The swine flu is making its way around the country with symptoms such as fever, sore throat and aches, similar to the seasonal flu. As with the seasonal flu, treatment is available to help make those with the flu more comfortable.
There are two main antiviral medications currently prescribed to treat symptoms of the swine flu. Tamiflu and Relenza both help to reduce symptoms and lessen the risk of complications, although neither will cure the flu. These medications are prescription medications. You cannot obtain these over the counter. You must have a doctor's prescription to purchase either medication.
Most people that get swine flu, however, won't need or get antiviral medications. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that the "priority use for these drugs this season is to treat people who are very sick (hospitalized) or people who are sick with flu symptoms and who are at increased risk of serious flu complications, such as pregnant women, young children, people 65 and older and people with chronic health conditions."
For those needing antiviral medications, both Tamiflu and Relenza should be started within 48 hours of the onset of swine flu symptoms. Although in some cases, such as if a patient is hospitalized or is at a high risk of developing severe complications or if the person is exhibiting symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain/pressure, dizziness, or confusion, these medications can be started after 48 hours.
Who Can Take Antiviral Medications?
Tamiflu has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in children under the age of 12 months. However, due to the concerns with the swine flu outbreak, this medication may be used for infants under an Emergency Use Authorization. It has been approved for use in all children (over 12 months) and adults. Tamiflu is available in either liquid or capsule form.
Women who are pregnant are at high risk of developing complications from the flu and should be treated immediately if they develop signs of the swine flu. At this time, no studies have shown a risk for women who are pregnant from antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu or Relenza. Tamiflu would be the first choice of medication for women who are pregnant.
Side Effects of Antiviral Medications
Side effects of Tamiflu include:
- Nausea or vomiting
These side effects are most often felt during the first two days of treatment and can be reduced if the medication is taken with food.
Side effects of Relenza include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Nausea or diarrhea
Because Relenza can also cause wheezing or trouble breathing, it should not be taken by anyone with breathing problems, such as asthma or lung disease.