COVID-19 symptoms and how it spreads

Last updated: 12 January 2022

Learn about the symptoms of COVID-19, when they appear and how it spreads.

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Register a positive rapid antigen test result

From 12 January, you must report a positive rapid antigen test result:

  • within 24 hours of getting the result.
  • every time you get a positive result.

If you have tested positive and reported your result, you can:

  • quickly understand your relative level of risk based on your personal circumstances
  • access support services available from NSW Health

Register your COVID-19 test result.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Symptoms include:

  • fever (37.5  degrees Celsius or higher)
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
  • runny nose
  • loss of taste
  • loss of smell.

Other reported symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • acute blocked nosed (congestion)
  • muscle pain
  • joint pain
  • headache
  • diarrhoea
  • nausea/vomiting
  • loss of appetite.

Unexplained chest pain and conjunctivitis (eye infection) have also been reported as symptoms of COVID-19.  

In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia with severe acute respiratory distress.

How COVID-19 is spread

COVID-19 is a human coronavirus that spreads from an infected person to other people in close contact:

  • through contaminated droplets spread by coughing or sneezing
  • by contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects.

When COVID-19 symptoms appear

The amount of time between exposure to the virus and the first appearance of symptoms is usually 5 to 6 days, although it may range from 2 to 14 days.

If you don't have symptoms

If you have COVID-19 but do not have any symptoms, this is called "asymptomatic".

If you have COVID-19 and do not have symptoms, you can still infect other people and they could get sick.

This is why it is important to get tested when required, even if you do not have symptoms or feel sick. By getting tested and self-isolating, you can help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Advice for parents

If you have school-aged children, visit the Department of Education website and see the advice for families

Day care and preschool aged children (0 to 4 years)

  • If your child is sick, keep them at home.
  • If your child has symptoms like a runny nose, fever, cough or sore throat, call your GP (doctor).
  • In an emergency, please call Triple Zero (000) or go to your closest emergency department.
  • See the COVID-19 family guide.

Primary school children (5 to 11 years)

Secondary school children (12 to 17 years)

Related apps

Service NSW App

Service NSW

You can check in to COVID Safe businesses who are using their NSW Government QR Code, via the Service NSW app.

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