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Respiratory infections

No matter what virus — the common cold, flu, RSV, or COVID-19 — Kaiser Permanente can help prevent, diagnose, and treat an infection with high-quality, personalized care for all that is you.

What is a respiratory infection?

It’s a disease that affects the upper respiratory system (nose, mouth, sinuses, and throat) or lower respiratory system (lungs and airways). 


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Common respiratory viruses



Influenza, or the flu, is a respiratory infection caused by a flu virus. Flu symptoms can be mild, like those of the common cold, or more severe.

Learn more about the flu



COVID-19 is caused by a highly infectious virus. This disease affects the lungs and airways. Symptoms include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Learn more about COVID-19



Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus. It usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. RSV can also lead to more serious lung infections.

Learn more about RSV

Our respiratory care

At Kaiser Permanente, you’ll get world-class care from an experienced team of doctors. They use evidence-based care and advanced technology to prevent, diagnose, and treat a wide range of respiratory infections. And in 2022, they ranked in the top 10% nationally for providing appropriate care to children with upper respiratory infections.1

Your personal doctor and, if needed, respiratory care team work together to coordinate your care every step of the way.

To prevent a respiratory infection, wash your hands often and stay up to date with your vaccinations. Your care team can guide you to tools and resources that can help lower your risk of getting a respiratory disease. 

You have many convenient ways to get care, including urgent and emergency care for symptoms that need immediate attention. And if you experience symptoms when you’re away from home, you’re covered for urgent and emergency care anywhere in the world.

Medical care is not one-size-fits-all. That’s why our care teams take the time to know you and your medical history, needs, and personal preferences when designing the best treatment plan for you. 


Tools and resources

Preventive care, diagnostic tests, after-treatment support — you have access to tools and resources to help you get and stay healthy.
Know the symptoms

See the most common signs and symptoms of the common cold, the flu, RSV, and COVID-19.

Seasonal vaccines

Get the facts about seasonal vaccines, including when and how to get yours.

COVID-19 testing

Find out when you should use a COVID-19 home antigen test and what the results mean.

Health classes and programs

Get practical healthy lifestyle advice in person, over the phone, or online.2

What to do if you feel sick


It’s best to stay home when you feel sick to avoid spreading your infection to others. Cover your cough and wear a mask when you need to leave home.

If you’re at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19, take a COVID-19 home antigen test when you start to feel symptoms of a respiratory infection. If your test result is positive, ask your doctor about COVID-19 medication.

Keep track of how you’re feeling. For most healthy people, respiratory infections like the flu, RSV, and COVID-19 will go away in about 7 to 10 days. If you’re sick for longer than that, have severe symptoms, or are at high risk for complications, contact your doctor. Learn more about when to seek care.

Your doctor won’t prescribe antibiotics for a cold or flu as they don’t work on viruses. You can manage your or your child’s symptoms by:

  • Getting extra rest
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever or pain3
  • Flushing nostrils with saline nasal drops

Respiratory infection health guides

Explore our health guides by selecting a respiratory infection below. You’ll find practical information and the various types of self-care and medical attention that each illness needs.

Respiratory health articles


1Kaiser Permanente 2022 HEDIS® scores. Benchmarks provided by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) Quality Compass® and represent all lines of business. Kaiser Permanente combined region scores were provided by the Kaiser Permanente Department of Care and Service Quality. The source for data contained in this publication is Quality Compass 2022 and is used with the permission of NCQA. Quality Compass 2022 includes certain CAHPS data. Any data display, analysis, interpretation, or conclusion based on these data is solely that of the authors, and NCQA specifically disclaims responsibility for any such display, analysis, interpretation, or conclusion. Quality Compass® and HEDIS® are registered trademarks of NCQA. CAHPS® is a registered trademark of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
2Some members may have to pay a fee for certain classes.
3Kaiser Permanente doesn’t endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.