Taking Medications for the Flu
Key information about flu medicine that is used for flu prevention includes:
- Medicine may help prevent the flu if you take it for at least 2 weeks during the outbreak of flu in your community.
- You may use a flu drug if you are in close contact with family members or others who have the flu.
- You may use medicine if you are in close contact with people who have been vaccinated but whom you want to give added protection from getting the flu.
- You may use a medication 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 medicine when a flu epidemic is caused by virus strains other than those covered by the vaccine.
If you do get the flu and want to take medicine to treat it, your healthcare provider may prescribe one of the four available antiviral medicines. In order for the medicine to work well for the flu, you must take it within 48 hours after the flu begins. The medicine reduces the length of time fever and other flu symptoms last and allow you to return to your daily routine quicker.
Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) and Relenza (Zanamivir)
Tamiflu is for adults and children who are 1 year of age and older. Relenza is for adults and children who are 7 years of age and older, who have an uncomplicated flu infection, and who have had symptoms of influenza for no more than 2 days. Both of these medicines treat influenza type A and type B infections.