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Asymptomatic COVID-19

Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team

Updated on


  • People with asymptomatic COVID have COVID-19 with no symptoms of the infection. 
  • Asymptomatic COVID is contagious. The risk of transmitting the virus is even more significant as many people don’t realize they’ve been infected. 
  • The best way to know whether or not you have COVID-19 is by getting tested. 

COVID can be asymptomatic, meaning that you can have COVID-19 without experiencing symptoms. This may cause concern, as people who don’t realize they have been infected may easily spread the virus to others. In this article, we’ll give you a full rundown of asymptomatic COVID-19, including the risk of spreading the virus to others, how to know that you have asymptomatic COVID-19, and what to do about it. 

What is asymptomatic COVID?

When you have been infected with the coronavirus, there are various ways that this illness can manifest itself. You can experience severe signs of the infection, which can happen to anyone, but especially to people who have certain risk factors for severe illness. Most people only experience mild to moderate symptoms when infected with the coronavirus. There are also people that have COVID with no symptoms. This is referred to as asymptomatic COVID. 

Asymptomatic COVID can sometimes be confused with pre-symptomatic COVID-19. Individuals who are in the pre-symptomatic phase of COVID-19 will still develop symptoms later on, whereas those with asymptomatic COVID will not. It’s important to note that it can occur with any of the circulating variants.1

Although asymptomatic COVID doesn’t cause any symptoms at the moment of infection, there are certain studies that suggest that you may develop symptoms of long COVID later on. However, It's less common for people with asymptomatic COVID to develop long COVID as compared to those who do experience symptoms, where long COVID develops in about 1 in 13 people. Some of the symptoms which you may experience are: 2 3

These symptoms are amongst the most common ones that you may experience, although this list is not exhaustive. 

How common is asymptomatic COVID? 

Asymptomatic COVID is quite common. Studies suggest that about 40.50% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 were asymptomatic. This highlights the importance of getting tested for COVID-19, as there's a high transmission risk for people with COVID who don’t experience any symptoms since they don’t know that they may infect others.4

Children are often more likely to have asymptomatic COVID-19. It's estimated that more than half of all children who are infected with the coronavirus do not experience any symptoms of COVID-19.5

How do you know if you have asymptomatic COVID?

If you’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 and you aren’t developing any symptoms, it can be hard to figure out whether you’ve been infected, as there are no signs of COVID in asymptomatic individuals. The best way to find out whether you haven’t gotten infected or not is by getting tested for COVID-19. You can do so with the help of a PCR test or an antigen test. Both require a swab from the back of the throat or the nose, which can then be analyzed. The biggest differences between both are: 6

  • Their sensitivity: PCR tests are more likely to detect the coronavirus
  • The price: Antigen tests are less expensive and are available for at-home testing
  • Negative antigen tests do not rule out an infection with the coronavirus entirely. A confirmatory PCR test may be required in some scenarios. 
  • PCR tests may indicate a false positive result for people infected with COVID-19 in the past 90 days, as the viral RNA may linger in your body. 

Is asymptomatic COVID-19 contagious?

Asymptomatic COVID is contagious, which means that even asymptomatic people can also spread COVID-19. As the coronavirus has a high transmissibility rate, it’s easy to pass the virus along to others. In order to avoid getting infected yourself and to protect others from the consequences of COVID-19, you can: 7

  • Get vaccinated and keep your vaccination up-to-date with the recommended booster shots
  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with water and soap
  • Improve ventilation in indoor spaces
  • Avoid contact with people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who have tested positive
  • Wear a mask that fits well, covering both nose and mouth. Masks can set a barrier for the particles you breathe, cough, or sneeze out. The N95 masks provide higher protection as they fit closely on the face and filter our particles, including the coronavirus.
  • Keep a safe distance from others.

What should people with asymptomatic COVID do?

If you have been exposed to COVID-19 but don’t have any symptoms, then it’s important to get tested for COVID anyway. This is important as you may not be experiencing any of the signs of the infection, but you can spread the virus to others who, in turn, may develop symptoms that could lead them to end up in the hospital. This is especially important if you come into contact with people who have a high risk of developing severe symptoms due to an infection with the coronavirus. There are no strict rules surrounding asymptomatic COVID quarantine, but it’s recommended to keep your distance from others and to wear a well-fitting mask if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19.

People with asymptomatic COVID-19 usually don’t require any specific treatment.8 

Wrapping up

Asymptomatic COVID means that you have tested positive for COVID-19, but there are no symptoms of the infection present. It’s important to note that if you have asymptomatic COVID, you are still contagious even though you aren’t experiencing any symptoms. It’s recommended to take measures to protect others, such as keeping a safe distance and wearing a protective mask. 


Q: Can you test positive for COVID without symptoms? 
A: It’s possible to test positive for COVID-19 without experiencing any symptoms. This is called asymptomatic COVID. 

Q: What are some signs you’ve already had COVID?
A: If your PCR test gives a positive result, it may be a sign of an active infection, or it may indicate that you’ve already had COVID-19 in the past 90 days, as the viral RNA may linger in your body. 

Q: What does asymptomatic mean for COVID-19? 
A: Asymptomatic means that you don’t experience any symptoms. This makes it harder to realize that you’ve been infected. 

Q: How many COVID cases are asymptomatic? 
A: Studies estimate that about 40% of COVID cases are asymptomatic. With children, this number is even higher. 

Q: Is COVID contagious without symptoms? 
A: COVID-19 is contagious without symptoms. This means that you can easily spread the virus to others. It’s important to take measures to protect others, such as keeping a safe distance and wearing a mask.