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Flu Basics

Author(s): Sonia Rahmati Clayton, PhD, and Nancy Moreno, PhD

Flu: Treatment

Usually, influenza is an upper respiratory disease. In most healthy adults, it can be cleared by the immune system without additional treatment. Since influenza is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not effective.  However, antibiotics sometimes are prescribed when the flu leads to additional complications, such as bacterial pneumonia.

Antiviral drugs can aid in flu treatment and prevention, but should not be substituted for vaccination. Currently, four licensed influenza antiviral prescriptions are available in the US: amantadine, rimantadine, zanamivir, and oseltamivir. Each differs in terms of its administration, side effects, target age group, dosage and cost. To be effective, these medications must be administered within 48 hours after symptoms appear. They may reduce the length of time that symptoms will last, but also may have some unpleasant side effects.

Patients with flu should drink plenty of fluids, rest, avoid alcohol and tobacco, and take medications to relieve the symptoms of flu. To avoid a rare, but serious complication (Reye Syndrome), children should not be given aspirin for flu symptoms.