SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The past two winters have come with surges in COVID cases, so health experts are encouraging continued precautions heading into the holidays. Prior to meeting with loved ones, it’s recommended you test yourself for COVID-19 if you’re having any kind of respiratory symptoms.

Megan Gallagher, Infectious Disease Physician at Baystate Medical Center told 22News you should test at least a couple of days before, “Those are most reliable if you do one, and then repeat that test in 24 hours. So that gives you the most reliability, if they’re both negative, to feel comfortable to go to holiday gatherings.”

Knowing your COVID-19 status is especially important if you plan to spend the holidays with immunocompromised people, like older family members. If you’re asymptomatic but want to be sure you won’t spread anything, Dr. Gallagher says to wait a bit longer to take a test.

“You want to try to do a rapid antigen test or a self test right before the gathering. You know as soon as you can before the gathering. Just to kind of give yourself that extra layer of security,” said Gallagher.

Damian Denesha of Springfield told 22News, “I think as long as everyone is just kind of washing their hands and trying to alert and notify people when they’re feeling sick and stay home if they are, then there’s no reason not to go out and enjoy the holidays and spend time with your loved ones. That’s what the holidays are all about.”

Since COVID-19 is not the only respiratory illness going around, if you’ve tested negative but still feel sick, seek care from your primary health care provider or visit an urgent care.