Symptoms and treatment
Symptoms of COVID-19, which is the disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus, range from mild — like the flu and other common respiratory infections — to severe.
The most common symptoms include:
- difficulty breathing
- muscle aches
- sore throat
- runny nose
Complications from COVID-19 can include serious conditions, like pneumonia or kidney failure and, in some cases, death.
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19, and there is no vaccine that protects against the coronavirus that causes it. Most people who get COVID-19 will recover on their own. Typical treatment for common coronaviruses includes:
- drinking plenty of fluids
- getting as much rest and sleep as possible
- using a humidifier or taking a hot shower to help with a sore throat or cough
If you start to feel symptoms of COVID-19
Only call 911 if it is an emergency.
What you need to do
COVID-19 is spread mainly from person to person through close contact, for example, in a household, workplace or health care centre.
There is no vaccine available to protect against COVID-19, but there are things you should do to help prevent the spread of coronavirus that causes the disease.
Take these everyday steps to reduce exposure to the virus and protect your health:
- wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- sneeze and cough into your sleeve
- avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- avoid contact with people who are sick
- stay home if you are sick
Everyone in Ontario should practice physical distancing to reduce their exposure to other people — this means staying at least two metres away from anyone outside your household.
If you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms, you should begin to self-monitor (PDF) for a period of 14 days. This means that, in addition to physical distancing, you should track how you feel by:
- taking your temperature daily
- logging any other symptoms that develop (for example, sore throat, new cough)
You can share these records with your primary care provider if you contact them for further advice.
Face coverings and face masks
The best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 is by staying home and avoiding close contact with others outside of your household.
You may consider using a face covering (non-medical mask such as a cloth mask or bandana) to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in areas where physical distancing may be challenging or not possible, such as:
- public transit
- smaller grocery stores or pharmacies
- when you are receiving essential services
Medical masks (surgical, medical procedure face masks and respirators like N95 masks) should be reserved for use by health care workers and first responders.
Face coverings will not protect you from getting COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself is to:
- stay home except for essential reasons
- avoid close contact with others and keep at least two metres from others outside your household
- wash your hands regularly (or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available)
- practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette (for example, sneeze and cough into your sleeve and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth)
Who should not use face coverings
Face coverings should not be placed on or used by:
- children under the age of two
- anyone who has trouble breathing
- anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance
How to properly use, clean and dispose of face coverings
If you choose to use a face covering, you should:
- wash your hands immediately before putting it on and immediately after taking it off (practise good hand hygiene while you are wearing the face covering)
- make sure the face covering fits well around your nose and mouth
- avoid moving the mask around or adjusting it often
- avoid touching the covering while using it
- not share it with others
Face coverings should be changed when they get damp or soiled.
When removing a face covering, you should:
- throw it out into a lined garbage bin
- wash your hands
Do not leave any discarded face coverings in shopping carts or on the ground.
If the face covering can be cleaned, you should:
- put it directly into the washing machine or a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine
- wash with other items using a hot cycle with laundry detergent (no special soaps are needed), and dry thoroughly
- wash your hands after putting the face covering into the laundry
All face coverings that cannot be cleaned should be thrown out and replaced as soon as they get damp, soiled or crumpled.
How to self-isolate
Self-isolating (quarantining) means staying at home and avoiding contact with other people to help prevent the spread of disease.
You should self-isolate if you are:
- over 70 years of age
- have a chronic medical condition (for example, diabetes, lung problems, immune deficiency)
- think you may have symptoms of COVID-19
This means that you should leave your home or see other people for essential reasons only. Where possible, you should try to get what you need:
- over the phone
- from friends, family or neighbours
- do not use public transportation, taxis or rideshares
- do not go to work, school or other public places
- your health care provider will tell you when it is safe to leave
Limit the number of visitors in your home
- only have visitors who you must see and keep the visits short
- do not visit with people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, meaning:
- people with chronic medical conditions (for example, diabetes, lung problems, immune deficiency)
Avoid contact with others
- stay in a separate room, away from other people in your home, as much as possible and use a separate bathroom if you have one
- make sure that shared rooms have good airflow (for example, open windows)
Wear a mask
- ensure the mask covers your nose and mouth and wear it:
- if you leave your house to see a health care provider
- when you are within two metres of other people
- if you are in a room with other people, stay at least two metres away from each other and wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth
- if you cannot wear a mask, people should wear a mask when they are in the same room as you
Cover your coughs and sneezes
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- if you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hand
- throw used tissues in a wastebasket that’s lined with a plastic bag
- the plastic bag makes it safer and easier to empty the wastebasket
- after emptying the wastebasket, wash your hands
Wash your hands
- wash your hands often with soap and water
- dry your hands with a paper towel, or with your own cloth towel that no one else shares
- use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
Read the Government of Canada’s guidance on how to self-isolate if you have:
- symptoms of COVID-19
- no symptoms, but are in a high-risk group or have recently returned from travel
Poster: How to self-isolate (PDF).