I’m vaccinated and have cold symptoms. Should I get tested for COVID-19?

I’m vaccinated and have cold symptoms. Should I get tested for COVID-19?

While breakthrough infections are unusual in vaccinated people, anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should get tested, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in its guidelines.

If you do test positive, you’ll want to take precautions to avoid spreading it to others. The CDC says studies show fully vaccinated people can be less likely to spread the virus, but there’s still the risk of infecting others.

The most common COVID symptoms in vaccinated people in order are: headache, runny nose, sore throat, loss of smell and sneezing, UCSF infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Chin-Hong said in an email, pointing to data collected by an app tracking symptoms in vaccinated people and analyzed by a team at King’s College London.

The CDC says other COVID-19 symptoms include fever or chills, coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.

Vaccines are highly effective in preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, and they’re a crucial tool in ending the pandemic, but the CDC says they’re not a perfect shield and “a small percentage” of inoculated people are contracting the virus. These are called breakthrough cases.

Some vaccinated people with breakthrough cases will have no symptoms, while others may have a headache or stuffy nose. Chin-Hong said most people with symptomatic breakthrough cases “recover quickly and uneventfully” — but their symptoms will likely be “pretty much indistinguishable from a cold or even allergies.” For that reason, he said, “You should definitely get a COVID test.”

Chin-Hong said that you should also get tested because if you have COVID you’ll want to isolate to avoid the chance of spreading the virus to others, especially children under 12 years old and immunocompromised individuals who can’t get vaccinated.

“For breakthrough cases in vaccinated folks, 10 days is standard for isolation (like in the unvaccinated if not severe disease),” Chin-Hong wrote in an email, referring to the CDC guidelines. “No further testing at the end of the 10 days is needed to prove that you are negative.”

Chin-Hong added that vaccinated people who test positive should alert those people they were in close contact with if they were unmasked together for more than 15 minutes and standing less than 6 feet apart.

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