Facts About Flu Drugs
The vaccine is 70 to 90 percent effective in warding off the three influenza virus strains that experts predict will be likely to circulate in a given year. However, strains can change. If your vaccinated or unvaccinated child develops flu symptoms -- a fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, extreme fatigue, runny nose, sore throat, and a hacking cough -- get him to the doctor quickly. A rapid flu test can determine in about 30 minutes whether it's the flu. If it is, taking an antiviral drug can reduce the severity of the illness and shorten its duration by at least a day or two. To be effective, treatment must begin within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Antiviral drugs may be particularly helpful for kids with underlying conditions that might put them at higher risk for severe influenza. Children older than 1 year can take the liquid drug Tamiflu; kids 7 and up can take Relenza, a spray that's inhaled through the mouth. Using an antiviral drug also reduces the odds that other family members will get sick. Since 1999, more than 200 children in Japan who took Tamiflu have experienced psychiatric side effects including hallucinations, and 16 died. It is not clear whether these symptoms were due to the medication or to the flu itself, so the FDA advises monitoring the behavior of kids who are taking Tamiflu.
Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the December 2007 issue of Parents magazine.
Updated October 2009
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