Is it COVID or a Cold? Self-Care Tips and the Best Way to Reduce Spreading Germs

A man, sitting on a couch, covered with a blanket and coughing.

Last year with more people wearing masks because of mandates, there were significantly fewer cases of the common cold and flu. Other habits that help to reduce infections include handwashing, practicing social distancing, and being more aware of how germs spread from one person to another.

“Symptoms of runny nose, nasal congestion, and cough, are particularly worrisome for spreading of viruses. If you have these symptoms, even if mild, wearing a mask in public and getting tested for COVID are both important measures," says Marika Henegan, MD, medical director of Urgent Primary Care and Keene Ambulatory Respiratory Evaluation Service (KARES). "Home measures that have helped in the past with cold and flu symptoms are still a great idea," she says. "But, adding a COVID test to your home plan can really help us determine how best to care for you and how long you should stay home."

You can self-schedule a COVID-19 test or seek assistance from your Primary Care Provider's office at Cheshire via your myD-H account, or call your primary care team for assistance, to discuss your symptoms, or arrange for a virtual visit. If you feel you need medical care today, call the Urgent Visits team at 603-354-5484.

COVID-19 symptoms like headaches, runny noses, and sore throats overlap with some allergy, cold, and flu symptoms. So, now that mask mandates are no longer in effect and the flu and cold seasons are upon us, we need to be especially careful not to spread viruses.

Staying healthy and preventing illness

There are many things you can do to stay healthy. These tips will benefit you and others since they will help reduce the chance of spreading germs. If you have children, these tips are important for them to follow also.

  • Prioritize healthy habits like doing regular, moderate exercise, getting 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep, and eating nutritious food.
  • If you haven’t already, please make sure you, your children, and other loved ones get vaccinated for COVID-19 and flu.
  • Thoroughly wash or sanitize your hands regularly.
  • Disinfect high-touch objects like your phone.
  • Stop touching your face — especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Wear a mask when you are around others who may not be vaccinated or who have any symptoms that could be allergies or a cold.

What to do if you have a cold, flu, or possibly COVID symptoms

If you’re suffering from upper respiratory infection symptoms such as nasal congestion, sore throat, or cough, stay home and follow the steps on D-HH's Important tips for both self-quarantine and self-isolation and the CDC's What to Do If You are Sick page.

You may also need to seek medical advice from your Primary Care team. Before a provider sees you, they may require you to be tested for COVID-19. They may also schedule a Virtual Visit for you, so you don’t need to come into the office for an appointment. These steps help prevent spreading COVID-19, since it is very contagious, and help limit the spread of other germs.


When you have allergy, cold, or possible COVID-19 symptoms, it’s best to stay home and take care of yourself. You’ll be able to fight whatever is making you sick faster by resting and staying well-hydrated with water and caffeine-free tea. Staying home gives you downtime to allow your body to fight the virus and will stop you from spreading whatever you have to others.

“In Pediatrics, we know it is stressful when your child is sick, but we know with medical advice from a provider, parents can manage most illnesses at home,” says Pediatrician Gerri Rubin, MD. “Telehealth — a Virtual Visit — is an excellent way for us to assess the severity of illness so you will know if your child can stay home safely. We encourage all children five years and older to get the COVID vaccine at one of Cheshire's upcoming pediatric vaccination clinics, a clinic at their school, or a local pharmacy."

The same advice Dr. Rubin shares for children is also true for adults.