- Treating the Flu in People with Health Risks Center
- Flu Slideshow: 10 Foods to Eat When You Have the Flu
- Natural Cold & Flu Remedies Slideshow
- Take the Cold & Flu Quiz
- Find a local Doctor in your town
- Treating the flu in people with health risks facts*
- Do you have Asthma, Diabetes or Chronic Heart Disease?
- Why am I at greater risk of serious flu complications?
- Can the flu be treated?
- What should I do if I think I have the flu?
- Should I still get a flu vaccine?
- What are the benefits of antiviral drugs?
- What are the possible side effects of antiviral drugs?
- When should antiviral drugs be taken for treatment?
- What antiviral drugs are recommended?
- How long should antiviral drugs be taken?
- Can children and pregnant women take antiviral drugs?
- Who should take antiviral drugs?
- What are the health and age factors that are known to increase a person's risk of getting serious complications from the flu?
Treating the flu in people with health risks facts*
*Treating the flu in people with health risks facts medical author: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
- People with chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes and chronic heart disease are more frequently hospitalized if they get the flu.
- Such individuals get more complications of the flu like pneumonia often due to a depressed immune system.
- The flu can be treated with antiviral drugs.
- People who think they have the flu should check immediately with their doctor if they have high risk health conditions.
- High risk persons should still get the vaccine because it is the best defense against the flu; antivirals are the second line of defense.
- Antiviral drugs may lessen symptoms, shorten the time of illness and may prevent complications of the flu.
- Side effects of antiviral drugs include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, cough, diarrhea, headache and possibly behavioral changes.
- Antiviral drugs work best when started within two days of onset of symptoms; after two days, the drugs may be helpful in people with high risk conditions or people very sick with the flu.
- CDC-recommended antivirals are oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu®) and zanamivir (brand name Relenza®); zanamivir should not be used if the person has a breathing problem.
- Antivirals are usually taken for 5 days, but hospitalized patients may be treated longer.
- Children and pregnant women can take the antivirals.
- Antiviral drugs should be taken by people with high risk conditions and hospitalized patients with the flu.
- Health and age factors that increase flu risk include the following: asthma, blood disorders, heart disease, lung disease, kidney problems, liver problems, metabolic disorders, neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders, COPD, Immune system disorders (HIV, AIDS, cancers, chronic steroid use), Adults aged 65 and older, children younger than 2 years, pregnant women, women up to 2 weeks from end of pregnancy, American Indians and Alaska Natives
Do you have Asthma, Diabetes or Chronic Heart Disease?
If so, you are at high risk of serious illness if you get the flu. In past flu seasons, as many as 80 percent of adults hospitalized from flu complications had a long-term health condition; as did about 50 percent of hospitalized children. Asthma, diabetes and chronic heart disease were the most common of these. This fact sheet provides information about treating influenza in high risk people with prescription influenza antiviral drugs. Treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
Why am I at greater risk of serious flu complications?
Your medical condition makes it more likely that you will get complications from the flu, like pneumonia. The flu also can make long-term health problems worse, even if they are well managed. People with asthma or chronic congestive heart failure may experience worsening of these conditions. Diabetes (type 1 and 2) can make the immune system less able to fight the flu. Also, illness can raise blood sugar levels.
Can the flu be treated?
Yes. There are prescription medications called "antiviral drugs" that can be used to treat influenza illness. Antiviral drugs fight influenza viruses in your body. They are different from antibiotics, which fight against bacterial infections.
Quick Guide10 Foods to Eat When You Have the Flu in Pictures
What should I do if I think I have the flu?
If you get the flu, antiviral drugs are a treatment option. Check with your doctor promptly if you have a high risk condition and you get flu symptoms. Symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs to treat your flu illness.
Should I still get a flu vaccine?
Yes. Antiviral drugs are not a substitute for getting a flu vaccine. While not 100% effective, a flu vaccine is the first and best way to prevent influenza. Antiviral drugs are a second line of defense to treat the flu if you get sick.
What are the benefits of antiviral drugs?
- When used for treatment, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by 1 or 2 days.
- Antiviral drugs also can prevent serious flu-related complications (like pneumonia). This is especially important for people with a high-risk health condition like asthma, diabetes or chronic heart disease.
What are the possible side effects of antiviral drugs?
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. These are uncommon. Your doctor can give you more information about these drugs or you can check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) websites.
When should antiviral drugs be taken for treatment?
Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick. However, starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high-risk health condition (see list below) or is very sick from the flu. Follow your doctor's instructions for taking this drug.
What antiviral drugs are recommended?
There are two antiviral drugs recommended by the CDC and approved by the FDA for flu treatment. These are oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu®) and zanamivir (brand name Relenza®). Tamiflu® comes as a pill or liquid, and Relenza® is an inhaled powder. (Relenza should NOT be used in anyone with breathing problems, like asthma or COPD, for example.) These drugs have been in use since 1999. There are no generic flu antiviral drugs.
Quick Guide10 Foods to Eat When You Have the Flu in Pictures
How long should antiviral drugs be taken?
To treat flu, Tamiflu® and Relenza® are usually taken for 5 days, although people hospitalized with the flu may need the medicine for longer than 5 days.
Can children and pregnant women take antiviral drugs?
Yes. Children and pregnant women can take antiviral drugs.
Who should take antiviral drugs?
It's very important that antiviral drugs be used early to treat the flu in:
- People who are very sick with the flu (for example, people who are in the hospital).
- People who are sick with the flu and have a high-risk health condition like asthma, diabetes or chronic heart disease. (See below for full list of high risk conditions).
What are the health and age factors that are known to increase a person's risk of getting serious complications from the flu?
- Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
- Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis) Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
- Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
- Kidney disorders
- Liver disorders
- Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
- Morbid obesity
- Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions
- People younger than 19 years of age on longterm aspirin therapy
- People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- People with weakened immune systems due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
Other people at high risk from the flu:
- Adults 65 years and older
- Children younger than 2 years old
- Pregnant women and women up to 2 weeks from end of pregnancy
- American Indians and Alaska Natives
SOURCE: CDC.gov/flu. Treating Influlenza (Flu)
Daily Health News
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter
Top Treating the Flu In People With Health Risks Related Articles
Chronic cough is a cough that does not go away and is generally a symptom of another disorder such as
- allergic rhinitis,
- sinus infection,
- cigarette smoking,
- postnasal drip,
- medications, and
- less frequently tumors or other lung disease. Treatment of chronic cough is dependent upon the cause.
Chronic cough treatment is based on the cause, but may be soothed natural and home remedies.
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) OverviewCongestive heart failure (CHF) refers to a condition in which the heart loses the ability to function properly. Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, myocarditis, and cardiomyopathies are just a few potential causes of congestive heart failure. Signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure may include fatigue, breathlessness, palpitations, angina, and edema. Physical examination, patient history, blood tests, and imaging tests are used to diagnose congestive heart failure. Treatment of heart failure consists of lifestyle modification and taking medications to decrease fluid in the body and ease the strain on the heart. The prognosis of a patient with congestive heart failure depends on the stage of the heart failure and the overall condition of the individual.
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung condition caused by smoking tobacco, exposure to secondhand smoke, and/or air pollutants. Conditions that accompany COPD include:
- Chronic bronchitis
- Chronic cough
Symptoms of COPD include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic cough
Treatment of COPD include smoking cessation, medications, and surgery. The life expectancy of a person with COPD depends on the stage of the disease.
Diabetes MellitusDiabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. The two types of diabetes are referred to as type 1 (insulin dependent) and type 2 (non-insulin dependent). Symptoms of diabetes include increased urine output, thirst, hunger, and fatigue. Treatment of diabetes depends on the type.
Diabetes TreatmentThe major goal in treating diabetes is controlling elevated blood sugar without causing abnormally low levels of blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes is treated with:
- and a diabetic diet.
- weight reduction,
- a diabetic diet,
- and exercise.
Heart Disease (Coronary Artery Disease)
Heart disease (coronary artery disease) occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, the vessels that supply blood to the heart. Heart disease can lead to heart attack. Risk factors for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history
Angina, shortness of breath, and sweating are just a few symptoms that may indicate a heart attack. Treatment of heart disease involves control of heart disease risk factors through lifestyle changes, medications, and/or stenting or bypass surgery. Heart disease can be prevented by controlling heart disease risk factors.
Home Remedies for Sick ChildrenWatch this pictures slideshow and learn about home remedies for sick children. Get tips on how to treat a sore throat, cough, fever and more.
Obesity (Weight Loss)Obesity is the state of being well above one's normal weight. A person has traditionally been considered to be obese if they are more than 20% over their ideal weight. That ideal weight must take into account the person's height, age, sex, and build.
Signs and symptoms of pregnancy vary by stage (trimester). The earliest pregnancy symptom is typically a missed period, but others include
breast swelling and tenderness,
- nausea and sometimes vomiting,
- fatigue, and
Second trimester symptoms include
- weight gain,
- itching, and
- possible stretch marks.
Third trimester symptoms are
- additional weight gain,
- swelling of the ankles,
- fingers, and face,
- breast tenderness, and
- trouble sleeping.
Eating a healthy diet, getting a moderate amount of exercise, also are recommended for a healthy pregnancy. Information about the week by week growth of your baby in the womb are provided.
Pregnancy Flu Shot Side Effects and SafetyThe flu shot is safe for women who are pregnant. The flu shot not only protects the woman from illness, but it also protects the unborn baby. The flu shot is the protection against the flu if you are pregnant. The flu shot is safe for Pregnant women.
Sickle CellSickle cell anemia (sickle cell disease), a blood disease which shortens life expectancy, is cause by an inherited abnormal hemoglobin. Symptoms may include:
- bacterial infections,
- painful swelling of the hands and feet,
- leg ulcers,
- eye damage,
- and lung and heart injury.