Coronavirus (COVID-19): symptoms and testing
Symptoms, how to self-isolate and what to do if you might have been exposed to COVID-19.
Symptoms of COVID-19
Watch for symptoms. Symptoms can vary from person to person and in different age groups. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19.
The severity of COVID-19 symptoms can range from mild to severe, and in some cases, can lead to death. Current information suggests most people don't experience severe illness or need to be hospitalized.
When to call 811
Call 811 for assessment if in the past 48 hours you have had, or you are currently experiencing:
Fever (i.e. chills/sweats) OR Cough (new or worsening)
Two or more of the following symptoms (new or worsening):
- Sore throat
- Runny nose/nasal congestion
- Shortness of breath
You should also call 811 for assessment if you think you've been exposed to COVID-19 or have any other symptoms that concern you.
Nova Scotia Health Authority has established COVID-19 assessment centres. If you need in-person assessment, 811 will refer you to a centre (don't go to a COVID-19 assessment centre unless 811 referred you).
If you’re referred by 811 for COVID-19 testing you need to self-isolate right away. People you live with don’t need to self-isolate unless they become unwell, have been told by Public Health that they need to self-isolate or are required to self-isolate for other reasons. They need to monitor their symptoms closely and self-isolate if they start to feel sick.
If your child is referred by 811 for COVID-19 testing they need to self-isolate right away. Other people in the home (including if they’re caring for the child) don’t need to self-isolate unless they become unwell, have been told by Public Health that they need to self-isolate or are required to self-isolate for other reasons. They need to monitor their symptoms closely and self-isolate if they start to feel sick.
After testing, you’re legally required to self-isolate if you:
- are waiting for your COVID-19 test results
- have tested positive for COVID-19
- have been identified as close contact of someone who has COVID-19, even if you have tested negative for COVID-19
University and NSCC students
Students travelling into Nova Scotia from outside Atlantic Canada to attend university or NSCC must get tested for COVID-19 while they’re self-isolating. Learn more: post-secondary education requirements.
How to self-isolate
Self-isolation means staying at home and avoiding contact with other people to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. You need to stay in the same location while you’re self-isolating (you can’t change locations). Check the self-isolation requirements to find out when you need to self-isolate, even if you don't have symptoms.
If you’re self-isolating, people you live with don’t need to self-isolate unless they become unwell, have been told by Public Health that they need to self-isolate or are required to self-isolate for other reasons.
If you need to self-isolate:
- avoid work, school or other public areas
- limit contact with people you live with as much as possible
- use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if you can
- take and record your temperature daily and avoid fever reducing medications (like acetaminophen and ibuprofen)
- have groceries and other supplies delivered
- avoid anyone with chronic conditions or a compromised immune system, and older adults
- don't have visitors to your home
- don't use public transit or taxis
- stay home (you can go on your deck or balcony or in your yard, but you need to avoid contact with other people)
- call 811 for assessment if you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
When you’re in your home:
- keep shared spaces (like kitchens and bathrooms) clean and well ventilated
- use soap and water to clean dishes and utensils after each use
- clean door handles, light switches, railings, remotes and other high-touch areas daily
- clean your home and household items with store bought disinfectant or diluted bleach solution—5 mL of bleach per 250 mL of water, or 20mL per litre
- wash clothes and linens using your regular laundry soap and water (60-90°C)
- don't share personal items, like toothbrushes, clothing, towels or drinks
- use disposable gloves and protective clothing (like plastic aprons) when cleaning anything soiled with bodily fluids, if available
If you don’t have symptoms (asymptomatic)
If you’re legally required to self isolate and don’t have symptoms, you still need to self-isolate. If you have a low risk of exposure because of where you’ve been and that you’ve followed public health directives, you can have contact with other people in your household while you’re self-isolating at home.