How is influenza (flu) treated?

Most people with influenza who are otherwise healthy do not need special drugs or treatments. If you have the flu, you should:

  • Rest.
  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • Eat a light diet.
  • Stay at home.
  • Take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol®) to reduce fever and relieve muscle aches.

Note: Adults should not give aspirin to children or adolescents with fevers due to the association with Reye's syndrome, a rare disorder that causes brain and liver damage.

Can you get medicine for influenza (flu)?

If you are seriously ill, your doctor might order an antiviral drug for you. Antiviral drugs for influenza include oseltamivir phosphate (Tamiflu®); zanamivir (Relenza®); peramivir (Rapivap®); and baloxavir (Xofluza®).

Oseltamivir phosphate

This drug is approved to treat influenza in patients who are two weeks of age and older, and it works best in people who have had the flu for fewer than two days. It is also approved to prevent flu in patients who are one year of age and older. There is a generic version of this product available, but it costs nearly as much as the brand name. Potential side effects include nausea, vomiting, nosebleeds, headaches and tiredness.

Zanamivir

This drug is approved to treat flu in patients seven years old and older, and to prevent flu in patients who are five and older. This product is inhaled and not recommended for people who have respiratory illnesses like COPD or asthma. Common side effects include headaches, nausea, diarrhea, nose irritation and vomiting.

Peramivir

This drug is approved to treat flu in people 2 years old and older. This product is given into the vein (intravenously) by a healthcare provider. A common side effect from peramivir is diarrhea.

Baloxavir

This drug, a pill, is approved to treat flu in people 12 years old and older who are otherwise healthy and in people who are at higher risk of developing influenza-related complications. Common side effects are diarrhea, bronchitis, nausea and headaches.

The side effects mentioned for the above drugs are only the most common. There are other possible side effects. As with any type of medication, you might be allergic. Please discuss side effects with your doctor or pharmacist.

Amantadine and rimantidine have also been approved to treat influenza, but flu viruses are widely resistant to them.

What complications are associated with influenza (flu)?

Infections from bacteria are more likely when you have influenza. Healthcare providers treat these bacterial infections with antibiotic drugs. Common secondary infections include:

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