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

Coronavirus (COVID-19): symptoms and testing

Symptoms, how to self-isolate and what to do if you might have been exposed to 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.

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.

Who can be tested

Nova Scotia Health Authority has COVID-19 assessment centres throughout the province. Don't go to a COVID-19 assessment centre unless you're referred and have a scheduled appointment.

Testing for COVID-19 is available if:

  • Public Health determines you’re a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case and need to be tested
  • you’re referred for testing by a COVID-19 Self-assessment (or 811)  
  • you don’t have symptoms, require a negative test result for essential travel and meet all eligibility requirements for testing with PRAXES

Testing for essential travel  

Nova Scotia Health Authority is working with PRAXES to provide COVID-19 testing for people who don’t have symptoms and require a negative test result for essential travel. If you don’t have symptoms (asymptomatic) and need a test for essential travel, request a COVID-19 test with PRAXES.

Find out if you need a COVID-19 test

Complete a COVID-19 Self-assessment if in the past 48 hours you have had, or you are currently experiencing:

  • fever (chills, sweats) or a new or worsening cough


  • 2 or more of the following symptoms (new or worsening):
    • sore throat
    • runny nose or nasal congestion
    • headache
    • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
You can call 811 for assessment if you’re unable to complete the COVID-19 Self-assessment online (or to speak with a nurse).

Once you complete a COVID-19 Self-assessment, the assessment lets you know if you need to be tested and you can schedule the test online.

If you’re referred for testing


Everyone needs to self-isolate right away when they’re referred for COVID-19 testing, including children. People they 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.

Gargle test preparation

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

After testing

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 a close contact of someone who has COVID-19, even if you have tested negative for COVID-19

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).

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)
  • 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
  • complete a COVID-19 Self-assessment if you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; you can call 811 for assessment if you’re unable to complete the COVID-19 Self-assessment 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 follow additional guidelines while you’re self-isolating, 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

Essential travel that doesn’t require the entire household to self-isolate along with the traveler includes travel to and from Nova Scotia from outside the Atlantic Provinces 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 domestic rotational worker
  • legal custody arrangements that require dropping off or picking up children who are required to travel for visitation
  • essential, specialized healthcare treatment that’s not available in Atlantic Canada
  • 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

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.