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Fighting the Flu: Do I Need an Antiviral Medication?

By Lila Havens, Staff Writer
December 26, 2012; 1:09 PM ET
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You can't be cured of influenza (flu) once you get it. But there are prescription medications that may make the illness shorter and less severe. These are called flu antivirals.

Getting a flu shot each year is still the best way to prevent the flu. But there are some cases in which a flu antiviral may help.

Learn more about antivirals, when and how they are used, and whether they might be right for you.

What are flu antivirals?

Flu antivirals are medicines that interfere with the growth of flu viruses. Four antivirals are available, but these 2 are used most often and are most effective:

-Tamiflu (oseltamivir) can be used to treat or prevent flu in adults and children age 1 year and older.

-Relenza (zanamivir) can be used to treat adults and children age 7 years and older and to prevent flu in adults and children age 5 years and older. It should not be used by people who have asthma or other chronic lung problems because it can cause wheezing.

Two other antivirals - amantadine and rimantadine - have limited use because influenza A viruses are becoming resistant to these medications.

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