What You Should Know About Tamiflu

While most of the nation's attention has been focused on COVID-19, influenza is still the same risk that it has always been. Thankfully, if you test positive for the flu — known as influenza A or B — there is a treatment available that can shorten the duration of your illness and improve symptoms in some circumstances — Tamiflu (via WebMD).

Health Digest spoke with Thad Mick, PharmD, and Vice President of Pharmaceutical Programs and Diagnostic Services at Zoom+Care, to discover how Tamiflu works. "It is an antiviral medication that is used to block the production of influenza A and B virus within the body," he said. It is commonly used in two scenarios. "The first use is the treatment of those infected with the flu virus," he explained. "The second use is as preventative therapy for people who have a high risk for severe complications from the flu, and have had close contact with someone who may have the flu."

To be effective, Tamiflu needs to be taken within 36 to 48 hours after the first symptoms appear or exposure to someone with the flu, said Mick. After this time period, it becomes less effective.

What are the side effects of Tamiflu?

Like any medication, some people may experience side effects from Tamiflu. Headaches, nausea, and vomiting are common when taking the drug. Rarely, people have experienced more serious side effects, but since they are already sick with the flu, the origin of the symptoms is murky. "Rare occurrences of hallucinations, confusion, or delirium have been reported, primarily in children," said Mick. "It is unclear if these neuropsychiatric events have been caused by the flu virus or the medication." Children taking Tamiflu should be monitored for anything unusual, he added.

If you are pregnant or nursing, Tamiflu is considered safe, but Mick said it's always a good idea to talk with your doctor. "At this time there, is no evidence to indicate that Tamiflu will cause harm to an unborn baby or a nursing baby. However, there are only a limited number of studies evaluating the use of Tamiflu in pregnant women or nursing mothers," he cautioned. "Together [with your doctor] you can discuss the risks and benefits and decide if you should be receiving Tamiflu."