Flu - treatment with antiviral drugs

Anti-viral drug are recommended for the treatment of influenza in certain groups of patients who are most at risk from the illness.

Influenza can be a very unpleasant viral infection, which causes a high temperature, chills severe muscle pains and headache. The onset is sudden and there is a high incidence of secondary bacterial infection in the chest, ears and sinuses. Occasionally, it can affect the brain and the heart. It is most common in the winter months and tends to occur in epidemics.

It is transmitted in air droplets (by coughs and sneezes) and saliva. It incubates for 48hours and you remain infectious from 1 day before symptoms start and to 7 days after.

Those patient groups most at risk of complications are

  • The over 65ís
  • Chronic respiratory conditions including asthma
  • Other chronic illness such as diabetes, kidney problems or heart disease
  • Those whose immune systems are compromised by illness or drugs combating certain illnesses
  • Those who are in long stay residential home
These groups of patients are best protected by immunisation against the illness in the autumn months and antiviral drugs are no substitute for immunisation.
However, for those who fall ill with influenza and are included in the at risk groups, antiviral drugs may be helpful in shortening the duration of the illness and preventing complications. They need to be started within 48 hours of the onset, otherwise there will be no benefit.
These drugs will not be prescribed until there is sufficient evidence that influenza is circulating in the community. The Health Protection Agency and the Royal College of General Practitioners will guide us on this.

Further information

This article published on
28 November 2005

Next review date 11/1/2013


Treatment and drugs

Areaof the body

Immune system

Male or female?


  Home | Terms & conditions | Privacy policy | Site map
Owned and Managed by StudentHealth Ltd