First, I’d like to start with a disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I’m not a health professional of any kind nor have I ever played one on T.V. But I wanted to share something with everybody, because it may help some of you this flu season.
I got a call from my mom the other day. My joy at hearing her voice was quickly replaced with concern.She sounded horrible! It was her 5th day of the flu. She had gone to the doctor’s office the day before, where they confirmed that she had the flu. That’s what she had expected to hear. She had also hoped to get a prescription for antivirals, but her doctor said it was too late for an antiviral medication to do much good.
But, do antiviral medications really work? I wondered as she continued talking. It turns out “yes.” If taken within the first two days of symptoms, these drugs can shorten the length of illness, reduce the severity of symptoms, and decrease your risk of flu related medical complications.
Turns out my 8 year old niece is case in point. She became sick the same day as my mom. She was taken to the doctor within a few hours of showing symptoms, diagnosed, and given an antiviral medication. She was feeling markedly better 24 hours later.
So, moral of the story: Antivirals help treat the flu, and they need to be given early for them to be worth it.
In case you forgot all the awful symptoms, they can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people even get nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. You feel absolutely horrid. For days! The symptoms can last 1-2 weeks, though the first 3-4 days are usually the worst.
Currently, there are three FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs to treat influenza:
oseltamivir (available as a generic version or under the trade name Tamiflu®), zanamivir (trade name Relenza®), and peramivir (trade name Rapivab®). These drugs are most effective if used in the first 48 hours of flu symptoms. How the antivirals are administered (orally as pills or liquid, inhaled, or intravenously), number of doses, and the number of days administered varies by medication and age of patient.
Who should take the antivirals? They can be helpful for anyone who comes down with the flu, but are especially important for those most at risk for potentially deadly flu related complications. Those who are very young, very old, pregnant, already sick from another illness, have an ongoing health condition (like asthma), or are immunocompromised are most at risk. Please check out the page put out by the CDC for a more complete list of specific conditions and situations that increase the risk of complications.
A comprehensive approach to the flu is best. Make sure you get your yearly flu shot. The effectiveness varies, but they still provide a first line of defense. Make sure you wash your hands often, and avoid flu hotspots is possible. And, for those at the highest risk, discuss with your doctor the usefulness of taking antivirals as a preventative measure.
If you get sick, see your doctor if you are in a high risk group or hope to make use of antivirals. Otherwise, please stay home so you don’t make others sick. Take care of yourself by drinking plenty of fluids, and getting plenty of rest. Treat your symptoms with over the counter flu medications (acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and aches and pains, antihistamines and/or decongestants for nasal symptoms and congestion.).
So please, take care of yourself and keep an eye on you and your loved ones this flu season. For you and their health. Teach your little ones preventative things like washing hands and remember to keep up with the other preventatives to keep everyone safe. When and/or if you are sick make sure be sure to try and stay home and drink plenty of water and take some over the counter medications to help ease the symptoms until you are better. Rest is very important in trying to recover from being sick. Most importantly, try to not get sick though, we like you best when you are well and happy.