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About flu antiviral drugs

January 30, 2023

About flu antiviral drugs


There are prescription drugs called "antivirals" that can be used to treat influenza illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people with influenza or suspected influenza, and those at high risk for serious flu complications, such as asthma, diabetes (including gestational diabetes) or heart disease, be treated immediately.


Influenza antiviral drugs are prescription medications (pills, liquids, inhaled powders, or intravenous solutions) that fight the influenza virus in the body. Antiviral medications are not sold over the counter. You can only get them if you have a prescription from your health care provider.


Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics that fight bacterial infections. Anti-flu medications are only effective for treating the flu. Influenza antiviral drugs are different from antiviral drugs used to treat other infectious diseases (such as COVID-19). Antiviral drugs used to treat COVID-19 are not approved or authorized for use in the treatment of influenza.


If you have the flu, antiviral drugs are a treatment option. If you are at high risk for serious flu complications (complete list of high risk factors) and develop flu symptoms, contact your doctor promptly. Signs and symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.


However, not everyone with the flu will have a fever. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication to treat your flu. Antiviral medications are not a substitute for the flu vaccine. Although the effectiveness of flu vaccines varies, the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent seasonal flu and its potentially serious complications. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine every year. Antiviral medications are the second line of defense and can be used to treat the flu (both seasonal and variant flu viruses) if you get sick.



Antiviral treatment works best when started shortly after the onset of influenza. Studies have shown that influenza antiviral medications work best when taken within two days of the onset of illness. However, it is still beneficial to start vaccination later, especially if the patient is at higher risk for serious flu complications or is more severely ill and is being hospitalized. Take these medications as directed. Take these medications according to your doctor's instructions and the dose, frequency and duration listed on the label instructions.