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Four drugs recently have been approved for treating the flu: amantadine, rimantadine, zanamivir, and oseltamivir. When taken within 48 hours after the flu begins, these prescription-only medicines reduce the duration of fever and other symptoms. However, for most people, treatment entails bed rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking aspirin or acetaminophen to relieve pain and fever.

Flu Treatment: An Overview

Many people treat their flu infections by simply:
  • Resting in bed
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Taking medication, such as aspirin or acetaminophen, to relieve fever and discomfort.

Antivirals for Treating the Flu

Although antibiotics are not an effective flu treatment, four antiviral drugs have been approved for this use. These medicines include:
When taken within 48 hours after the start of illness, these medicines reduce the duration of fever and other symptoms. These drugs are only available by prescription.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you have any signs of flu and:
  • Your fever does not go away (you may have a more serious infection)
  • You have breathing or heart problems or other serious health problems
  • You feel sick and don't seem to be getting better
  • You have a cough that begins to produce phlegm (mucus)
  • You are worried about your health
  • You are taking drugs to fight cancer or other drugs that weaken your body's natural defenses against illness.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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