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.7 Amantadine 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.6 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.
- Flu: Should I Take Antiviral Medicine?
Two types of antiviral medicines can treat influenza
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.
people do not need antiviral medicines. They recover from influenza without
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:
- Antibiotics. For more information, see the
Using Antibiotics Wisely.
- Large doses of
vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C or zinc.
- Herbal remedies,
such as echinacea.