Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
This information has been translated into other languages – see the links at the bottom of this page.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a virus. COVID-19 symptoms are a lot like symptoms of the flu (influenza) or other illnesses that affect the lungs and airways (called respiratory illnesses). COVID-19 can cause:
- shortness of breath
- trouble breathing
- sore throat
- runny nose
- loss of sense of smell and taste
If you have any of these symptoms, you should isolate. To learn more, see isolation recommendations.
If you are tested, follow instructions at ahs.ca/results based on your test results.
Other symptoms can include:
- stuffy nose
- painful swallowing
- muscle or joint aches
- feeling unwell in general
- feeling more tired than usual or having no energy at all
- feeling sick to your stomach (nausea), throwing up, diarrhea (watery stool), or not feeling hungry
- pink eye (conjunctivitis)
If you have any of the other symptoms, stay home and limit your contact with others until your symptoms go away.
Most people (about 80%) have only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. But people who are very sick may need care in a hospital. In severe cases, COVID-19 can cause pneumonia, make it hard to breathe without help, and can even lead to death.
How does it spread?
This virus spreads person-to-person through droplets from coughing and sneezing. It may also spread by touching something that has the virus on it, such as a doorknob or a tabletop, and then touching your face.
How is it diagnosed?
The virus is diagnosed with a test that uses a swab of fluid from your nose or throat. You may have other tests, such as blood tests and a computed tomography (CT) scans of the lungs. But even if you don't have a test, you may be told you probably have the virus based on your symptoms and history.
If you think you've been exposed to COVID-19 and have symptoms, take the COVID-19 Self-Assessment.
Is there medicine for COVID-19?
If you have mild symptoms, you can care for yourself at home. You can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for a fever or pain if it’s safe for you. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you’re not sure.
In Alberta, Paxlovid and Remdesivir are 2 medicines for people with COVID-19. These treatments are for people with mild to moderate symptoms who are not in the hospital (outpatients). Paxlovid needs to be taken within 5 days of symptoms starting. Remdesivir needs to be taken within 7 days of symptoms starting.
To learn more and see who is eligible for Paxlovid or Remdesivir treatment, go to Outpatient Treatment for COVID-19.
People with COVID-19 who are in the hospital with more serious symptoms get treatment such as oxygen, steroids, and help with breathing.
What should I do if I have COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19?
If you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19, you should isolate. To learn more, see isolation recommendations.
Take the COVID-19 Self-Assessment to know if you need to be tested for COVID-19.
Call 911 if you're seriously ill and need medical help right away. Tell them that you may have COVID-19.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and keep all your healthcare appointments, and call your doctor or Health Link at 811 if you’re having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Where can I learn more?
You can find the latest information about COVID-19 from these sources:
I have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or am isolating because I might have COVID-19. How can I care for myself at home?
- Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or Health Link at 811 if you think you’re having a problem with your medicine.
- Stay home. Don't go to school, work, or public places. Don't use public transportation (such as the bus or train). Leave your home only if you need to get medical care. Call ahead from home before you go to a doctor’s office. They can decide if in-person care or virtual care (such as a phone call or video call) is best for you. If you don’t have a family doctor, go to AlbertaFindADoctor.ca.
- Wear a face mask if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and can’t stay away from other people, such as in your own home or when you’re going to get medical help. Wearing a mask can help stop the virus from spreading when you cough or sneeze.
- Limit contact with people in your home. Only one healthy person should care for you. If possible, stay in a separate bedroom and use a separate washroom from everyone else in your home.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw it in the trash right away.
- Wash your hands often, especially after you cough or sneeze. Use soap and water, and scrub for at least 20 seconds. If you don’t have soap and water at the time, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Don't share personal household items. These include bedding, towels, cups, eating utensils, and electronic devices (such as tablets and phones).
- Clean and disinfect your home every day. Use household cleaners and disinfectant wipes or sprays. Take special care to clean things that you grab with your hands. These include doorknobs, remote controls, phones, and handles on your refrigerator and microwave. And don't forget to clean countertops, tabletops, washrooms, and computer keyboards.
- Follow the advice you’ve been given about when it's safe to leave isolation. If you’re not sure, call Health Link at 811.
When should I call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. Tell them you have COVID-19 symptoms.
For example, call if:
- You have severe trouble breathing or severe chest pain.
- You are very confused and not thinking clearly.
- You pass out (lose consciousness).
Call your doctor or Health Link at 811 now or get medical care right away if:
- You have new or worse trouble breathing.
- Your symptoms are getting worse.
- You start getting better than you get worse.
- You have severe dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include:
- having a very dry mouth
- passing only a little urine
- feeling very light-headed
Whether you have symptoms or not, call your doctor's office before you go. If you have symptoms, make sure you wear a face mask when you go to the doctor to stop the virus from spreading.
To see this information online and learn more, visit MyHealth.Alberta.ca/health/pages/conditions.aspx?Hwid=custom.ack9673ahs.
Related to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Care Instructions
Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Care instructions
For 24/7 nurse advice and general health information call Health Link at 811.
Current as of: February 1, 2023
Author: Adapted from Healthwise
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.