Coronavirus Testing: Everything You Need to Know

Updated on June 2nd, 2020
coronavirus testing

Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic symptoms have got the world worried. One of the reasons is that COVID-19 shares a lot of its symptoms with flu, colds, pneumonia, and even seasonal allergies. Besides, it is also making it difficult for healthcare workers and governments to confirm it until proper lab tests aren’t performed on an individual. Firstly, let us understand the common symptoms and the procedures involved in testing a person for COVID-19. 

Fever, cough, and shortness of breath are the three primary symptoms of COVID-19. The infection can also be asymptomatic, meaning the person may not show any signs even after getting infected. In such cases, a person may develop severe symptoms at once. Other emergency symptoms a person may develop are severe trouble in breathing, chest pain, and bluish lips or face.

The initial symptoms of COVID-19 are mild, which are generally visible anytime between 1 to 14 days of getting infected. The commonly suggested approach is to get a check-up if a person experiences any of the COVID-19 symptoms. Governments and global health care organizations also advise people to get checked if they come in contact with any patients or even suspects. It is generally suggested because getting treatment in the early stage can be beneficial and can mitigate the symptoms before they can get worse.

However, if you are feeling these symptoms, don’t get panicked. These can also be a sign of flu, colds, digestive disorders, or some underlying respiratory conditions. But, on a safe hand and as a preventive measure, we should consider to COVID-19 test after experiencing these symptoms to avoid any complications or spread.

[Also Read: Difference between Coronavirus and other Illnesses

Symptoms do not just end there. Individuals may also experience loss of sense of smell and taste. Those infected by COVID-19 may not show any other signs but might only show these two symptoms. If a person has respiratory disorders or asthma, then they might be at higher risk of experiencing fatal conditions associated with COVID-19. Hence, there should be extra precautions as they might already be having those symptoms.

How to get tested for COVID-19?

If you feel the symptoms of COVID-19, visit the nearest health care center and talk to them about your symptoms and other underlying health conditions. Then they will take your fluid samples and check your fever and other symptoms.

Once the samples are collected, the hospitals or health centers may not have the kit to check for COVID-19 strain. The samples are sent to the lab. Depending on the symptoms, you may be quarantined at home or in the hospital. 

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How do they collect the samples?

  • Swab tests: A special cotton swab will be put inside the throat or nose to collect the respiratory fluids.
  • Nasal aspirate: A saline solution is injected into the nose and removed with gentle suction. 
  • Tracheal aspirate: A thin and light bronchoscope tube is inserted into the lungs from where a sample is collected. 
  • Sputum test: Respiratory fluid or mucus from the lungs is collected when coughed out or collected from the nose using a swab. 

A sample of blood also may be collected. 

When should you get the test for coronavirus?

You may need to get the test for COVID-19 when you experience the symptoms or come in contact with the patient or a suspect. If you have a history of traveling to countries or regions that have high infection rates or have close contact with COVID-19 positive people, you should also get tested.  

If people with health complications or those over 60 show any of COVID-19 symptoms, they should immediately visit the doctor or a healthcare center because such a group of people may have weakened the immune system or other health conditions, which may complicate or worsen the COVID-19 condition in a quick span(1). 

Are there any updates on the COVID-19 detection methods?

Recently, companies around the globe have been working on developing methods for quicker detection of COVID-19. With the latest advancements, people can buy kits, collect the samples, and send it for lab tests. The labs have advanced the process of RT-PCR, where they compare the samples with the genetic sequence of the virus and get the results. Some advanced labs can give you the results as quickly as in 5 minutes, depending on the load.  

There are also quite a few advancements in serological tests, which give the result by checking the COVID-19 antibodies in the blood. In these advancements, people can also get the results as quickly as 30-minutes at point-of-care centers with this method. 

Is there any update on the treatment?

With thousands of COVID-19 patients in a critically ill condition, governments and agencies are looking at all the possible ways of treating them. Coming up with new approaches can also consume more time, which could prove to be fatal for those already in severe conditions. Hence, some organizations are looking at medications that have been proven to work in animal studies and were able to work on SARS and MERS, two other similar conditions. WHO is also working on similar medications which could boost the immune system to fight the virus, slow it down, or make them inefficient. 

On the other hand, new diagnostic kits are also being developed, which can help people test for COVID-19 without having to wait for days for the lab reports. 

Bottom line:

COVID-19 is going out of control, and even after being locked down, there is a constant spike in the cases. Some experts are claiming that since it takes 1 – 14 days to exhibit the symptoms, a lot of people who are currently infected may not show any signs of COVID-19. If you experience any such symptoms, and if you do not have any COVID-19 supporting health centers, you may also visit a general physician. They can help you in controlling the symptoms for the time being until you get the condition properly tested. 

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