Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Influenza Treatment

There is no cure for influenza. The treatment focuses on reducing the severity of the symptoms by providing rest, oral fluids, nasal decongestants, and acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Treatment may also include bronchodilators for wheezing. Additional treatment with antiviral medications can shorten the duration and reduce the severity of the illness. Antiviral medications are especially important for those who have severe influenza, or for those with underlying illnesses that increase the risk for severe influenza. For those who do not have underlying medical problems, antiviral medications must be started within 2 days of the beginning of symptoms, in order to provide any benefit.

The treatment options for influenza include:

Influenza Drugs

Medications used to treat influenza include:

Influenza Antivirals

Anti-viral medications are used to treat influenza. These medications rarely cure the illness, but can reduce the symptoms and duration of the illness. Antiviral medications should be started within 2 days after symptoms begin.

Anti-viral medications for influenza include:

Influenza Rx Comparisons

Comparison of Common Anti-Influenza Medicines

Oseltamivir (Tamiflu)

  • May be used to prevent flu in those over 1 year old
  • May be used to treat influenza in those over 1 year old
  • Main side effects include: nausea, vomiting, and headache

Zanamivir (Relenza)
  • Should not be used to prevent flu
  • May be used to treat flu in those over 7 years old
  • Main side effects include: nausea, headache, and diarrhea

Influenza Bronchodilators

Prescription bronchodilator medications may help treat wheezing in those who have influenza.

Bronchodilator medications:

Cool mist humidifiers may also improve wheezing.

Influenza Questions For Doctor

The following are some important questions to ask before and after treatment for influenza.

Questions to ask before treatment:

  • What are my treatment options?
  • What are the risks associated with treatment?
  • Do I need to stay in the hospital?
    • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • Am I contagious?
    • For how long?
  • What are the complications I should watch for?
  • How long will I be on medication?
  • What are the potential side effects of my medication?
  • Does my medication interact with nonprescription medicines or supplements?
  • Should I take my medication with food?

Questions to ask after treatment:
  • Do I need to change my diet?
  • Are there any medications or supplements I should avoid?
  • When can I resume my normal activities?
  • When can I return to work?
  • What else can I do to reduce my risk for complications?
  • How do I avoid passing the infection to others?
  • How often will I need to see my doctor for checkups?
  • What local support and other resources are available?

Influenza Specialist

Physicians from the following specialties evaluate and treat influenza:

Continue to Influenza Home Care

Last Updated: May 11, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Influenza References
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  2. Ebell MH, White LL, Casault T. A systematic review of the history and physical examination to diagnose influenza. J Am Board Fam Pract. 2004 Jan-Feb;17(1):1-5. [15014046]
  3., HHS Interagency Public Affairs Group on Influenza Preparedness and Response
  4. Jefferson T, Smith S, Demicheli V, Harnden A, Rivetti A, Di Pietrantonj C. Assessment of the efficacy and effectiveness of influenza vaccines in healthy children: systematic review. Lancet. 2005 Feb 26-Mar 4;365(9461):773-80. [15733718]
  5. Montalto NJ. An office-based approach to influenza: clinical diagnosis and laboratory testing. Am Fam Physician. 2003 Jan 1;67(1):111-8. [12537174]
  6. Strategy for Off-Site Rapid Triage(c) (SORT) and Real-time Epidemiological Assessment for Community Health(c) (REACH), Emory University, Principal Investigators: Alexander Isakov, MD, MPH; Arthur Kellermann, MD, MPH, Collaboration with the Emory at Grady Health Literacy Team (Ruth Parker, MD; Kara Jacobson, MPH, CHES; Lorenzo DiFrancesco, MD)
  7. VHA Office of Public Health Surveillance and Research; Influenza Algorithm Work Group
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