Self-Care for Viral Illness

If you are experiencing a cough, cold, sore throat, or flu-like symptoms, here is what you should know:

  • Colds, flu, sore throats, COVID-19, and flu-like symptoms are most commonly caused by viruses.
  • Colds, flu, COVID-19 and allergies can often have very similar and overlapping symptoms.
  • Getting plenty of rest, fluids and nutritious foods are the best ways to support your immune system when you are sick.
  • Antibiotics do not treat colds, flu, COVID-19, seasonal allergies, or most sore throats.
  • There are many over the counter medications that can help increase your comfort during your illness, but they do not specifically treat the virus.

The table below provides some basic information regarding common illness symptoms, but doesn’t definitively diagnose your illness. Contact University Health Services if you feel you need further evaluation or testing. COVID-19, influenza A and B, and strep pharyngitis are illnesses which can be confirmed by testing in our clinic.

Symptoms COVID-19 Flu Cold Allergies
Onset of symptoms Gradual Abrupt Either Varies
Cough Common (dry) Common (dry) Sometimes, mild Sometimes
Body aches, headache Common Common Common Sometimes (headache)
Fatigue Common Common Sometimes Sometimes
Sneezing Not common Not common Common Common
Sore throat Common Sometimes Common Sometimes
Runny nose Sometimes Sometimes Common Common
Shortness of breath Sometimes Sometimes Rare Sometimes
Fever and chills Common Common Rare or mild No
Diarrhea Gradual Abrupt Either Varies
Nausea, vomiting Rare Sometimes No No
Loss of taste or smell Common Sometimes (congestion) Sometimes (congestion) Sometimes (congestion)
Itchy nose, eyes No No No Common

The table below provides some common over-the-counter medication and treatment options to help with your illness symptoms. These do not treat the virus, but they can sometimes make you more comfortable during your illness. You can purchase these medications at the UHS pharmacy or local stores.

Symptoms Suggested treatment Over-the-counter medication options
Body aches, headaches, fever Pain and inflammation treatment, rest and fluids Ibuprofen (Advil) and/or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Runny nose, sinus congestion Decongestants, antihistamines, nasal steroids Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), Claritin, Zyrtec, Benadryl, Flonase, Nasonex
Sore throat Pain management, throat lozenges, honey, gargling warm salt water Ibuprofen (Advil) and/or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Cough Decongestant and/or expectorant. Honey (2 tablespoons in a cup of tea) Mucinex, dextromethorphan, guaifenesin
Itchy nose, eyes Antihistamines, see pharmacy page for treating seasonal allergies Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra

You can schedule with UHS online by going to your MyUOHealth portal. If there are no appointments available through the portal, call 541-346-2770 to speak with a patient services representative or a triage nurse.

If UHS is closed, there are urgent care options in the community, and an emergency department two blocks from campus. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.