- There are no over-the-counter medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration that can prevent or cure the flu.
- The best option is getting your annual flu shot.
- Using fraudulent products to treat the flu could potentially have devastating consequences and put people’s lives in jeopardy.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released
Many of these products are being sold online and in retail stores and labeled as dietary supplements, nasal sprays, hand sanitizers, foods, or devices.
There are no over-the-counter (OTC) medications approved by the FDA that can prevent or cure the flu.
Using fraudulent products to treat the flu could potentially have devastating consequences and put people’s lives in jeopardy.
The only OTC products recommended for flu are medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, which help relieve symptoms of the flu such as congestion or fever. They do not cure the viral infection.
The flu shot remains the most effective way to prevent influenza, and antivirals prescribed by a physician can help cut the duration and severity of your illness.
“Flu is a very serious illness that can lead to hospitalization and potentially death. The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu and its serious complications,” Joanne Chiu, PharmD, an infectious disease pharmacist with Riverside University Health System, told Healthline.
The FDA has identified a number of dietary supplements, teas, foods, and devices (like light therapies or air filters) that fraudulently claim to prevent or cure the flu.
None of these products, however, have been evaluated or approved by the FDA.
Many claim they can reduce the severity or length of the flu, boost your immune system, prevent infection in place of the flu vaccine, treat the flu and other viral infections, and speed recovery.
The FDA’s warning states that using or taking any of these fraudulent products could cause people to delay or stop the medical treatment they need, putting their health in jeopardy.
Delaying necessary treatment could lead to adverse consequences or even death, Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Some of the ingredients used in the fraudulent flu products may also cause unexpected side effects or reactions.
“In some cases, they can cause harm or lead to adverse side effects or even a drug reaction if you are taking other medications that these products might interact with,” says Glatter.
The fraudulent products are often sold in
The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent infection.
“In addition to preventing millions of illnesses and flu-related doctors’ visits each year, flu vaccination also prevents thousands of flu-related hospital admissions and deaths every year,” says Chiu.
According to Glatter, getting the flu shot is critically important this year. The vaccination protects not only yourself, but those in your community as well.
“Doing so will not only reduce the risk of getting influenza, but also reduces the risk of subsequently contracting COVID-19, based on early evidence this far,” Glatter said.
If you contract the flu, antiviral medications can be prescribed by a doctor and reduce the severity and duration of your illness.
It’s best to start antivirals within 48 hours of experiencing flu symptoms.
This is particularly important for high-risk individuals prone to complications, including children, pregnant people, older adults, and people with underlying conditions like diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, according to Chiu.
OTC medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be used to treat the symptoms of flu, like cough or fever, not the viral infection itself.
Glatter says the body has a “complex set of immunologic responses” that must function optimally in order to effectively fight the flu virus.
Getting sufficient sleep, staying hydrated, eating a well-balanced diet, exercising, and meditating can help you stay healthy and ultimately reduce your risk of contracting the flu, according to Glatter.
Furthermore, face masks, which have become widely adopted to prevent COVID-19 transmission, may reduce flu activity this season.
When you’re out in public or near others, mask up. It won’t only cut your chances of contracting or spreading the coronavirus, but influenza as well.
“These simple preventative measures can help you stay healthy as we head into the winter with COVID-19 and the possibility of flu converging (twindemic),” Glatter said.
The FDA released an advisory warning against fraudulent products that claim to prevent and cure the flu. There are no over-the-counter medications approved to prevent or cure the flu, and taking a fraudulent drug could lead to life-threatening consequences.
If you do get sick with the flu, a doctor can prescribe antiviral medications that can reduce the severity and length of illness. Medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can also help relieve some of the symptoms, like cough and fever, associated with flu.