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To Test or Not to Test

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we became accustomed to getting tested when we showed signs of sickness so that we could take appropriate action and avoid spreading the virus. However, as COVID-19 has moved from “pandemic” to “endemic” - meaning it is a regularly occurring disease in our world now and is somewhat contained – and we now have vaccines available, testing every cold-like symptom isn’t needed in the same way it was in early 2020. Because symptoms are often less severe and can look similar to other illnesses, is it necessary to get tested to see if you have COVID-19, flu or RSV?

During winter months, flu, access to COVID-19 and RSV testing can be limited, so we recommend that if you are otherwise healthy, caring for yourself at home is your best option and, if available to you, you could use at home testing options.

Some reasons you may need to seek additional testing and care include:

  • Risk factors such as chronic illness
  • Over the age of 65
  • A child under the age of 4
  • Pregnant
  • Close contact with someone who is at high risk of complications

If you need to be tested, make an appointment with a primary care provider, or reserve your spot at urgent care.

When to Seek Care

Most people with mild flu or other respiratory illnesses can recover without medical care, but you should seek care right away if you experience severe symptoms, such as:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek emergency care immediately.

At-Home Care

If your symptoms are mild, your best options are to stay home and rest.

To help combat a respiratory virus at home, Atrium Health experts suggest:

  • Staying hydrated
    Drink plenty of fluids and avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate you. Warm fluids can also help ease congestion.
  • Getting rest
    Unless you need medical care, we recommend staying home, getting plenty of sleep and avoiding strenuous activity. Giving yourself time to rest and staying in can help reduce the risk of infecting others, but if you do need to go out, we recommend wearing a mask.
  • Taking over-the-counter cold and cough medications as needed
    For adults and children older than 5, over-the-counter decongestants, antihistamines, pain relievers and fever reducers might offer some symptom relief. For younger children, fever reducers may be helpful but decongestants and antihistamines should be avoided. OR For younger children, seek the advice of your child’s primary care doctor.
  • Still not sure?

    If you are sick and unsure what your next steps should be, start a video visit or complete an eVisit for fastest care. Primary care providers, our pediatric nurse chat and urgent care visits are also available. We know when you are sick, you want to feel better – fast– but please be patient because appointments can fill-up fast and wait times can be long.