Why should you not self-medicate with antiviral drugs for flu?
Source: Health and Life
Influenza and its complications can be serious. Several antiviral medications have been approved for treatment and prevention, but antivirals can have side effects and not everyone with the flu needs them.
1. What is the flu?
Influenza is an acute infectious disease caused by viruses such as influenza A, influenza B…. The disease is highly contagious through the respiratory tract, through saliva or secretions from coughing, sneezing or sticking on objects.
Flu is not like cold generally, illness can last longer and be more severe than a cold. With flu, symptoms come on suddenly, including high fever, headache, body aches, sore throat, and fatigue.
Complications of the flu can include bacterial infections, viral pneumonia, and other heart and organ system abnormalities. People with chronic medical conditions (including obesity), children under 5 years of age (and especially children under 2 years of age), patients 65 years of age or older, and pregnant women may be at increased risk for complications. .
2. What is an antiviral ?
Influenza antivirals are prescription medicines indicated to treat and prevent influenza in adults and children. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics – are drugs that fight bacterial infections, do not destroy the target pathogen, instead, they inhibit viral replication by inactivating viral enzymes.
Antiretroviral therapy should be started as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms. The evidence for treatment benefit in influenza studies is strongest when treatment is initiated within 48 hours of onset of illness.
For people at high risk for serious flu complications, early treatment with antiviral drugs reduces the risk of severe illness that may require hospitalization. For adults hospitalized with the flu, several studies have reported that early antiviral treatment may reduce the risk of death.
3. Why should you not arbitrarily take antiviral drugs when you have the flu?
When used for treatment, antiviral drugs can relieve symptoms and shorten the duration of illness. Medicines can also prevent serious complications, like pneumonia.
However, the use of drugs should be prescribed by a doctor and guided for use, the patient should not buy it on his own to treat the flu or prevent the flu.
As with all prescription drugs, it is up to the treating physician to make the decision about the appropriateness of antiviral therapy for the individual patient. This decision is based on the severity of the acute illness, the underlying medical conditions that make the patient’s flu worse, the time since the onset of symptoms, and the risk of transmission to contacts.
Although safety has been established, when considering an antiviral regimen for influenza, safety data should be considered, especially in patients with pre-existing medical conditions. Children, infants, elderly patients and pregnant patients…
Importantly, effects are only seen when the drug is taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Therefore, careful consideration should be given to the appropriate use of these drugs in both treatment and prevention.
As with many medicines, antivirals can cause serious skin reactions and/or severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis<. In either case, the patient should be advised to discontinue the drug immediately and seek medical attention immediately.
Although rare, antiviral drugs for influenza also carry a risk of neuropsychiatric events, and any patient with unusual behavior should be instructed to discontinue the drug and contact a physician.
In addition, arbitrarily using drugs increases the risk drug resistance. The possibility of viral resistance has increased, most evidently by drug-resistant H274Y/H1N1 influenza viruses such as oseltamivir, or the “swine flu” strain that caused the 2009 pandemic.
For people in at-risk groups, the most important way to prevent serious flu complications is still getting a flu shot and taking general precautions. If you are in a risk group and already have the flu, seek early advice from your doctor or pharmacist, who can advise on whether antiviral medication is needed.
4. Antiviral drugs for flu
Antiviral drugs have been approved for the treatment of uncomplicated acute influenza and a number of preventive uses.
Antiviral drugs approved for use against circulating influenza viruses include:
- Peramivir (Rapivab)
- Zanamivir (Relenza)
- Oseltamivir (Tamiflu)
- Baloxavir (Xofluza)
Two older drugs, amantadine and rimantadine, were previously approved to treat and prevent infection with influenza A virus, but many strains of influenza virus, including influenza virus H1N1, are now resistant to these drugs. Therefore, the use of amantadine and rimantadine is not recommended for recently circulating influenza viruses, although recommendations may change if there is a future re-emergence of specific viral strains.
5. Possible side effects of the drug
Like all medications, antivirals can also have side effects in some people. Some side effects have been associated with the use of influenza antiviral drugs, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, runny or stuffy nose, cough, diarrhea, headache and some behavioral side effects.
If any symptoms or side effects are suspected to be related to antiretroviral drugs, contact your treating physician immediately to consider adjusting the dose of the drug or taking appropriate management.