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Influenza (Seasonal Flu) - Medications

Some antiviral medicines reduce the severity and shorten the duration of influenza (flu) symptoms by 1 to 1½ days if given within 48 hours of the first symptoms.1 These medicines are not intended to substitute for getting a flu vaccine each year. Rather, antiviral medicines may help control outbreaks and prevent the spread of infection, especially in people at high risk for flu complications.

The antiviral medicines oseltamivir and zanamivir are used to prevent and treat influenza A and B infections. They can reduce the severity and shorten the duration of flu symptoms.6Amantadine and rimantadine have been used to help prevent and treat the flu caused by influenza A (but not influenza B) infection. But for the past few years the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised doctors not to use amantadine or rimantadine to treat or prevent the flu.5 These medicines have not worked against most types of the flu virus. It is important to talk with your doctor about the medicine that is best for you.

dplink.gif Flu: Should I Take Antiviral Medicine?

Medicine choices

Two types of antiviral medicines can treat influenza infections:

  • Amantadine or Rimantadine (used to prevent or treat influenza A infections)
  • Oseltamivir or Zanamivir (used to treat and prevent influenza A and B infections)

What to think about

The effectiveness of antiviral medicines can vary from year to year. Some years a medicine may not work against the types of influenza virus causing symptoms. Your doctor can help you decide whether antiviral medicines are likely to help you.

Most people do not need antiviral medicines. They recover from influenza without having complications.

But since most people who have the flu feel quite sick, some people may choose to take medicine even if they are at low risk for complications.

You cannot prevent the flu or make yourself feel better faster by taking:

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: January 31, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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