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What to do if you get COVID-19

After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the recent lifting of protective measures including mask mandates for most public places, it might seem like it’s not a matter of IF you get the virus, but WHEN. Common-sense preventative measures such as getting vaccinated and boosted, wearing a mask, hand-washing and keeping social circles small are still the best way to keep yourself and your family safe, but if the virus comes home, here’s what to do.Testing
At this time of year, we’re battling end-of-winter colds and early spring allergies. If you’ve got any of the common symptoms of COVID-19, such as a runny nose, sore throat, fever, headache or cough, you should self-isolate, use the online self-assessment tool, and then take the test you are eligible for. Even if your symptoms are mild, it’s key to test early – within 48 hours of noticing symptoms – to ensure that you are considered for COVID-19 medication within the timeframe recommended. Medications for early and mild COVID-19 are recommended within five to seven days of symptoms starting.

At this point in the pandemic, it’s likely that you’ve got a pack of rapid antigen tests on hand (they’re widely available at libraries and MLA offices across the province). A positive result on a rapid test counts as a confirmed case.

Register your positive result
Got the dreaded double line? It’s time to self-isolate. The next step is to register right away with Public Health’s “Report and Support” screening program. It might seem like a hassle to fill out the webpage when you’re under the weather, but doing so can help identify if you are eligible for COVID-19 medications and treatments to help reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization (Remember: medications are recommended within five to seven days of symptoms starting). It can also help you connect with resources, including mental health, food and income support. In addition, you’ll get regular emails reminding you about how much longer you need to be in isolation – and an email on the day when you finish your isolation period. If you don’t have Internet access, call 1-833-797-7772 to complete the form over the phone.

Contact your physician if you’re eligible for Paxlovid
If you are over the age of 18 and have tested positive for COVID-19, have non-severe symptoms and are not sufficiently vaccinated, and you have at least one risk factor (including obesity, diabetes, chronic heart or lung disease, and cancer), you may be eligible to receive the antiviral medication Paxlovid. This medication has been shown to benefit people at highest risk of progression of COVID-19, to reduce the chance of developing severe illness requiring hospitalization.

If you think you may qualify to receive Paxlovid, call your physician’s office (or access telehealth services through VirtualCareNS). Be prepared to share details such as when you tested positive, the date of your last COVID-19 immunization and the number of the dose, and if you have any allergies. Your physician will notify Nova Scotia Health, who will contact you directly if you qualify. (Note: family physicians cannot prescribe Paxlovid directly. Their role is to notify the Nova Scotia Health team about people who may be eligible.)

Consider masking up – that’s right, even at home
Wearing a mask is still the most effective way to prevent spreading COVID-19. If you live with others – especially children who are too young to be immunized or elderly or immunocompromised people – consider wearing a mask any time you are in common areas of your home. Keeping windows open and extraction fans and HEPA filters running will further reduce risk.

Stay vigilant
Monitor your symptoms carefully. If your condition begins to deteriorate, especially if you have difficulty breathing or start experiencing chest pain, go to your local Emergency Department to be assessed.

Take good care
While you’re recovering from COVID-19, make sure to rest as much as possible, stay hydrated and eat simple, healthy food. You may find that sports hydration drinks or simple soups are helpful. Ask friends or family to run essential errands, such as getting groceries or medications. Make sure that you are mindful of active ingredients when using products such as painkillers, cough medicine or cold and flu medications – you don’t want to accidentally double-dose on something like acetaminophen.

Recovering from COVID-19 is different for everyone. It’s estimated that 10% of people who have COVID-10 (even a mild infection) go on to have functional impairment, such as brain fog or muscle weakness. It does not matter how healthy you were before you got sick or how sick you became.

There are local resources available that can help with your recovery. Nova Scotia Health’s My COVID Recovery website provides resources and information for Nova Scotians who are struggling with symptoms after having COVID-19. Visit and fill out the “3 Month Post-Covid Symptoms Survey.” Or call 811 and ask to be connected with the post-COVID team.

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Nova Scotia quick links

Info if you test positive for COVID-19
Report and Support screening form
Drop-in vaccination clinics in Nova Scotia
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19
Getting tested for COVID-19
Get rapid tests
Info on long COVID
Mental health and well-being
Nova Scotia COVID-19 resources