Flu Treatment

Influenza (Flu) Treatment

Yes! There are prescription medications called “antiviral drugs” that can be used to treat flu illness. CDC recommends prompt treatment for people who have flu or suspected flu and who are at greater risk of serious flu complications (including people with asthma, diabetes, and heart disease).

Flu antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid, an inhaled powder, or an intravenous solution) that fight against flu viruses in your body. They are not available over the counter, and you can only get them with a prescription from a health care provider. Flu antiviral drugs only work to treat flu and are not meant to fight against bacterial infections or other infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

When treatment is started within 2 days of becoming sick with flu symptoms, these medicines can lessen fever and flu symptoms and shorten the time you are sick. When started early, these treatments might also prevent serious flu complications such as ear infections in children and respiratory complications like pneumonia requiring antibiotics in adults.

There are 4 FDA-approved drugs recommended by CDC to treat flu this season:

  1. Oseltamivir phosphate (Tamiflu)
    Generic Oseltamivir and Tamiflu are available as a pill or liquid for early treatment in adults and children 14 days and older. Oseltamivir is given twice a day for 5 days.
  2. Zanamivir (Relenza)
    Relenza is a powder medication that is inhaled for early treatment in people 7 years and older. Relenza is administered using an inhaler device and is not recommended for people with breathing problems like asthma or CODP. Zanamivir is given twice a day for 5 days.
  3. Peramivir (Rapivab)
    Rapivab is given once intravenously by a health care provider for early treatment in people 6 months and older.
  4. Baloxavir marboxil (Xofluza)
    Xofluza is pill given as a single dose by mouth for early treatment in children 5 years to less than 12 years old who do not have any chronic medical conditions, and for all people aged 12 years and older. Xofluza is not recommended in pregnant or lactating people, outpatients with complicated or progressive illnesses, or hospitalized patients.

Side effects vary between medications. The most common side effects for Oseltamivir are nausea and vomiting. Zanamivir can cause bronchospasm, and peramivir can cause diarrhea. Your health care provider can give you more information about these drugs or you can check on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website or the manufacturer’s package insert.

It is very important that medicines are started as soon as possible to treat patients who are hospitalized with flu, people who are very sick with flu but do not need to be hospitalized, and people at higher risk of serious flu complications based on their age or health if they develop flu symptoms. Following is a list of all the health and age factors that are known to increase a person’s risk of getting serious complications from flu:

  • Asthma
  • Neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions
  • Blood disorders (e.g. sickle cell disease)
  • Chronic lung disease (e.g. COPD, cystic fibrosis)
  • Endocrine disease (e.g. diabetes)
  • Heart disease (e.g. congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease)
  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver disorders
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Obesity with a BMI of 40 or greater
  • People younger than 19 years of age on long-term aspirin or salicylate-containing medications
  • Immunocompromising conditions (e.g. HIV/AIDS; cancers such as leukemia; treatments that suppress the immune system such as chemotherapy, radiation treatment, chronic corticosteroids)

Other people at higher risk from flu:

  • Adults 65 years and older
  • Children younger than 2 years old
  • Pregnant people and women up to 2 weeks after the end of pregnancy
  • Certain racial and ethnic minority groups, including non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic or Latino, and American Indian or Alaska Native persons
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

Reference: CDC Flu Treatment