We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: your best protection against the flu is getting the flu vaccine. However, while the flu shot is very effective in preventing the types of flu it was designed to, it is still possible to get a different strain. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but there are newer treatments, called antivirals, that can help reduce the length and severity of the illness. Here’s what you need to know about antiviral treatment.
What are Antivirals?
Antivirals are medications designed to attack the flu virus in your body. They can reduce the severity of your symptoms and slightly reduce the length of time you are sick.
While most healthy adults successfully recover from the flu with bed rest and over-the-counter medications, people in high-risk groups can especially benefit from the use of antivirals to reduce the risk of complications and hospitalization.
There are currently four FDA-approved antiviral drugs recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for use this year. Their trade names are:
It’s important to note that antivirals are not the same as antibiotics. The flu is caused by a virus, and antibiotics only treat bacterial infections.
How Do I Get Antiviral Treatment?
Antivirals are only available with a prescription. If you suspect you have the flu, don’t delay in seeing your health care provider. The medications work most effectively if they are given within the first couple days of the onset of the flu.
If you are diagnosed with the flu, your provider will choose the best antiviral for you based on a number of factors, such as your age and health considerations (breathing conditions, pregnancy, etc.). The administration of treatment varies depending on the medication as well and may include liquid suspensions, pills, inhalers and intravenous.
What Are the Benefits & Drawbacks of Antivirals?
Because they reduce the severity and length of the illness, the benefits of antivirals are the greatest for people at high risk of developing complications or requiring hospitalization. This includes children under age two, adults over age 65, and people with serious health conditions such as asthma, cancer, heart disease or weakened immune systems, among others.
The drawbacks of antivirals are that they are most effective when taken within the first 48 hours of the onset of illness, although some benefits may still be seen after that. And, as with all medications, there is a risk of side effects. The most common include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which vary by medication.
The More You Know
We believe it’s important for you to know your options and what to expect from the medications you are taking. If you have any questions about your prescriptions, give us a call to speak with one of our pharmacists. And remember, if you are too sick to pick up your prescription, we offer free delivery!