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Got a negative Covid-19 test report but are still symptomatic? Here’s what you need to know

Published on:2 May 2021, 13:00pm IST
With a spike in covid-19 cases during the second wave, there’s also news of a massive rise in the number of ‘false negatives.’ This means you need to be even more cautious now. Read on to know all about it.
Geetika Sachdev
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A false covid-19 report doesn’t mean you don’t have the infection. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

There’s hardly anyone today, who has been unaffected by the unprecedented rise in covid-19 cases. This is a matter of grave concern —but on the other hand, what’s even more alarming is how several people who have all the visible symptoms of covid are testing negative for the virus. Research reveals that up to 20 percent of symptomatic patients are facing this challenge, and that’s fairly a large percentage. With a false negative report, serious patients might not end up getting treatment, and even affect others around them. 

Keeping this in mind, there are several doctors who are trying to push for treatment for such patients, who turn out negative in the RT-PCR test. Before we get down to what to do if you’re in a similar situation, it’s important to understand why a negative test does not mean you don’t have covid-19. 

Do you ignore a negative covid-19 test even if you’re symptomatic?

The answer is a big NO. According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins Medicine, RT-PCR tests have the likelihood of missing more than 1 in 5 covid-19 cases. There could be several reasons for this, out of which one may be that labs are stretched in, and are unable to deal with the rising test samples. What’s more, some tests may not be able to identify the new mutant strains. In certain cases, it could also be that the swabs were not taken properly, which is why the test results are false.

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Whatever be the reason, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises people to take all the necessary precautions.

“If you test negative for COVID-19, you probably were not infected at the time your specimen was collected. However, that does not mean you will not get sick. It is possible that you were very early in your infection at the time of your specimen collection and that you could test positive later, or you could be exposed later and then develop illness. In other words, a negative test result does not rule out getting sick later,” says the CDC website.

In case you test negative but are still experiencing symptoms, make sure to quarantine yourself for at least 10-12 days. You should ideally isolate yourself the moment you observe even the slightest symptom, associated with covid-19.

The government has also advised such people to wear masks even at home to contain the spread.

When do you need to get further tests done?

According to research, bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) tests help to collect samples from the lower respiratory tract through a bronchoscope. So, in case you’ve  tested negative but are still suffering from covid-like symptoms, do get this done. 

If you observe mild symptoms, you can assess the situation for another 2-3 days, before going for a CT scan. That’s also because serious consequences like pneumonia, cough and other respiratory issues take some time to develop, and if you get tested too early, it could be a problem again. You want the right diagnosis, so it’s important to keep this in mind. 

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The last word

Whatever be the situation, it is better to be safe than sorry. It is believed that if no action is taken in case of mild symptoms, it could sometimes lead to a worse situation, as time passes. Make sure to follow all the protocols – self-isolate, maintain social distancing, sanitize properly, wear a mask at home, and check SPo2 levels with a pulse oximeter. 

If the situation doesn’t seem to subside in a few days, make sure to get a CT scan done and get the right treatment for your condition.

Geetika Sachdev Geetika Sachdev

An independent writer and journalist, Geetika loves sharp and fresh humour, just like her coffee! If not writing, you'll find her cafe-hopping and raiding the best book stores in town.