Coronavirus (COVID-19): Diagnosis Make an Appointment Refer a Patient Ask a Question Reviewed by Carrie A. Horn, MD, Charles L. Daley, MD, Gwen A. Huitt, MD, MS, Shannon H. Kasperbauer, MD (March 04, 2020) Coronaviruses are common and affect the respiratory system. Most coronaviruses do not usually cause serious illness. In the elderly and those with chronic health conditions, coronaviruses can lead to pneumonia and other complications. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the COVID-19 virus. To diagnose COVID-19, a lab test will look at secretions from the nose, throat, blood or body fluids according to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) protocols. COVID-19 Overview | COVID-19 Causes | COVID-19 Symptoms | COVID-19 Prevention | COVID-19 Treatment Testing for COVID-19 (coronavirus) Call your doctor if: You develop a fever and cough or shortness of breath within 14 days after traveling from an area with outbreaks You have been in close contact with someone who has traveled from an infected area who has symptoms of the COVID-19 If COVID-19 is suspected, your doctor will contact the CDC or your local health department for current instructions on testing. You may be told to go to a special lab for your test. Only certain labs have been allowed to collect samples and run tests for COVID-19. Testing for COVID-19 can include collecting tissue samples by: Swabbing the back of your throat (over both tonsils) Swabbing a nostril Injecting a saline solution into your nose and collecting a sample of the solution Collecting sputum or phlegm (the thick, gooey mucous that comes up during coughing) Taking a small amount of blood Obtaining a tissue sample from your lungs with a bronchoscope The specimens are sent to the CDC or a CDC-approved laboratory that will report results to your doctor. While you are waiting for test results, stay home and away from other people. Use a mask if you have to go out in public. More on COVID-19 COVID-19 (Coronavirus) & Allergies COVID-19 Antibody (Serology) Testing FAQs How to Take Your Temperature Virus or Bacteria — What’s the Difference? View More Coronavirus (COVID-19): Causes Coronavirus (COVID-19): Prevention Programs & Services Acute Respiratory Clinic Acute Respiratory Clinic (Pediatric) Division of Mycobacterial and Respiratory Infections Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine (Adult) Clinical Trials For more than 100 years, National Jewish Health has been committed to finding new treatments and cures for diseases. Search our clinical trials.