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Antiviral drugs can reduce flu's symptoms and help you recover quicker

Published in Family Medicine, Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Penelope Smith,MD Author: Penelope Smith, MD

CentraCare Clinic - Health Plaza Family Medicine

Tis the season for sneezing. (And body aches, fever and coughing, too).

Outbreaks of the flu in Minnesota have occurred most frequently in late December, January and into February. But every flu season is different. And flu activity can change on a week-to-week basis.

View the latest flu activity information from the Minnesota Department of Health.

But if you do get the flu, antiviral drugs – like Tamiflu® – are available to help you recover from your illness. It is estimated that antiviral drugs can decrease your symptoms and help you recover from the flu one to two days sooner.

Not many people may be familiar with antiviral drugs, so here are 10 quick facts to learn more about them.

  1. Antiviral drugs are different from your flu shot. The vaccine works to help keep you from getting the flu. Antiviral drugs are not a substitute for the flu shot – and you should get vaccinated every year yet. But antiviral drugs can help you treat your flu symptoms if you do get sick.
  2. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. The flu is a virus, but antibiotics treat only bacterial infections.
  3. Antiviral drugs are not available over-the-counter. To get them, you will need to get a prescription from your health care provider. Before prescribing, your doctor may want to do a test to confirm that you have the flu. And to work well, you should start taking antiviral drugs no more than 48 hours after you start feeling flu symptoms.
  4. Tamiflu® is the most well-known antiviral drug – but there are three different ones your health care provider could prescribe for you. He or she can help determine which is the right one for you.
  5. Most people prescribed Tamiflu® as a pill or a liquid need to be taken for five days. Although some people who get severe flu symptoms may need to take the medication longer. Your health care provider can help determine exactly how long you should take your antiviral drug.
  6. Children can be prescribed antiviral drugs too. Tamiflu® has been approved by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics for the treatment of flu in kids as young as two weeks old.
  7. Pregnant women can take Tamiflu®, too. If you are pregnant and get the flu, talk with your OB/GYN health care provider if you could benefit from taking an antiviral drug.
  8. The CDC has recommended that antiviral drugs be used early in those who are at high risk of getting the flu. Among these include young children and those who are 65 and older.
  9. Some individuals with certain health conditions are also at high risk — like asthma, COPD, heart disease and those with HIV/AIDS or other immune system diseases. View the full list from the CDC of those who are at high risk from the flu.
  10. Like many medications – there are side effects that are possible from taking antiviral drugs. Although they are uncommon, talk to your provider about these side effects and what to do if you experience any of them.

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