Flu is generally a self-limiting illness and subsides on its own if you take proper rest and drink lots of fluids. But if your flu is caused by a virus that you have no prior immunity towards, you may need to undergo influenza treatment through anti-viral agents (drugs used to treat viral infections).
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drugs Oseltamivir and Zanamivir for influenza treatment. These drugs can also be taken to prevent influenza too.
Influenza treatment through these drugs should be started within 48 hours of infection for a better clinical outcome. It is ideal to start the treatment as early as possible, and in some cases, doctors recommend the same even without waiting for laboratory confirmation of the disease.
Three Licensed Drugs For Influenza Treatment
These three drugs are recommended for influenza treatment.
Neuramindase Inhibitors Class of Drugs
- Oseltamivir (Tamiflu)
- Zanamivir (Relenza)
These are the primary anti-viral agents recommended to combat influenza and are active against Influenza A and B type viruses.
The influenza viruses that predominantly cause the disease today don’t have much resistance against these agents. However, there have been reports of Oseltamivir resistance in rare cases and such resistance is common among immuno-suppressed individuals.
Tamiflu is available in the form of capsules (30 mg, 45 mg and 70 mg) and liquid suspensions. It can be taken by children aged 2 years and older.
Zanamivir is not recommended for people with airway diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and it is available in the form of an inhaler. Zanamivir can be taken by children aged 7 years old and adults.
The Recommended Dosage For Influenza Treatment
Anti-viral medicines are to be taken for five days, and a longer duration may be required for people who are severely ill.
Adults can take 75 mg capsules twice a day. In the case of children, the dosage varies according to the weight as follows:
- For children aged 1 year (or older) and weigh 15 kg: 30 mg, twice a day
- For children who weigh around 15-23 kg: 45 mg, twice a day
- For children who weigh around 23-40 kg: 60 mg, twice a day
- For children who weigh more than 40 kg: 75 mg, twice a day
Note: The World Health Organization (WHO) has not approved use of Oseltamivir for children who are younger than 2 years of age. The dose mentioned here is authorized for emergency use.
The recommended dosage for this medication is 2 inhalations of 10 mg, twice a day, for children who are 7 years and above, and adults.
Adamantanes Class of Drugs
There are two drugs under this class.
- Amantadine (Generic)
- Rimantadines (Flumadine)
These drugs are active only against Influenza type A. Reports of widespread resistance for these drugs among Influenza H3N2 and 2009 H1N1 strains have also surfaced, and for this reason, they are not recommended for the currently circulating influenza strains.
The FDA approved dosage of Amantadine for children aged 1-9 yrs is 4.4 – 8.8 mg/kg per day. For children aged 10 years and older, the recommended dosage is 200 mg per day (100 mg twice a day).
The Side Effects Of Anti-flu Medications
Nausea and vomiting are the most common side effects of taking Tamiflu. In rare cases, transient neuropsychiatric changes like self-injury or delirium are also reported.
Zanamivir causes headache, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, sinusitis, ear, nose and throat infections, bronchitis, and cough. It also causes allergic manifestations like oropharangeal or facial swelling.
The Advantages Of Taking Flu Medications
By regularly taking such medications, you can:
- Shorten the duration of the illness symptoms
- Shorten the duration of your hospital stay
- Reduce the risk of flu related complications like pneumonia, respiratory failure, or death
Who Should Be Given Anti-flu Medications?
- Any person with confirmed or suspected influenza illness, who is hospitalized
- Those belonging to high-risk categories such as immune-compromised individuals or people with underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease, pregnancy, or elderly people and young children
- Patients with serious flu illness and related complications
Factors That Influence Influenza Treatment
These are some of the factors that dictate the course of treatment to be adopted.
- Likelihood of influenza infection
- Clinical judgement based on underlying medical conditions or disease severity and progression
- Time elapsed since the onset of symptoms
- Age of the patient
- Interaction with other medications
- Indication of treatment – Chemoprophylaxis (preventive measure) or therapy
Influenza Treatment – Treating The Symptoms
- The fever and body pain associated with influenza can be relieved by pain killers.
- Pneumonia due to secondary bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotics.
- Decongestants can reduce discomfort from sinuses, ear infection, and nasal congestion.
- Gargling a 1:1 ratio of warm water and salt is the best home remedy for sore-throat.
- Taking anti-histamines helps reduce running nose, and itchy and watery eyes.
It is extremely important to share your medical history with the doctor before trying out the medications for influenza. Underlying medical conditions, pregnancy, old or young age, and allergy to the prescribed drug are some of the factors that influence the outcome of the clinical situation. It is also equally important to take plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, maintain a balanced diet and stay completely fit during the course of your influenza treatment.