The annual influenza outbreak has been higher than usual this season. In addition to flu shots and other prevention methods, there is an additional way to combat influenza — an oral medicine called Tamiflu. This prescribed antiviral drug treats infections caused by the influenza virus. It can relieve common flu symptoms such as weakness, headaches, fevers, cough, runny noses and sore throats.
Neither the flu shot nor Tamiflu have a 100 percent accuracy rate in treating or preventing influenza. It is important to ask questions with your physician and understand the ins and outs of Tamiflu to see if it’s the right step for your recovery or prevention plan.
Who should take Tamiflu?
- Those who have positive flu and major symptoms for more than two days can use Tamiflu for treatment.
- People at high risk of flu complications during the first two weeks following vaccination after exposure to a person with influenza can take Tamiflu as a prevention method.
- For prevention, people at high risk for complications from influenza who cannot receive the influenza vaccine due to a contraindication after exposure to a person with influenza can take Tamiflu.
- People with severe immune deficiencies or others who might not respond to the influenza vaccination can take Tamiflu instead. This includes people receiving immunosuppressive medications, after exposure to a person with influenza.
Note – Tamiflu should not be taken if more than 48 hours have passed since the first exposure to a person with influenza.
What people are at high risk for serious flu complications?
Children under 5 years old, adults 65 years old and older, pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum), residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, Native Americans and Alaskan natives, and those with the following health conditions:
- Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions
- Chronic lung disease
- Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure)
- Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
- Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes)
- Kidney disorders
- Liver disorders
- Metabolic disorders
- Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or cancer, or those taking chronic steroids)
- Individuals younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
- Persons with extreme obesity (BMI ≥ 40)
If someone in my house is positive for influenza, should the entire family be prescribed Tamiflu?
In general, the CDC does not recommend using Tamiflu as a pre-exposure remedy, primarily because the virus may develop a resistance against the antiviral medicine. You’re better protected with the annual flu shot. This is great news for your family, because a vaccine is less expensive than the $100 retail price of Tamiflu.
What are potential side effects of Tamiflu?
Common side effects – nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, nosebleed, eye discomfort, sleep problems and coughs
Rare side effects – mental changes such as confusion, agitation or a desire for self-injury; delusions; anxiety; hallucinations; skin inflammation and nightmares
Before taking Tamiflu, ask your doctor about eligibility if you have food, dye, preservative or animal allergies. Other concerns that ought to be addressed are age, pregnancy, breastfeeding, medical problems and drug interactions.
If you’re interested in receiving a flu vaccine or learning more about Tamiflu from a Mercy Health physician, call our team today at 513-952-5000 or visit mercy.com.