I have COVID-19 symptoms

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, we recommend that you:

  • Stay home if you’re sick.
  • Avoid higher risk settings and individuals until you are feeling better.
  • If you are not able to stay home, wear a mask when in indoor public places, public transit, and crowded spaces.
  • Testing is recommended for:
    • People and communities at higher risk of severe disease
    • People who live and work in higher risk group living settings (such as long-term care homes, shelters, group homes, correctional facilities)
    • Frontline health care workers
  • Testing is available for all Nova Scotians who have symptoms.
    • Most Nova Scotians qualify for rapid antigen testing, while those at increased risk of severe illness and certain occupations also qualify for PCR testing.
    • Complete the online self assessment or call 811 to determine if you are eligible for a COVID-19 test (PCR or rapid antigen).
    • You are encouraged to have a box of rapid tests on hand in case symptoms develop. Rapid tests are available in the community – find a pick-up location here.

Please note: Testing recommendations are based on whether you have symptoms of COVID-19, not if you have been exposed.

If you test positive for COVID-19, follow the guidelines on this webpage.

Why should I test for COVID-19 if I have symptoms?

If you are at higher risk of severe disease, you should get tested for COVID-19 because you may be eligible for early treatment if you test positive.  

  • A PCR test is preferred; however, a rapid test is acceptable. If the first rapid test is negative, take another test 48 hours (2 days) later.

If you live or work in a group living setting (such as group homes, shelters, retirement homes, long-term care homes) or are a frontline health care worker, you should get tested for COVID-19 because this helps reduce the spread in these higher risk settings. Some people in group living settings may also be eligible for early treatment.

  • A PCR test is preferred; however, a rapid test is acceptable. If the first rapid test is negative, take another test 48 hours (2 days) later.

If you are at lower risk of severe disease and do not work or live in a higher risk setting, you may choose to take a rapid test if symptoms develop, to limit the spread of the virus to others. Repeating the test 48 hours (2 days) later helps to improve accuracy. If you choose not to test or you test negative, you should still stay home when you’re sick, wear a mask in indoor public places and avoid higher risk settings and people for at least 7 days.

What are common symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include one or more of the following:

  • Cough (new or worsening/exacerbation of chronic cough)
  • Fever (chills, sweats)
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Loss or change in sense of smell or taste
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose/nasal congestion/excessive sneezing
  • Headache
  • Extreme fatigue/tiredness
  • Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting

I’ve recovered from COVID-19 but I have new symptoms

In the first 90 days (3 months) after you’ve recovered from COVID-19, testing is not necessary as you may have some short-term post-infection immunity. However, your immunity decreases as time goes on so you may choose to get tested again if you develop symptoms near the end of the three months.

PCR testing is not recommended within 90 days (3 months) of recovery as it may continue to detect the initial (now old) virus – however, if you choose to get tested, a rapid antigen test should be used. If you test positive, you should consider yourself reinfected and follow instructions for  “I have tested positive”.

I’ve been exposed to COVID-19, but don’t have symptoms

If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, it is no longer recommended that you test, even if you have been exposed or if there is a positive case in your household. You should monitor yourself and test if you begin to experience one or more of the symptoms listed under ‘What are common symptoms of COVID-19.’

Even if you do not have symptoms, it is recommended that you wear a well-fitted mask in crowded indoor settings. A space is considered crowded when you cannot consistently maintain distancing such as public transit, crowded venues, and some faith gatherings.

There are steps you can take to slow the spread. Learn more about how you can protect yourself and others - https://www.nshealth.ca/protecting-myself-and-others.

Who is at higher risk of severe disease?

It is important to be mindful of people who are at higher risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death, as well as places where they live, gather or receive care. When you are sick, you should avoid visiting these people and places until you are feeling better. If you test positive for COVID-19, you should wait 7 days from the start of symptoms, or your positive test (if no symptoms) to visit.

The following people, particularly if unvaccinated or vaccinated but not boosted, are at increased risk of severe disease:

  • Older adults (increasing risk with each decade, especially over 60 years)
  • Any age and living with:
    • lung disease
    • heart disease
    • diabetes
    • kidney disease
    • liver disease
    • dementia
    • cancer
    • neurodevelopmental conditions (such as Down Syndrome)
    • sickle cell disease
    • neurological conditions (i.e., epilepsy, stroke)
    • immunocompromised status, including those taking medications which lower the immune system, such as chemotherapy
    • obesity (BMI equal to or greater than 30)
  • Pregnant persons

What are higher risk settings?

The following settings are considered at higher risk for significant spread of COVID-19, and some people who live in these places may be at higher risk of severe disease:

  • Long-term care facilities 
  • Disability support programs, including residential care facilities 
  • Acute care settings 
  • Senior congregate living facilities (i.e., retirement homes) 
  • Correctional facilities 
  • Shelters and transition homes 

People at higher risk of severe disease may also gather in other settings, such as faith buildings or recreational/community centres.

COVID-19 Testing Resources