When your little one (or big kid) comes down with the flu, it can be downright heartbreaking to watch them wrestle with those nasty symptoms — even though you know those struggles are pretty much par for the course.
But when the flu is severe, your instinct may alert you to the need for something more than sympathy — treatment.
Tamiflu is an antiviral drug that’s prescribed to help the body fight seasonal influenza. Children may also be given Tamiflu to either prevent or treat the flu under the care of their pediatrician. While the drug may not take away symptoms entirely, the idea is that it can help lessen the severity and duration of sickness.
But is this drug safe for kids? Here’s what you need to know about Tamiflu and its benefits, as well as some other ways you can prevent the flu in your household.
Tamiflu goes by the generic name Oseltamivir. It was approved in 1999 for use in children ages 2 weeks old and up. Its side effects are typically mild, so it’s considered safe for use. However, your child’s doctor may not prescribe it in every case of flu, regardless of its safety.
Antiviral drugs work by preventing flu viruses from reproducing in the body. While antivirals are different from antibiotics, which fight bacterial infections, they’re similar in that they must also be prescribed by a physician versus purchased over the counter (OTC).
Your pediatrician may consider prescribing Tamiflu if your child has flu symptoms, like:
- runny nose
- sore throat
- body aches
That said, it will not work on just any type of virus, so it isn’t a good choice if your child doesn’t test positive for influenza A or B.
Rest, fluids, and OTC fever reducers (like Children’s Tylenol) may help kids with more mild cases of flu get better within a week.
If your child has severe symptoms, Tamiflu may help. It may also be particularly helpful if your child is at the highest risk for complications from the flu.
According to the
Related: How to handle school sick days
Doctor knows best
Always follow the dosing instructions prescribed by your child’s doctor.
Tamiflu is most effective when started within the first 2 days of illness. Some pediatricians may even suggest that high-risk children start taking it after confirmed exposure to a person with the flu before any symptoms have started.
And while timing is important,
The drug is taken orally in either pill or liquid form. Treatment duration is generally 5 days total. The dosage depends on your child’s age/weight.
|Ages 1 and under||3 mg/kg twice daily|
|Over age 1 but 15 kg or less||30 mg twice daily|
|16–23 kg||45 mg twice daily|
|24–40 kg||60 mg twice daily|
|More than 40 kg||75 mg twice daily|
Overall, antivirals may make your child’s symptoms less severe and shorten the overall duration of sickness by
Keeping others in mind
Before sending your child back to school, confirm with their pediatrician that they are no longer contagious.
When used early, Tamiflu may also prevent ear infections from developing as the flu progresses. It may even reduce the need to use antibiotics to treat other flu-related bacterial complications in children ages 1 to 12 years old.
Without insurance, the price of antivirals can be expensive — especially if you have more than one child who may need the medication. The cost for Tamiflu without insurance may be just over $100.
With insurance, of course, it may just be your usual copay. And you may also try using platforms like GoodRx, where the price may be as low as $25.
Another downside you may have heard about is that Tamiflu may not be effective with certain strains of flu. The
Otherwise, the CDC monitors the predominant flu strains each year and recommends the use of antivirals accordingly.
The main side effects associated with Tamiflu include nausea and vomiting.
- other neurologic or psychiatric issues
It’s important to understand that these side effects are rare.
Watch your child for signs of behavioral changes. Contact their doctor right away if you notice anything outside of their normal. And if you notice signs of difficulty breathing, dehydration, or worsening symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Tamiflu is also called a neuraminidase inhibitor, as it blocks the viral enzyme neuraminidase, which is responsible for allowing the flu virus to invade cells in the respiratory system. As a result, your child’s pediatrician may prescribe Tamiflu before symptoms start to actually prevent the flu.
That said, Tamiflu isn’t widely prescribed for prevention unless your child or baby is very high risk. Instead, experts agree that the best method for flu prevention for children ages 6 months and up is to get the seasonal flu shot each year.
Other ways to prevent the flu include:
- avoiding close contact with people who have the flu
- encouraging people to cover coughs/sneezes
- practicing good hygiene (washing hands, surfaces, etc.)
There are three other antiviral medications that are approved by the FDA for use in children. The type your child is offered will depend on their age and medical history.
- Relenza (zanamivir): This medication is for use in children ages 7 years and up. It’s administered via oral inhalation using a Diskhaler inhaler. Your doctor may not recommend using Relenza if your child has an underlying respiratory disease, such as asthma or chronic lung disease.
- Rapivab (peramivir): This medication is for use in children ages 2 years and up. It’s administered intravenously.
- Xofluza (baloxavir): This medication is for use in older children ages 12 years and up. It’s a single dose and administered by mouth.
Contact your pediatrician as soon as possible if your child develops flu symptoms or has been in contact with somebody who tested positive for the flu. The sooner you administer antiviral medications like Tamiflu, the more effective they may be at helping the body fight the virus.
If you have concerns about this drug, ask your doctor about the benefits and risks specific to your child’s age and medical history. Otherwise, you can help prevent the flu by getting the flu shot each year, washing hands frequently, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.