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Relenza is used to prevent and treat the influenza virus. This prescription medication can help shorten the duration of symptoms when you take it at the first signs of the flu, and it can also prevent the flu from occurring. Unlike other flu medications, Relenza is an inhaled medication that is used once or twice a day. Potential side effects include dizziness, fever, and joint pain.

What Is Relenza?

Relenza® (zanamivir) is a prescription medication used to treat and prevent the flu (influenza). When taken at the first signs of the illness, the drug shortens the duration of flu symptoms. When taken before a person has the flu, such as during an outbreak, Relenza can help prevent the flu. Unlike other flu medicines, this one is inhaled.
 
(Click Relenza Uses for more information, including possible off-label uses.)
 

Who Makes It?

Relenza is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.
 

How Does Relenza Work?

This medication is believed to work by inhibiting a viral enzyme called neuraminidase. By inhibiting this enzyme, Relenza helps to prevent the release of the virus from infected cells. It does not directly help the cells that have already been infected; instead, it prevents other cells from being infected as well.
 
Relenza is active against both influenza A and influenza B viruses.
 

When and How to Take This Medication

Some general considerations for people taking Relenza include the following:
 
  • The medication is inhaled into the lungs, either one or twice a day, depending on several factors. If you take Relenza twice a day, try to space it evenly (every 12 hours). If you take it once a day, try to take it at the same time each day.
     
  • Relenza is inhaled using a special nonpropellant inhaler with special foil disks. Each disk contains four small, foil blisters, which contain the powdered medication. These blisters are punctured, and the powder is inhaled using your own breath.
     
  • Be sure to keep the blister horizontal while taking the drug; otherwise, the powder can spill out.
     
  • Make sure you know exactly how to use the Relenza inhaler. There are several steps necessary to assemble and use it. These steps are clearly outlined in the patient information that comes with the medication.
     
  • For treating the flu, Relenza works better the earlier it is started. Ideally, it should be started within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms.
     
  • For the medication to work properly, it must be taken as prescribed.
     
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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