Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on November 02, 2020

Why You May Need an Antibody Test

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There’s still a lot to learn about COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. One thing experts know for sure is that symptoms can look like those of other conditions, including the flu. Because of this, along with the fact that testing wasn’t widely available at the beginning of the pandemic, some people weren’t tested. Talk to your doctor about taking an antibody test if you had COVID-19 symptoms at some point or if you have long-term symptoms that just won’t go away. These can include fatigue, cough, trouble breathing, headache, and joint pain.  

How It Works

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This blood test checks for antibodies, or proteins, your immune system makes when you have an infection. It can’t tell you if you currently have COVID-19 -- it just tells you if you had it in the past. Keep in mind that even if your antibody test is positive, you should still take steps to protect yourself from the virus. That’s because researchers don’t know if you can catch it again like a cold or the flu.

No Sense of Smell or Taste

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Can’t smell your favorite perfume or those cookies baking? That’s because researchers have found that nearly half of people with COVID-19 lose their sense of smell or taste. And it sometimes take a while to come back. Ask your doctor about antibody testing if you have these symptoms.  

Chest Pain

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You may want to get an antibody test if you had chest pain along with other symptoms of COVID-19 or if you still have them. One study found some people still had chest pain weeks after diagnosis.

Extreme Fatigue

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Talk to your doctor about antibody testing if you’ve had low energy for a while, long after symptoms that could've been COVID-19. One study found that some people with COVID-19 were still tired weeks later.

Constant Cough

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It’s one of the most common COVID-19 symptoms that can stay with you long term. Call your doctor if you’ve had a cough for more than 2 months (1 month for kids).

Shortness of Breath

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Also called dyspnea, this is another common symptom of COVID-19. Talk to your doctor if you’ve had shortness of breath for a while, along with other COVID-19 symptoms.


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It’s another long-term symptom of the virus.

Flu-Like Symptoms

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COVID-19 and the flu can look a lot alike. Both come on suddenly, and you may cough a lot, feel very tired, and have body aches or a headache. You might also vomit and poop a lot. An antibody test could let you know whether COVID-19 caused your symptoms.

You Were Sick at the Beginning of 2020

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Did you have COVID-19 symptoms in early 2020? Experts say that’s when the virus first started spreading around the world. Also, consider if you traveled during that time, especially to countries with an outbreak of the virus. Keep in mind that if you did have COVID-19, the antibodies may already be gone.

You’ve Been Around Someone With COVID

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COVID-19 mainly spreads from person to person when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes, or talks. You can get it even if the infected person doesn’t have symptoms. It usually spreads between people who are in close contact (about 6 feet) for 15 minutes or more. Talk to your doctor about antibody testing if you’ve been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive.

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Canadian Medical Association Journal: “Anosmia and dysgeusia associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection: an age-matched case–control study.”


Gastroenterology: “Taste Changes (Dysgeusia) in COVID-19: A Systematic Review

and Meta-analysis.”


Mayo Clinic: “Loss of smell,” “Chest pain,” “COVID-19 (coronavirus): Long-term effects,” “COVID-19 antibody testing.”


Postgraduate Medical Journal: “Effects of ageing on smell and taste.”


JAMA: “Persistent Symptoms in Patients After Acute COVID-19.”


NHS: “10 medical reasons for feeling tired.”


Harvard Health Publishing: “COVID-19 basics.”


Cleveland Clinic: “Chronic Cough Overview,” “Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea): Possible Causes.”


The American Journal of Gastroenterology: “Clinical Characteristics of COVID-19 Patients With Digestive Symptoms in Hubei, China: A Descriptive, Cross-Sectional, Multicenter Study.”


NIDDK: “Symptoms & Causes of Diarrhea.”


CDC: “Flu Symptoms,” “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Appendices,” “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Test for Past Infection,” “Coronavirus Disease: Protect Yourself.”


World Health Organization: “Timeline of WHO’s response to COVID-19.”


Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Chronic Daily Headache.”