Drugs and Treatments For the Flu
influenza (the flu) centers on relieving major symptoms until they go away. Antibiotics are useless in fighting the
problem since the flu is caused by a virus. However, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics
to treat any secondary bacterial infections that may be present. In addition, some
combination of self-care and medication to treat your symptoms will be
Self-Care Treatments for Flu
In most cases, the
flu just needs to run its course. The best advice for people sick with the flu
is to get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids. You may not have much of an
appetite, but it’s important to eat regular meals to keep up your strength.
Stay home from work or school and don’t go back until your symptoms subside.
To bring down a
fever, place a cool, damp washcloth on your forehead or take a cool bath. Over-the-counter
pain relievers and fever reducers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen
(Motrin) may also help to bring a fever down.
Have a bowl of hot
soup to relieve nasal congestion. Gargle with warm salt water to soothe a sore
throat. Avoid alcohol and don’t smoke.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications
won’t shorten the duration of the flu, but they can help to alleviate symptoms.
Over-the-counter pain relievers can alleviate the headache and
back and muscle pain that often accompany the flu. Included in this category
never be given to children under the age of 18 if they are exhibiting flu-like
symptoms. It could cause Reye’s syndrome. This is a rare but serious disease
and can sometimes be fatal.
work to inhibit the cough reflex. This makes them useful in controlling dry coughs
where there is no mucus. An example of this drug category is dextromethorphan
relieve the stuffy nose that often accompanies the flu. Some decongestants
found in over-the-counter flu medications include pseudoephedrine (in Sudafed)
and phenylephrine (in DayQuil).
hypertension should avoid this type of medication. It may increase blood
Itchy eyes and
runny noses are not common flu symptoms. However, if they are present
antihistamines can help to minimize their discomfort.
First-generation antihistamines have sedative effects that may
help you to sleep as well. Examples include:
- brompheniramine (Dimetapp)
- dimenhydrinate (Dramamine)
To avoid these
sedative effects, you may want to try second-generation medications. Two types are
available at local pharmacies. These include cetirizine (Zyrtec) and loratadine
Many OTC cold and flu
medications combine two or more categories of drugs to treat a variety of
symptoms at the same time. A walk down the cold and flu aisle at your local pharmacy
will show you the variety.
Prescription Medications: Antiviral Drugs
(prescription) drugs can help to lessen flu symptoms and prevent related
complications. These drugs prevent the virus from growing and replicating. The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) also suggests that these drugs may help to make the virus
effectiveness, you should receive an antiviral drug within the first 48 hours
after infection. According to the CDC, antiviral
medications can also shorten the duration of the flu if taken right away.
During a flu
outbreak, a doctor will often give an antiviral along with the flu vaccine to
high-risk individuals. This combination will help to bolster the patients’ defenses
People who are
unable to be vaccinated can maximize their body’s defenses by taking an
antiviral. These individuals include infants under 6 months old and people who
are allergic to the vaccine.
medications are also used in flu prevention. According to the CDC, they have a 70-90
percent success rate in preventing the flu.
However, the CDC advises that these
medications not be taken in place of your annual flu vaccine. They also warn
that overusing these types of medications can increase your body’s resistance
to their effectiveness. It can also limit the amount available for those
high-risk individuals who need this medication to prevent serious flu-related
Commonly Prescribed Antiviral Medications
medications most commonly prescribed are zanamivir (Relenza) or oseltamivir
(Tamiflu). Zanamivir is FDA-approved to treat flu in people who are 7 or older
and to prevent flu in people who are 5 or older. Oseltamivir is FDA-approved to
treat and prevent the flu in individuals who are 1 and older.
administered via an inhaler and oseltamivir is taken orally in a pill form.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you should not
take zanamivir if you have any type of chronic respiratory problem, such as
asthma or lung disease.
The FDA also warns
that Tamiflu can put people (especially children) at risk for confusion and
can cause unwanted side effects, including:
- trouble breathing
potential medication side effects with your doctor.
The Flu Vaccine
While not exactly a
treatment, a yearly flu shot is highly effective in helping an individual avoid
the flu. The CDC recommends that
everyone 6 months of age and older get a yearly flu shot.
The best time to be
vaccinated is in October or November. This gives your body time to develop
antibodies to the flu virus by peak flu season. Peak flu season is between
December and March.
The flu vaccine is
not for everyone. Consult your doctor when deciding whether or not members of
your family should receive this vaccination.
Learn more about drugs to treat flu symptoms.