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

Coronavirus (COVID-19): symptoms and testing

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

Symptoms

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, 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.

Testing

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 and are not fully vaccinated
  • you’re a specialized worker and are not fully vaccinated

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 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)

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

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

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

Before and after your test

Self-isolating

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 contact with people you live with
  • use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if you can
  • if you need to share a space (like a bedroom or bathroom), disinfect surfaces that were touched
  • avoid elevators or stairwells if you live in an apartment building, condo or hotel (stay inside your unit)
  • wear a 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 a province or territory outside Atlantic Canada and are not fully vaccinated at least 14 days before arriving in Nova Scotia
  • 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

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

Protocols and self-isolation requirements

You need to follow the self-isolation requirements in the protocol you’re following. This includes: