12 Essentials to Get from Your Pharmacy This Cold and Flu Season

12 Essentials to Get from Your Pharmacy This Cold and Flu Season
December 1, 2023
RxLocal Team

While the colder months bring cozy nights, family time, and plenty of holiday desserts to go around, they also bring something that probably isn’t on your Christmas list: cold and flu season.

The CDC estimates that there are between 9 and 45 million cases of the flu every year and over 1 billion cases of the common cold. Many of these cases take place between December and February, when cold and flu season peaks.

Those all-too-familiar sniffles, coughs, and aches and pains are common right around this time, but if you find yourself feeling sick, you can stock up on supplies from your local pharmacy.

In addition to your annual flu shot (and any other routine vaccine you need), your pharmacy offers a number of essentials to fight off the cold and flu.

Here are just a few to pick up on your next trip:

1. Over-the-Counter Cold and Flu Medicine

Aside from shots and prescriptions, pharmacies are most well-known for over-the-counter (OTC) medications — which you should always have on hand during cold and flu season.

Your local pharmacy likely carries a variety of medications, from pain relievers to decongestants to antihistamines. If you aren’t sure which medication to take for your symptoms, talk to your pharmacist.

Select pharmacies even offer in-house flu testing that can help you get a diagnosis and, more importantly, get the medications you need to get back on your feet faster.

2. Cough Drops 

In the event your seasonal sickness comes with a cough, you can grab a bag of cough drops or lozenges at your pharmacy. These lozenges can soothe your sore throat and suppress a cough long enough for you to get some relief. 

3. Sleep Aids

If your cold and flu symptoms keep you from some much-needed Zs, sleep aids can be helpful. Non-prescription sleep aids allow you to settle into sleep and let your body regenerate.

Just remember to follow the dosing instructions carefully so you don’t feel groggy the next day. If you’re struggling with ongoing sleeping issues, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. 

4. Saline Sprays

If a stuffy nose has you down, grab a nasal spray from the cold and flu aisle. Saline sprays are a great natural option, as they contain non-medicated solutions of salt and purified water.

These sprays are gentle, safe for regular use, and recommended year-round: any time you experience allergies, a cold, or dry nasal passages.

In the event that you need something stronger, medicated nasal sprays can provide another form of relief.

5. Humidifiers

On the note of dry nasal passages, cold and flu symptoms can often exacerbate dryness. Luckily, a humidifier from your local pharmacy can ease any discomfort.

Humidifiers work by releasing moisture into the air, effectively increasing humidity levels in your home and keeping you hydrated. Aside from dryness, a humidifier can also alleviate congestion or throat irritation you may have.

6. Vapor Rub

Topical vapor rub can also be a great solution if you’re experiencing nasal or chest congestion and dryness.

Vapor rubs can be massaged onto the chest or throat to provide a soothing that helps ease congestion and makes it easier to breathe. This can be especially helpful at night, when congestion tends to be worse.

7. Hot and Cold Packs

If you experience pesky aches and pains from the flu, hot and cold packs can be your best friend. Heating pads relax sore muscles and alleviate tension, while cold packs reduce inflammation and provide relief from fever-related discomfort.

For best results, use hot and cold packs interchangeably.

8. Tissues

If there’s any cold and flu staple you should have, it’s tissues. Grab a box of Kleenex to keep your runny nose at bay and ensure you don’t spread germs.

9. Thermometers

If you feel you may have a fever, make sure you have a thermometer on hand. A temperature of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit is considered a fever. If you’re in the market for a thermometer, your pharmacy carries digital, ear, and forehead thermometers.

10. Hand Sanitizer

If you share a space with another person — and even if you don’t — you might want to keep hand sanitizer nearby. Reapply when you blow your nose, cough, or sneeze.

11. Hydration

Any time you’re sick, but especially when you have a cold or the flu, it’s essential to stay hydrated. In addition to drinking plenty of water, you can also stock up on rehydration solutions, electrolyte drinks, and herbal teas.

These drinks can keep your fluid levels up and make sure you have the proper electrolyte balance. 

12. Vitamins and Supplements

Another way to get your health back on track is to take vitamins and supplements to support your immune system. Vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea are all immune boosters. However, before starting any new supplement, talk to your pharmacist.


While you should always take preventative measures to keep yourself from getting sick — eating well, exercising often, and boosting your immune system — if you do fall ill this holiday season, these cold and flu essentials can help.

You can find each of these items (and more) at your local independent pharmacy, including a team of knowledgeable pharmacists and techs that can help you find the right treatments this cold and flu season and beyond.

Don’t have a local pharmacy, or looking to find a new one? Consult our Pharmacy Finder here.