If you have COVID-19, the current guideline is to isolate yourself for at least five days to avoid infecting other people.
But what happens if you interact with people who also tested positive for COVID-19? Will that make your sickness longer or worse?
The current answer is “no,” according to Andrew Pekosz, PhD, a virologist and researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Pekosz explained that the COVID-19 virus operates differently once it’s inside the body compared to outside. When you have COVID-19, your body can emit up to 100 billion viral particles during peak infection. But if you encounter other COVID-19 carriers while you’re infected, they may not transmit as many particles to you, and your viral loads may not increase drastically.
You’ll likely maintain some COVID-19 resistance immediately after your quarantine, too. That’s because the body creates interferons, a type of virus-induced protein that provides short-term protection from new infections. “That was essentially named because it interferes with another virus infection,” Pekosz said.
“We see that with other viruses as well, that there’s a period of time after you’re sick that you really are resistant to infection,” he said.
“Deltacron” taught us it is possible for people to develop co-infections from different COVID variants at the same time. But experts say developing one while you’re already infected likely won’t change your recovery timeframe.
Available data doesn’t suggest hanging out with an infectious friend during quarantine will make your infection longer or worse. But that doesn’t mean doctors recommend filling up your social calendar while you have COVID-19.
Laolu Fayanju, MD, a family medicine specialist at Oak Street Health, a healthcare provider primarily serving older adults, said that seeing other infected people while you’re recovering may not “be the most prudent thing to do.”
“If this virus has taught us anything, it’s to err on the side of caution,” Fayanju told Verywell.
Instead, Fayanju recommends isolating alone or only with your household members to limit opportunities for the virus to spread or grow.
However, his advice for people who live together is different. A couple who shares a bedroom, for example, may want to quarantine themselves together. This is generally a safe thing to do, particularly if neither person is going outside, Fayanju added.
“More than anything, the real focus is on folks who are not sick,” he said. “You don’t want them to be around you if you’re infected or have symptoms.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently has no clear guidance on whether you should isolate with your loved ones if you all tested positive, but it recommends avoiding being around people who are at high risk of severe illness.
People should be extra vigilant to avoid those who are immunocompromised, older, or in vulnerable groups, as COVID-19 is still a deadly virus, and symptoms can be debilitating, Fayanju added.
“However mild symptoms may be, we have to continue to exercise a high degree of caution and be very careful about getting sick,” Fayanju said. “We are seeing cases and hospitalizations going up, and unfortunately we’re also seeing death rates going up across the country. So this is still a very serious illness.”
If you have COVID-19, hanging out with other infected people probably won’t harm your recovery. However, you should still follow public health protocols and isolate yourself from people who are not sick.
The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.