will still test positive even if they never feel ill and are just as contagious as those who do have Covid-19 symptoms.

You should be tested if…

  • You have recently been in contact with someone who has a confirmed case of Covid-19
  • You have been in a public situation where people were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing
  • You are showing symptoms of Covid-19
  • If you’re regularly in contact with the public, such as health care workers, assisted living employees, retail or restaurant workers, and so on
  • You are planning to visit someone in a high-risk group, such as someone who is immunocompromised, pregnant, or elderly

The Differences Between The Types Of COVID-19 Tests

If you are showing flu-like symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has a confirmed case of Covid-19, it’s important to get tested. There are several testing options available, but what’s the difference between them, and which should you get?

Types of Covid-19 tests

There are several types of tests that can detect an active case of Covid-19. Let’s take a look at what they are, how they’re administered, and how long it takes to get results.


  • The RT-PCR test (also called a ‘molecular’ or simply ‘PCR’ test) is the gold standard of Covid-19 tests. It is highly accurate and reduces the chance of receiving a false-positive or false-negative result.
  • RT-PCR tests detect genetic material belonging to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • This test can be administered as either a nasal swab or saliva sample.
  • This test must be sent to a lab for processing.
  • Your results typically return within 3 business days.

Rapid PCR

  • The rapid PCR test uses the same technology as the RT-PCR, but can be processed onsite using a portable device.
  • PCR tests detect genetic material belonging to Covid-19.
  • This test is administered via a nasal swab.
  • Results are typically available within 30 minutes.

Rapid antigen test

  • The antigen test looks for certain proteins located on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • This test can be administered as a nasal swab, throat swab, or saliva sample.
  • The sample can be processed onsite.
  • Your results are typically available within 15 minutes of your test.

Cepheid 4-Plex

  • The Cepheid 4-Plex is a molecular test that is designed to detect several types of illnesses at once, including Flu A, Flu B, RSV, and Covid-19.
  • This test is administered via a nasal swab.
  • Your sample can be processed onsite.
  • Results are typically available within 30 minutes.

What is the antibody test?

The antibody test is a blood test that looks for signs of a previous Covid-19 infection, whether or not you had symptoms. This test detects antibodies that your body produces in response to a viral infection.

It takes time for your body to develop these antibodies, so an antibody test should be conducted at least two weeks after recovering from Covid-19. The antibody test should NOT be used to detect an active case of Covid-19.

There are two types of antibody tests:

  • The standard antibody test is administered as a blood draw that must be sent to a lab for processing. Results are generally expected within 3 business days.
  • The rapid antibody test is a finger stick that can be processed onsite with results in 15 minutes.

Which test should I get?

The type of test you choose depends on your situation, and you should consult with your doctor to determine which test they recommend for your circumstances.

In general, though…

  • If you need a test with fast answers, or if you need to test a large group of people quickly, the rapid antigen test may be the best fit.
  • If time is no concern and you want a test with highly accurate results, the RT-PCR test is ideal.
  • If you want fast but highly accurate answers, the rapid Accula PCR is likely right for you.
  • If you want to test for multiple viruses at once, the Cepheid 4-Plex is your best bet.
  • If you want to know if you previously had an infection, you should get an antibody test.

What are false positives and false negatives?

Even though all medical tests are designed to be highly accurate, it’s possible to receive a misdiagnosis after a Covid test. These are known as ‘false positives’ and ‘false negatives’, which are outcomes where the opposite result is actually true.

In other words…

  • False positives: Even though the patient is not actually sick, their test returns positive.
  • False negatives: The patient is actually infected with Covid-19, but their test returns negative.

RT-PCR, rapid PCR tests, and the Cepheid 4-Plex are molecular tests that are very accurate because they are designed to detect genetic material belonging to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The rapid antigen test, on the other hand, detects proteins coating the surface of the Covid-19 virus. This test is less sensitive than molecular tests, meaning that they work best when the patient has a higher viral load. These tests can return results in 15 minutes, but they have a 1 in 5 chance of returning incorrect results.

In general, if you are symptomatic and receive a negative test result from an antigen test, it’s recommended that you get a RT-PCR or rapid PCR test to verify your results.

Which test do you need for travel?

Covid-19 tests have become a part of travel, so it’s important to check the latest travel guidance from the CDC before you book your next trip.

  • Domestic travelers may not be required to provide proof of a negative test before boarding their flight, but doing so can help them protect those around them in case they picked up the virus on their travels.
  • International travelers may be required to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test or proof of recovery from the virus, depending on their destination country. You can find the most up-to-date information about travel requirements by country at the US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Is Sore Throat a Symptom of COVID

Many people can relate to the concern that they may have contracted COVID-19. As the virus spreads, some patients come down with severe cases, while others are unaware they even have it. It can be easy to worry that you have COVID if you start to feel like you have one of the common symptoms, such as a sore throat. COVID presents itself differently in everyone, so it is important to get tested if you think you may have it to confirm whether or not you need to quarantine.

Common Symptoms of COVID

Everyone will have a different experience if they catch COVID, which is also the case with many other illnesses. This is why it is important to see your doctor if you have concerns about a sickness that isn’t getting better on its own or concerns that you may have contracted COVID-19. The most common symptoms of COVID include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

Although these are some of the most common symptoms of COVID, this is not nearly all of them. If for some reason, you think you may have COVID, then you should get tested as quickly as possible to confirm your diagnosis. If you do test positive for COVID, you may need to self-isolate and notify those with who you came into contact so that they can get tested too.

Other Causes of Sore Throat

Various illnesses can cause sore throat other than COVID. You may be experiencing a sore throat from another disease such as strep throat, the common cold, RSV, or the flu. Sore throats are most commonly caused by a viral infection, which could be caused by COVID or a different type of virus.

If you need to treat a mild sore throat, you may want to try gargling salt water or using some throat lozenges. This can help temporarily soothe your symptoms to improve your comfort. If your sore throat feels severe or persists for many days, you should visit your doctor for further action.

Tips for Getting Tested

Many people wonder if and when they should get tested for COVID. If you know that you’ve been exposed to someone who was sick or who tested positive for COVID, then you should get tested as soon as possible. For anyone who is feeling under the weather, if you’re experiencing symptoms similar to COVID, it is good to get tested to rule out COVID.

Getting tested for COVID is typically a pretty easy process. Choose from visiting an in-person testing site or getting tested in your home by a mobile testing service. Many people find that getting tested at home is a more convenient option since it takes away the need to leave and visit a separate location. This is also a safer option since you run less risk of exposing others to COVID if you do test positive.