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
- 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, book a COVID-19 test.
If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing sudden or worsening shortness of breath or difficulty breathing and need emergency medical care, call 911 (ambulance fees are waived if you need to be transported to the hospital) or go directly to the nearest emergency department.
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 or Switch Health
- you’re a rotational worker
- you’re a specialized worker
- you’re a post-secondary student on day 1 or 2 of your self-isolation and again on day 12, 13 or 14, even if you don’t have COVID-19 symptoms
Additional testing recommendations
If you don’t have COVID-19 symptoms, you should get tested for COVID-19 if:
- you’re self-isolating after travel within Canada 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)
- you’re exempt from self-isolation on day 1 or 2 of travelling into or returning to Nova Scotia (if you’re still in Nova Scotia, you should get tested again on day 6, 7 or 8 and day 12, 13 or 14)
Airport testing for travellers
If you’re flying into Nova Scotia, you can also get a COVID-19 test kit at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
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
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.
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, condo or hotel (stay inside your unit)
- wear a non-medical mask in common areas if you’re self-isolating in an apartment building, condo or hotel and need to leave the property for outdoor exercise, necessary healthcare or getting tested for COVID-19
- only leave your property, apartment building, condo or hotel for outdoor exercise if you don’t have symptoms and are self-isolating because you travelled from outside Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador (but within Canada) or because you’ve been told by Public Health that you’re a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case
- only leave your property, apartment building, condo or hotel (if necessary) once per day for outdoor exercise within walking or running distance of where you’re self-isolating for a maximum of 1 hour – 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 or where you’re self-isolating
- 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)
- book a COVID-19 test if you don’t have COVID-19 symptoms (on day 1 or 2 of your self-isolation and if you’re still in Nova Scotia, you should get tested again on day 12, 13 or 14)
- follow hand washing guidelines, cough and sneeze guidelines and cleaning and disinfecting guidelines
Self-isolating and your household
If you travel outside Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador 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 Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador and can follow a strict cleaning protocol for a shared bathroom, everyone in the household doesn’t need to self-isolate if your reason for essential travel includes:
- travelling to your primary employment in another province or territory if you live in Nova Scotia
- participating in essential legal proceedings outside Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador
- post-secondary students coming to study in Nova Scotia
- post-secondary students returning to their primary or family residence in Nova Scotia
If you’re self-isolating in a completely separate space with no household contact (like a self-contained apartment or basement), you need to:
- 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
- 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
You need to follow the self-isolation requirements in the protocol you’re following if your reason for essential travel includes:
- people following the COVID-19 Child Custody Protocol (PDF), including dropping off, picking up or visiting
- rotational workers, specialized workers and Temporary Foreign Workers
- people following the COVID-19 Exempt traveller Protocol (PDF)
- people travelling between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for work, school, childcare or essential veterinary services; they need to follow the COVID-19 Nova Scotia-New Brunswick Travel Protocol (PDF)
Federal support for self-isolating
Travellers entering Canada must follow Government of Canada rules set out by the emergency orders under the Quarantine Act, including testing and quarantine requirements. Learn more: entering Canada by air and entering Canada by land.