Health & Wellness
September 26th, 2021 by Marcus Johnson
Let’s say you’ve recently had unprotected sex and now you’re worried that you may have picked up a sexually transmitted disease (STD). With STD rates rising higher than ever before, this is a totally valid and legitimate concern. So what do you do? Getting tested would be a very smart decision, but you may be surprised to learn that you can actually test too early.
If you feel like you could have contracted an STD, your instinct may be to get tested immediately, but this can be a huge mistake. Testing too early can cause inaccurate results, possibly leading you to believe you’re STD-free when you’re really not. This is because each STD has its own unique “incubation period,” which you must out wait in order to get accurate results. Like many things in life, timing is everything.
An incubation period is the span of time from when you first come in contact with an STD to when antibodies form to fight the STD1). Tests look for the presence of these antibodies during testing2), and if you do not wait until the incubation period has ended, you may not allow your body sufficient time to develop enough antibodies for it to show up in testing, causing a false-negative result.
Even after you have waited for the incubation period to end, you may not see signs or symptoms of the STD. Many STDs do not display symptoms at all or are so subtle that you could think you have a cold or a rash. Your symptoms come and go, but this doesn’t mean the STD has gone away. This is why it’s so important to get tested; there is simply no other way to be 100% sure of an STD diagnosis.
How long it takes for an STD to show up in testing is entirely dependent on the STD itself, how long its own incubation period is, and your own body’s immune response. You can test for some STDs, like chlamydia, only a day after potential exposure. Meanwhile, HIV and syphilis can take a month or more before you can accurately test for them. It’s all pretty confusing but lucky for you, we created a nifty little chart that breaks down each STD’s average incubation period.
We know it can be hard to wait to get tested. As soon as the thought crosses your mind that you may have an STD, you want to learn your status ASAP. But you know now that’s probably not the best idea. You don’t want to test too early, and you also don’t want to have to visit our labs multiple times because of all the different STD incubation periods.
To make it easy and only have to test once, we suggest waiting to test according to the STD with the longest incubation period. For example, If you wanted to test for every STD mentioned on this blog post using our comprehensive 10 test STD panel, you would need to wait at least eight weeks to get accurate results, because that is the minimum amount of time hepatitis C needs before it shows up on tests.
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