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Protecting Yourself from the Flu with Tamiflu

If you haven't yet had your flu shot, you might have waited too long. Ask your doctor about protecting yourself from the flu with an antiviral drug.
Photo credit: ahisgett via photopin cc

The flu season this year started early and has been atypical, with type B influenza dominating first. At this point, however, influenza is widespread in most of the country. (Here’s a link to the CDC map.) If there’s flu in your community and you have not yet had your vaccination, you may have delayed too long. You need two weeks to develop antibodies after immunization. But you can still find out about protecting yourself from the flu. One reader shared a sound recommendation.

Protecting Yourself from the Flu with Medication: 

Q. If you know you have been exposed to influenza, start taking an antiviral drug immediately. If you begin the drug as soon as you are exposed, you will significantly lower your chances of getting sick.

I was in a situation where four people (three adults and an infant) were exposed to a confirmed case of influenza. We all got prescriptions for Tamiflu, and three of us started taking it immediately. One adult decided to skip the Tamiflu. The people who took it never had any symptoms at all. The one who did not came down with a miserable case of influenza and took a month to recover from it.

A. Not everyone realizes that an antiviral drug used to treat the flu can also be used for protecting yourself from the flu. Doctors prescribe oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) to help prevent influenza (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, April 10, 2014). If you do come down with influenza, you could take one of these drugs to shorten the illness.

The CDC states:

“Antiviral medications are an important adjunct to flu vaccine in the control of influenza. Almost all (>99%) of the influenza viruses tested this season are susceptible to the four FDA-approved influenza antiviral medications recommended for use in the U.S. this season.”

You benefit most from drugs like oseltamivir, zanamivir or baloxavir (Xofluza) by taking them within 24 to 48 hours of exposure Oseltamivir can cause nausea and vomiting, so you should eat something when you take it. 

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Colds, Coughs & the Flu
  • Jefferson T et al, "Neuraminidase inhibitors for preventing and treating influenza in healthy adults and children." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, April 10, 2014. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008965.pub4
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comments (16 total)
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I took Tamiflu a couple of years ago. After just one capsule it made me so sick that I will never take it again,. I was very sick to my stomach, never threw up but had a bathroom garbage can on my lap. It was awful.

No idea why Portulaca is not used for the Flu .
In Sept 2019 an official Chinese research [Elsevier] showed remarkable details.
I have been using it since [as a physician] since the last flu, for years with extremely positive results for tens and tens of patients …..improvement within hours of the first dose and also in this year flu.[ also for my family and myself] Mind-boggling that no one seems to use it.
I would be happy to hear your remarks.

This is very interesting test tube research: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31170517
We hope someone will do clinical trials. Thank you for bringing this to our attention, as we were not aware of it.

Vitamin C doesn’t have any side effects and will help you avoid the flu and colds. It should be mentioned.

No good evidence that it will prevent colds or flu. It can shorten the duration of cold symptoms. Haven’t seen research showing the same for flu.

This is very interesting because I recently saw an article saying that the manufacturer is being fined for overstating the effectiveness of Tamiflu. They apparently sold millions of doses of it to government to stockpile.

Here’s a link to a New York Times article on the topic: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/30/business/breaking-the-seal-on-drug-research.html

I took Tamiflu after coming down with the flu and had some very nasty side effects. Not at all sure I’d take it again.

Is there any evidence indicating any of these antiviral medications will have an effect in the treatment of the 2019-nCoV?

No evidence yet. It will take time to learn which antivirals, if any that currently exist, will work against Covid19.

QUESTION: I took Tamiflu a few years ago when I felt the flu coming on. It worked very well for me, and I did not have any side effects. So what are the odds of getting any side effects if I took Tamiflu again?

I took oseltamivir when three people in my family came down with Type A flu. I didn’t get it, but I did get a nasty blister-type extremely itchy skin eruption, just one, within a couple of hours of taking my first pill. Because I’ve had cellulitis twice, I went to have it checked out and was given doxycycline. Eleven days later, today is the first morning this wound hasn’t drained into the bandage.

When you look on the RX insert, skin reactions are the first thing mentioned, and some of them are very serious, however rare.

Should you take Tamiflu if you’re exposed to flu but had received flu vaccine?

Tamiflu is a prescription drug. Your doctor will make the determination if it is appropriate in your case.

I’m surprised to see that you are promoting vaccines and pharmaceuticals.

Wilma, we write about things that we think are helpful. Sometimes those are pharmaceuticals and sometimes they are other approaches.

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