Do you suspect you’ve had COVID-19? Here’s an easy way to get an antibody test and confirm

The exterior of an American Red Cross branch. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, Getty Images)

Do you know someone who swears up and down he or she likely had coronavirus already? “I was so sick last February!” Or “I travel all the time, I probably got it at some point.”

As the author of this story, I’ve wondered myself: Have I had it, and just not experienced any symptoms? I’m in pretty good health -- but I have been sick a few times this year. I was tested for COVID-19 twice with negative results, but ... who knows? Could I have gotten it at some other point?

And no, I’m certainly not trying to flatter myself. I’m not a Kevin Durant-caliber, world-class athlete, so maybe I’m being silly for assuming I’d feel nothing. But the word “asymptomatic” exists for a reason, and maybe I’m it.

Spoiler alert, I’m not.

Want to know how I know? I got an antibody test. I’d heard rumblings that you could give blood through the American Red Cross, and they’d test your blood for antibodies. That’s cool -- you’re helping a person and checking on your own health status. So I scheduled an appointment and I did it. It was very easy and worth it.

Here’s some information if you’d like to follow suit:

Schedule an appointment to give blood.

Make sure you’re healthy and feeling up to the task. If you’ve donated before, you know it’s no big deal. You answer a bunch of health-related questions, get your finger pricked (they’re testing your iron levels), then sit down for about 15 minutes while a Red Cross worker or volunteer sets up the actual blood draw. Honestly, I think the finger prick hurts worse than the donation process. Once that needle’s in my arm, it doesn’t really bother me. I think about something else, look away, and before I know it, the whole process is done. Drink some juice, rest for a few minutes and you can be on your way.

Worth mentioning: The Red Cross says it’s a perfectly safe time to donate, despite COVID-19. Wear your mask, keep a social distance and don’t fret. There’s a need for blood, so don’t let the pandemic be the reason you stay away.

Once you’re done donating, be patient.

It will take about a week or so for your results.

Then you’ll log on to Red Cross’ site online -- it’s the same website you used to make your appointment -- and you can see how you fared.

Just a note: I’m not sure if it was a glitch in the system or if this is just how it goes, but I never received an email that was like, “Your results are ready!” I just logged on after five or six days and checked myself. All the information was in my account.

You can also see your vitals (blood pressure, hemoglobin and pulse), along with your antibody information.

How to interpret your results

Mine said, “COVID-19 Test Result: NEGATIVE.” And I blanked for a second, as in, “Negative? Is that good or bad? Remind me what this means?”

But from there, you click the link below. It says, “What does my result mean? Learn more about COVID-19 antibody testing.” (It’s like the Red Cross knows that we’re not all health experts). Thank goodness!

It’s on this screen that the results are broken down:

If you have a ...

Positive test result: “(This) indicates potential previous exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 resulting in the development of specific antibodies to the virus, regardless of whether you experienced COVID-19 symptoms. It does not confirm infection or immunity. It is currently unknown whether the presence of COVID-19 antibodies will provide immunity to future infection and individuals should continue to follow all COVID-19 safety guidelines provided by the CDC.”

Negative test result: “(This) indicates that you probably have not been exposed to COVID-19 and therefore have not developed antibodies to the virus. It also could indicate that antibodies are present but at levels below the test’s threshold for detection, or that the test did not recognize those antibodies. It is possible that you can still contract the virus, if exposed. It takes one to three weeks after an infection for antibodies to be present.”

You could also end up with “pending,” “inconsistent” or “not available” results. Learn more about what those mean.

The Red Cross started testing blood donations for antibodies starting in late September. Through this effort, plasma from standard blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may be processed to help patients battling the virus, the group said online.

So if you’re really wondering if you’ve had COVID, wonder no more. Go get tested, if you’re eligible to give blood. The Red Cross could use your donation one way or the other.