Home Health Antiviral drugs against influenza - what they are and how to take them

Antiviral drugs against influenza - what they are and how to take them

Influenza is treated with different drugs.

Antiviral flu medications can go a long way in helping you deal with the infection quickly and also avoid complications. Taking them brings benefits especially to people with a weakened immune system or chronic diseases. However, this does not mean that they are some kind of miracle cure and that you can get rid of the flu.

Antiviral drugs are taken according to the scheme described in the leaflets. There are some important considerations to be aware of if you are considering antiviral treatment for the flu.

In most influenza epidemics, type A viruses dominate. Type B influenza is not so easily and widely transmitted, it is more difficult to make an epidemic. Only precise tests in a laboratory can determine whether it is one type or the other. Most antiviral drugs work against both types.


Two main classes of antiviral drugs are used for influenza: neuraminidase inhibitors and adamantanes.

Neuraminidase inhibitors – effective in influenza type A and type B

flu cold stuffy nose

One of the most widely prescribed antiviral drugs for influenza is oseltamivir. It suppresses the enzyme neuraminidase, which is necessary for the release of influenza viruses from infected cells. It is effective against influenza viruses type A and type B.

Zanamivir is another neuraminidase inhibitor. It works like oseltamivir by preventing the virus from spreading by inhibiting neuraminidase. Zanamivir is effective against influenza viruses A and B.

Amantadine and rimantadine are drugs that have previously been used to treat influenza A viruses. They block the M2 ion channel protein, thereby preventing the release of viral genetic material into infected cells. However, their use has declined due to widespread resistance among strains of influenza A. An advantage of rimantadine is its relatively low cost.

Treatment with antiviral drugs should be started by the second day of symptoms

It is important to note that antiviral treatment for influenza is most effective when administered early in the illness. Ideally within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. The principle is, the earlier you start, the more effective the treatment. These medications not only relieve symptoms, but also reduce the duration of the disease and the risk of complications.

The fact is that most people prefer in the first days to be treated only with paracetamol or ibuprofen. Most combined flu preparations that are available in pharmacies contain exactly these two active ingredients. Of course, most people who have a healthy and sustainable immune system, can cope with the flu without antiviral drugs. However, other patients have a more difficult time dealing with the infection and it is worth taking more serious measures from the beginning. This treatment is also suitable for people whose symptoms are very severe from the very beginning.

What rules should we follow when taking an antiviral drug?

When taking antiviral medications for the flu, it is extremely important to follow certain guidelines to ensure their effectiveness and minimize potential side effects. Here are some basic rules to follow.

Start antiviral treatment as soon as possible, ideally within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Early initiation increases the effectiveness of the drug. It reduces the severity and duration of the disease.

Always follow the prescribed dosage and duration given by your healthcare professional. Do not self-prescribe or adjust the dosage without consulting a doctor. Missing doses or stopping the drug prematurely can compromise its effectiveness.

Complete the entire course of antiviral treatment, even if symptoms improve before you have taken all the tablets in the course. This helps ensure that the virus is fully contained. It will reduce the risk of relapse and the development of resistant strains.

Antiviral medications can be taken with or without food. However, staying well hydrated is important during illness. It helps the body recover.

Side effects may include nausea, vomiting or headache, but are uncommon. If you notice anything, contact your doctor.

Is a combination with other drugs possible?

Combining antiviral drugs with other drugs should be approached carefully and under the supervision of a doctor. Some combinations may be safe and even recommended in certain situations. However, others may lead to adverse effects or interactions. Here are some considerations about combining antiviral medications for the flu.

It is generally not recommended to combine different antiviral drugs for the flu unless specifically recommended by a doctor. Using several antiviral drugs at the same time will not necessarily improve efficacy. At the same time, it can increase the risk of side effects.

Tell your doctor or pharmacist what other medicines you are taking. Also, don't forget any supplements or herbal medicines you are taking. Some drugs can interact with antiviral drugs, affecting their absorption, metabolism or efficacy.

Antiviral drugs and antiviral nutritional supplements - how to tell them apart

There are many preparations on the market that claim to be antiviral drugs. In some cases, this may be a marketing gimmick. Distinguishing between antiviral drugs and antiviral dietary supplements is very important so that you are not misled by advertising claims that are not supported by facts. This is not to say that supplements are without any effect. On the contrary, some of them may help, but they are not medicines.

Antiviral drugs, as a rule, are sold only with a prescription. The exception is homeopathic preparations, which are registered as medicines but are freely available in pharmacies.

Here are other differences. Antiviral drugs are pharmaceutical products that undergo strict testing and control. They are registered and monitored by the European Medicines Agency and national medicines agencies. Thus, their safety, efficiency and quality are guaranteed.

Antiviral nutritional supplements do not pass such verification. Their registration becomes easier, no documentation is required to prove their effectiveness. By law, they are treated as foodstuffs in many countries. Supervision is generally less stringent.

Antiviral drugs contain specific active ingredients that have undergone extensive research and clinical trials. The mechanism of action is well defined, targeting specific stages of the virus life cycle.

Antiviral nutritional supplements often contain a mixture of vitamins, minerals, herbs, or other natural compounds. The specific antiviral mechanisms of these ingredients may not be well established. Evidence supporting their efficacy is limited.

The drugs have gone through clinical trials and a rigorous registration process

The efficacy and safety of antiviral drugs are supported by extensive clinical trials and scientific research. These studies provide a solid basis for their use in medical practice.

Antiviral nutritional supplements: While some supplements may have limited supporting evidence, overall research may be less comprehensive. Claims for their antiviral properties may not have the same level of scientific rigor as pharmaceutical drugs.

Author Ina Dimitrova


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