The best flu medicine would be to rest and get plenty of fluids. Most symptoms of flu such as a fever, a runny nose, and blocked sinuses can be managed by acetaminophen and antihistamine medications. However, if the patient has a severe infection or is at a higher risk of complications, the physician may prescribe the following antivirals:
Antiviral drugs can shorten the patient’s illness by about a day. They also prevent severe complications of flu such as pneumonia. However, these have a higher incidence of side effects than other antibiotics. Therefore, take them only if really required.
Antiviral drugs should be started within 2 days of getting sick to be effective.
Benefits of taking antiviral drugs include:
- Antiviral drugs shorten the time of being sick by about 1 day if a patient takes them within 2 days.
- They reduce the risk of ear infection, respiratory complications, and hospitalization.
- They reduce the risk of severe flu complications such as pneumonia.
- Early antiviral treatment can reduce the risk of death in a patient who is hospitalized.
How long should antiviral drugs be taken?
The duration for different drugs to treat flu varies as follows:
- Oseltamivir or inhaled zanamivir: A patient should take this drug for 5 days.
- Intravenous peramivir or oral Baloxavir: The doctor gives these drugs for 1 day.
The doctor will usually give oseltamivir to a patient who is hospitalized. Some patients may require more than 5 days of oseltamivir therapy.
Who should take antiviral drugs?
The doctor should immediately start antiviral drugs in a patient who is hospitalized. Moreover, the doctor should also give these to a patient with severe flu symptoms and who is at a high risk of flu complications. Below is a list of health and age factors that likely increases a patient’s risk of flu complications:
- Blood disorders such as sickle cell disease
- Neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions
- Heart disease such as:
- Metabolic disorders such as:
- Inherited metabolic disorders
- Mitochondrial disorders
- Chronic lung disease such as:
- Endocrine disorders such as diabetes mellitus
- Kidney diseases
- Liver diseases
- Obesity with a higher body mass index (BMI; >40)
- People younger than 19 years of age who are on long-term aspirin- or salicylate-containing medications
- A weak immune system due to diseases (human immunodeficiency virus [HIV] or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS] or some cancers such as leukemia) or medications
Other groups that are at a high risk of flu include:
What are the potential side effects of antiviral drugs?
The side effects may differ for each drug. The side effects of these drugs include:
What are the preventive measures to be taken if you are sick with flu?
A patient should take the following measures if they observe any symptoms of flu:
- They should wash their hands often for 20 seconds with soap and water. They should use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable.
- They should make sure to cough and sneeze into the sleeves of the elbow.
- They should limit their contact with others while they are sick to prevent the risk of infection.
- They should clean and disinfect the surfaces and objects contaminated with germs such as flu.
- They should get an annual flu shot provided they have no contraindications for the same.
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