Title: Understanding Flu Treatment: Medications, Benefits, and Side Effects
The flu is a respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus, which can affect people of all ages. While some people recover from the flu naturally, others may need medication to reduce symptoms and prevent complications. In this article, we will explore different types of medications used to treat the flu, their benefits, and side effects.
Antiviral medications are used to fight viruses causing the flu. They work by inhibiting the growth and replication of the virus. There are primarily two classes of antiviral medications useful in treating the flu: neuraminidase inhibitors and adamantanes.
1. Neuraminidase inhibitors
The neuraminidase inhibitors target the action of influenza virus enzymes by blocking the neuraminidase enzyme necessary for viral replication. The two FDA-approved neuraminidase inhibitors for influenza treatment are oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). Oseltamivir can be administered orally as a pill or liquid and is effective for the treatment of influenza in people aged over two weeks. It can also be used to prevent the flu in people who have not developed symptoms. Zanamivir, on the other hand, is an inhaled medication that works by inhibiting the neuraminidase enzyme activity in the respiratory tract.
Both neuraminidase inhibitors can reduce flu duration by about one day when taken within 48 hours of symptom onset while also reducing flu-related complications such as pneumonia, hospitalization, and death. However, they may cause adverse effects like vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and headache. Allergic reactions such as hives and difficulty breathing may also occur.
Adamantanes are antiviral medications that block the M2 protein channel of the influenza virus, necessary for viral replication. The two adamantanes FDA-approved for influenza treatment are amantadine (Symmetrel) and rimantadine (Flumadine). Amantadine can be administered orally as a pill or liquid and is effective against influenza A in adults only. Rimantadine, another oral medication, is similarly effective against influenza A, and it’s not useful against influenza B or other viruses. However, these medications are gradually becoming less common due to the rise of resistance among circulating flu viruses. Side effects may occur, such as nervousness, dizziness, confusion, and blurred vision.
Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers
Pain relievers and fever reducers can help alleviate symptoms such as body aches, fever, headache, and sore throat. The two most commonly used pain relievers used to treat flu symptoms are acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).
Acetaminophen is available over-the-counter without a prescription and is safe for use in most individuals, including children and pregnant women. However, caution should be taken in people with liver disease or those who consume alcohol regularly as excessive consumption can cause liver damage.
NSAIDs also work by reducing body inflammation, which helps to relieve pain and fever. However, NSAIDs can cause unwanted adverse effects such as stomach pain, stomach upset, and gastrointestinal bleeding.
While treating flu in children, aspirin should be avoided as it can cause a severe but rare disorder called Reye’s syndrome that may cause brain and liver damage.
Decongestants are medications that can provide relief from nasal congestion, a common flu symptom. They work by narrowing the blood vessels in nasal passages, which reduces swelling and increases drainage. There are mainly two types of decongestants: oral and nasal.
Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) is an oral decongestant taken in pill or liquid form. It provides relief from nasal congestion, but it may cause side effects such as elevated blood pressure, nervousness or insomnia.
Oxymetazoline (Afrin) is a nasal decongestant that provides quick relief from nasal congestion when sprayed directly into the nostrils. However, its use should not be more than three days, as it can cause rebound congestion that causes the nasal passages to become congested more than before.
Careful consideration and medical advice should be sought before using decongestants, as they can interact with other medications and health conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease.
Treatment for flu depends largely on the severity of its symptoms, and it’s vital to pay attention to one’s overall health conditions while opting for medication. Influenza treatments consist of antiviral medications like neuraminidase inhibitors and adamantanes, pain relievers, fever reducers, and decongestants to reduce symptoms and prevent complications. These medications may have adverse effects, and therefore, it’s crucial to seek medical advice before use. Most importantly, vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the flu and its long term complications.