Acute Influenza Infection
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at higher risk of serious flu complications. There are two main types of influenza (flu) viruses: Types A and B. The influenza A and B viruses that routinely spread in people (human influenza viruses) are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.
If you get sick with flu, antiviral drugs may be a treatment option. Check with your doctor promptly if you are at higher risk of serious flu complications and you get flu symptoms. People at higher risk of flu complications include young children, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant people, and those with certain medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.
When used for treatment, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by 1 or 2 days. They also can prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia. For people at higher risk of serious flu complications, treatment with antiviral drugs can mean the difference between milder or more serious illness possibly resulting in a hospital stay. CDC recommends prompt treatment for people who have flu or suspected flu and who are at higher risk of serious flu complications.
Influenza (flu) can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
fever* or feeling feverish/chills
runny or stuffy nose
muscle or body aches
some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
Can flu be treated?
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 higher risk of serious flu complications, such as people with asthma, diabetes (including gestational diabetes), or heart disease.
What are flu antiviral drugs?
Flu antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid, an inhaled powder, or an intravenous solution) that fight against flu viruses in your body. Antiviral drugs are not sold over the counter. You can only get them if you have a prescription from a health care provider. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics, which fight against bacterial infections.
Can pregnant people take antiviral drugs?
Yes. Oral oseltamivir is recommended for treatment of pregnant people with flu because compared to other recommended antiviral medications, it has the most studies available to suggest that it is safe and beneficial during pregnancy. Baloxavir is not recommended for pregnant people or while breastfeeding, as there are no available efficacy or safety data.
When should antiviral drugs be taken for treatment?
Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when started within two days of getting sick. However, starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person is in a group at high risk for serious complications or is very sick from flu (for example, hospitalized from flu). Follow your health care provider’s instructions for taking these drugs. These antiviral drugs are given in different ways and are approved for different ages.
How long should antiviral drugs be taken?
To treat flu, oseltamivir and zanamivir are usually taken for 5 days, although people hospitalized with flu may need the medicine for longer than 5 days. Peramivir is given once intravenously. Baloxavir is given as a single dose.
Following Test and Treat
The pharmacist will follow up with you in 36-72 hours of treatment for evaluation. If you have any worsening of symptoms, complications or experiencing any side effects. Please contact your primary physician immediately.