Flu or influenza commonly refers to the symptoms caused by the influenza virus. The symptoms include a stuffy nose, headaches, coughing, and a high fever.
For most people, flu manifests as a mild illness and they do not require a visit to the hospital. Staying hydrated, avoiding crowded places, and keeping warm are some ways to relieve the common cold quickly and easily from the comfort of your home.
For cases of milder illness, several OTC drugs can quickly clear symptoms of uncomplicated influenza.
However, for vulnerable people with compromised immune systems, the influenza virus can become a progressive illness. Their immune systems cannot effectively fight viruses, increasing the likelihood of bacterial infections such as ear infections and sinus infections. These include the elderly, infants, chronically ill patients, and pregnant women.
Through clinical trials approved by the FDA, certain drugs are effective for treating influenza. These include influenza vaccines and antiviral drugs.
The Difference Between Flu Vaccines and Antiviral Drugs
Flu vaccines, flu shots, or flu jabs, as they are commonly called, are designed to help keep the flu virus at bay. The vaccines are used as the first line of protection before any symptoms manifest.
The CDC recommends taking the influenza vaccine annually if six months or older. People at high risk of developing severe flu complications are encouraged to get a flu shot to safeguard themselves from the seasonal flu. These include the elderly, chronically ill patients, and pregnant women.
On the other hand, antiviral drugs are medications prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider to treat influenza. They are used to lessen the effects of the influenza virus and prevent serious flu complications such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
What You Should Know About Flu Antiviral Drugs
Flu antiviral drugs come in tablets, pills, inhalable powder, or IV form. They are used to prevent seasonal flu or as an early treatment for influenza virus infection. They are only available on prescription and cannot be bought over the counter.
Flu antiviral drugs work best during the early onset of flu symptoms. The recommended time frame is within 48 hours. The earlier the signs are detected and treated, the more effective the medication will be.
High-risk individuals such as infants, the elderly, or those with chronic illnesses are encouraged to get a doctor’s prescription after exposure to infected persons to prevent the onset of the flu.
Taking antiviral drugs as treatment can help to lessen symptoms of influenza. Hospitalized patients battling severe illness may be prescribed antiviral drugs to fight the virus and lower the chances of developing complications such as bacterial pneumonia.
Can You Get a Flu Vaccine When on Antiviral Drugs?
The seasonal influenza vaccine is used to safeguard against the flu virus. It is better to prevent the occurrence of flu than to treat it. However, if symptoms are already present, it is advisable to get medication first.
Depending on the type of drugs your doctor prescribes, it is safe to get a flu shot while taking antiviral medications. Different factors could make other vaccine options better suited to a patient’s health. It is best to consult with a licensed healthcare provider for vaccinations such as the nasal spray flu vaccine.
Potential Influenza Antiviral Drugs Recommended for this Flu Season
Currently, four antiviral prescription medicines are recommended for the treatment of seasonal influenza. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention constantly update the list of approved influenza antiviral drugs to exclude medications that don’t work on resistant strains of influenza.
The approved list recommends the following antiviral drugs:
1. Baloxavir Marboxil (Xofluza)
Baloxavir marboxil or BXM is sold under the brand name Xofluza. It is usedfor treating influenza rather than as a preventive medication. It can be taken in single doses by children 12 years and older. It is effective in patients who have had flu symptoms for no more than 48 hours.
2. Oseltamivir (Tamiflu)
Oseltamivir is commonly known by its brand name Tamiflu. It is used as an antiviral drug for the prevention, or early treatment of influenza A and B. Oseltamivir treatment is recommended for use in high-risk groups to prevent the development of flu complications or lessen symptoms. Oseltamivir phosphate may be used in children as young as three months as a 7-day preventive antiviral treatment.
3. Peramivir (Rapivab)
Also known as Rapivab, peramivir is a preventative antiviral drug for seasonal flu. It is best for treating flu symptoms that are about two days or less. A single dose is administered through an IV to patients two years and older.
4. Zanamivir (Relenza)
Zanamivir or Relenza is an antiviral drug used to prevent and treat the influenza virus. Zanamivir comes in inhaled powder form for treatment doses after two days of flu symptoms.
What are the Possible Side-Effects of Antiviral Drugs?
Like most drugs, flu antiviral drugs may cause some undesired effects. The most common side effects are easily manageable. Additionally, the benefits of antiviral medications far outweigh the side effects.
Some of the unpleasant effects include;
1. Nausea and Vomiting
Oseltamivir has the most recorded cases of nausea and vomiting as a side effect.
Bronchospasm is a condition where the muscles of the lung airways tighten, resulting in wheezing, coughing, and other asthma-related symptoms.
Diarrhea is a common side effect of most of the recommended flu antiviral drugs. Tamiflu has a 7% chance of causing diarrhea in children. Cases in adults are very rare.
4. Throat Irritation and Inflammation
Xofulza may cause mild side effects such as throat irritation or more severe effects like inflammation of the tissues lining the sinuses.
Try Compounded Medicine For Treatment of Influenza at Fort Worth Pharmacy
Drug shortages, severe side effects, and a conscious effort to live a healthier life are some contributing factors to the preference for compounded medication for personalized prescriptions.
Compounded medications are not used as a replacement for antiviral drugs or the flu vaccine. Instead, they assist people with specific needs to take their medicine in the right dosage, strength and form per their personal needs.
When it comes to influenza, patients may get a prescription from their doctors for medication combinations that may not be readily available commercially. Sometimes, the drug form may not be suitable for the patient, especially if they are small kids or elderly.
Speak to our licensed pharmacist today to explore your options for compounded medication for the treatment of influenza.