Best Ways to Treat Cold, Flu Viruses: Doctors’ Guide to Care

Dec 07, 2022

You have a sore throat or new cough. Your nose is stuffy or runny and you are feeling tired and achy. Maybe you spiked a fever.

Whether your symptoms turn out to be a sign of the cold, flu, COVID-19 or RSV, are you prepared to spend a few days – or even longer – recuperating? While we hope you make it through fall and winter without even a sniffle, being ready can help you avoid making late-night trips to the pharmacy to get medications or trying to find a working thermometer in your medicine cabinet.

As we embark on what appears to be a severe viral season, here is an overview of how to stock your medicine cabinet, what supplies to have on hand at home to care for yourself and your family members, and advice on preventing illness and when to seek medical care online or in person.

Get Vaccinated

The best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu, COVID-19 and other illness is to make sure everyone is up to date on vaccinations.

The flu shot is updated every year, so if you were vaccinated in 2021, you do need to be vaccinated again this season. The best time to get the flu shot is now. The shot takes about two weeks to work in your body, so I urge you to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Historically, flu season has peaked in December and January, but we already are seeing flu activity increasing in the United States. The 2020-21 and 2021-22 flu seasons were particularly mild, due in large part to people taking precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19. But as fewer people wear masks and take other precautions, flu cases are increasing.

The COVID-19 booster shot has been updated and is now available for everyone ages 5 and up. The new shot is known as a bivalent vaccine because it protects against the original strain of COVID-19 as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the Omicron variant.

People may choose to get the flu shot and the COVID-19 shot at the same time, or on different days. Either approach is safe and effective.

We also urge parents to ensure their children are up to date on other vaccines, such as pertussis, chickenpox, and polio.

Kaiser Permanente members can schedule vaccine appointments at, on the KP app or by calling 1-800-777-7904.

Stock Your Medicine Cabinet

We’ve all been there: It’s the middle of the night, you feel lousy, you go to the medicine cabinet and you don’t have acetaminophen, or that cough syrup expired two years ago. Now is the time to go through your medicine cabinet, discard expired medications and replenish your supply. When taking these medications, don’t exceed the daily maximum doses. We suggest having:

  • Acetaminophen
  • NSAIDS. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), are pain relievers and fever reducers that also relieve inflammation in the body.
  • Decongestants
  • Cough drops and throat lozenges
  • Vitamins and supplements

Prepare Sick-Day Essentials

In addition to replenishing your medicine cabinet, make sure you have other sick-day essentials on hand, like:

  • COVID-19 rapid tests kits
  • Facemasks
  • Soft tissues
  • Hand soap and hand sanitizer
  • Thermometer
  • Humidifier

How to Take Care of Yourself, Loved Ones at Home

The majority of patients who get sick with a cold, flu, COVID-19 or RSV will be able to safely recuperate from their own homes and will start feeling better in three to five days.

  • If you are sick, stay home and rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Treat your symptoms. If you have aches and pains, take a pain reliever. If a fever is making you feel miserable, take a fever reducer. If you have a sore throat, try a lozenge or gargle with warm salt water.

Ways to Get Care at Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente offers many convenient ways for patients to get care. To learn more about the different options of care available to you, visit

And to read more about ways to treat your symptoms at home, click here.

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