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Drugs to Treat and Prevent Flu

Antiviral Drugs for Flu Prevention

Key information about the drugs that are used for flu prevention is as follows:
  • Antiviral drugs may help prevent the flu if you take them for at least 2 weeks during the outbreak of flu in your community.
  • You may use these medications if you are in close contact with family members or others who have the flu.
  • You may use antiviral drugs if you are in close contact with people who have been vaccinated but to whom you want to give added protection from getting the flu.
  • You may use antiviral medications immediately following flu vaccination during a flu epidemic to protect you during the 2- to 4-week period before antibodies (proteins from your immune system that protect you from the flu virus) develop.
  • You may use antiviral medications when a flu epidemic is caused by virus strains other than those covered by the vaccine.
  • Flumadine and Symmetrel can have unpleasant side effects. You should discuss the flu vaccine and antiviral drugs with your healthcare provider before flu season begins, because your healthcare provider can help you decide which medicine is best for you.

Antiviral Drugs for Treatment

If you do get the flu and want to take antiviral drugs to treat it, your healthcare provider may prescribe one of the four previously mentioned drugs. In order for the medicine to work well, you must take these medications within 48 hours after the flu begins. Antiviral drugs reduce the length of time fever and other symptoms of the flu last and allow you to return to your daily routine quicker.
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