1. Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)
  2. When to seek help

COVID-19: symptoms, self-isolation and when to seek help

If you’re worried you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, you may need to call 811 to see if you should be tested. You may also need to self-isolate.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • fever (chills, sweats)
  • cough or worsening of a previous cough
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • shortness of breath
  • muscle aches
  • sneezing
  • nasal congestion or runny nose
  • hoarse voice
  • diarrhea
  • unusual fatigue
  • loss of sense of smell or taste
  • red, purple or blueish lesions on the feet, toes or fingers without clear cause

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.

If you think you might have been exposed to COVID-19

If you’ve travelled

The Government of Nova Scotia, under the authority of the Health Protection Act, requires anyone who has travelled outside Atlantic Canada to self-isolate for 14 days from the day they get back to the province, even if they don't have symptoms.

When to call 811

If you have any one of the COVID-19 symptoms, or any other symptoms that concern you, call 811 for assessment by a nurse.


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.


When to self-isolate

You’re legally required to self-isolate for 14 days if you:

  • are waiting for your COVID-19 test results
  • have tested positive for COVID-19
  • have tested negative for COVID-19, but had close contact with someone who has or is suspected to have COVID-19
  • have been told by Public Health that you may have been exposed and need to self-isolate
  • are returning from travel outside Atlantic Canada, even if you don't have symptoms

How to self-isolate

If you need to self-isolate:

  • avoid work, school or other public areas
  • limit contact with people you live with
  • 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 have any one of the 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 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.

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.

Reducing the spread of COVID-19

Protect yourself and help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in your home and your community by:

  • staying home (only going out for essentials like groceries, medical appointments, prescriptions and exercise in your neighbourhood)
  • keeping your hands clean (wash your hands with soap and water regularly or use hand sanitizer)
  • coughing and sneezing into a tissue or your elbow (not your hand)
  • not touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • cleaning your living space (like countertops, tables and bathrooms) every day
  • practising social distancing (limiting your contact with other people and staying 2 metres or 6 feet away from them)