1. Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  2. Symptoms and testing

Coronavirus (COVID-19): symptoms and testing

Symptoms, who can be tested and how to self-isolate.


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.

Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • feverish (chills, sweats)
  • new or worsening cough
  • sore throat
  • runny nose or nasal congestion
  • headache
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

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.

What to do if you experience symptoms

If you’re currently experiencing new or worsening symptoms within the last 48 hours, complete a COVID-19 Self-assessment to book a test.


You can get tested for COVID-19 even if you don’t have symptoms. Or only have mild symptoms. Testing is available throughout the province.

You need to get tested for COVID-19 if:

  • Public Health determines you're a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case and need to be tested
  • you have COVID-19 symptoms
  • you were at a potential exposure site and Public Health advises that you need to be tested immediately
  • you don't have symptoms, require a negative test result for essential travel and meet all eligibility requirements for testing with PRAXES
  • you’re a rotational worker
  • you’re a specialized worker
  • you’re a post-secondary student on day 6, 7 or 8 of your self-isolation and don’t have symptoms

You should also get tested for COVID-19 if you’re self-isolating after travelling and don’t have COVID-19 symptoms. You should get tested for COVID-19 on day 1 or 2 of your self-isolation. If you’re still in Nova Scotia, you should get tested again on day 12, 13 or 14.

Learn more: additional testing information and ways to get tested.

Book a COVID-19 test

You can book a COVID-19 test, even if you don’t have symptoms. You can call 811 if you’re unable to book a test online (or to speak with a nurse).

Testing for essential travel

If you don't have symptoms (asymptomatic) and need a test for essential travel, you need to request a COVID-19 test with PRAXES.

Before and after your test


You may need to self-isolate while waiting for your COVID-19 test and the results. Check to see when you need to self-isolate before and after getting tested for COVID-19.

Gargle test preparation

If your child is scheduled for a swish and gargle test, they need to prepare before going to the testing appointment.

How to self-isolate

Self-isolating 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). You can leave self-isolation to get tested.

Check the self-isolation requirements to find out when you need to self-isolate, even if you don't have symptoms.

Self-isolating guidelines

To self-isolate, you need to follow these guidelines:

  • stay home – don't go to work, school or other public places (you can use your deck, balcony or yard, but you need to avoid contact with other people)
  • avoid elevators or stairwells if you live in an apartment building (stay inside your unit)
  • only leave your property, building or condo for outdoor exercise if you don’t have symptoms and are self-isolating because you travelled from outside Atlantic Canada into Nova Scotia or because you’ve been told by Public Health that you’re a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case
  • wear a non-medical mask in common areas if you live in an apartment building or condo and need to leave the property for outdoor exercise
  • only leave your property (if necessary) for outdoor exercise within walking distance of your home for a maximum of 1 hour per day – you need to and keep a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others and can’t visit other buildings, go to outdoor fitness classes or personal training sessions
  • 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
  • avoid taking public transportation (like a taxi, bus or shuttle) if possible; if you do need to take public transportation, wear a mask and keep a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others, as much as you can
  • don’t take public transportation if you have COVID-19 symptoms
  • book a COVID-19 test if you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; you can call 811 if you’re unable to book a test online (or to speak with a nurse)
  • follow hand washing guidelines, cough and sneeze guidelines and cleaning and disinfecting guidelines

Self-isolating and your household

If you travel outside Atlantic Canada for non-essential travel, you need to self-isolate in a completely separate space with no household contact (like a self-contained apartment or basement). This means no shared living spaces, including the bathroom. If you a don't have a completely separate space, everyone in the household also needs to self-isolate.

If you travel outside Atlantic Canada for essential travel, everyone in the household doesn’t need to self-isolate if you meet the criteria for essential travel and follow additional guidelines while you’re self-isolating.

Essential travel includes travel into Nova Scotia or returning to Nova Scotia from outside Atlantic Canada that’s necessary for:

  • work that requires the worker to be present at the workplace (can't be done virtually) and the worker doesn't meet the criteria to be classified as a rotational worker
  • participating in essential legal proceedings outside Atlantic Canada when virtual attendance isn't possible
  • students studying outside of Atlantic Canada whose primary or family residence is in Nova Scotia
  • students coming into Nova Scotia to study at a post-secondary institution located in the province

Everyone in the household doesn’t need to self-isolate if you follow additional guidelines while you’re self-isolating after essential travel, including:

  • have your own separate room in the home (like a bedroom, basement or attic)
  • wash your hands before leaving the separate room
  • wear a non-medical mask when outside your separate room
  • avoid contact with people you live with
  • use a separate bathroom or use the following cleaning protocol for a shared bathroom - clean high touch surfaces (like doorknobs, taps, toilet handle and sink) after each use
  • have food and beverages prepared by others and delivered in a non-contact manner
  • don't share dishes, drinking glasses and cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding and other items with others in the home
  • keep your personal items (like toothbrush, cups, cell phones, tablets and laptops) separate from others in the home
  • don't share food or drinks with others in the home

Federal support for self-isolating

The Government of Canada has additional resources about how to self isolate and how to care for someone with COVID-19.