What are flu

antivirals?

Antivirals are used to treat viral infections. 

Flu antivirals work by targeting the flu virus directly, stopping it from multiplying in the body.1 They are prescription-only medications, meaning you cannot purchase them over the counter in your local pharmacy. 


Antivirals are used to treat viral infections. Flu antivirals work by targeting the flu virus directly, stopping it from multiplying in the body.1 They are prescription-only medications, meaning you cannot purchase them over the counter in your local pharmacy.

Antivirals can help you beat the flu by: 

  • Shortening the length of the illness2,3
  • Reducing the severity of symptoms2
  • Helping prevent complications related to the flu2–4

 

A box of tissues

Without antivirals, people with the flu are likely to be sick for longer periods of time,2 impacting work, school, and other commitments. 

Although most people with the flu will eventually recover without complications, those at high risk who leave the flu untreated could be at risk of more serious health problems, hospitalisation, and even death.3

Antivirals can reduce the risk of hospitalisation for those at high risk,3-6 and, if prescribed early, can reduce the risk of death for those already in hospital.6,7

How do flu antivirals work?

 

When a viral infection occurs, the virus particles start to replicate and spread within the body.8,9 Antiviral medications fight the flu by reducing the virus’s ability to do this.1

 

Antivirals vs Over-the-counter flu
medications or antibiotics

Antivirals Over-the-counter flu medications Antibiotics
Require a prescription10 No prescription needed11 Require a prescription12
Treat the flu virus directly1 Treat symptoms rather than the flu virus itself11 Treat bacteria which has no effect on the flu virus itself12
Can reduce the flu’s ability to replicate1 No effect on the flu’s ability to replicate11 No effect on the flu’s ability to replicate12
Can help avoid potentially serious complications2,4 No effect on complications11 Effective against bacterial complications, but will not help ease your flu symptoms10,12,13

No filter results

  • Antivirals
    • Require a prescription10
    • Treat the flu virus directly1
    • Can reduce the flu’s ability to replicate1
    • Can help avoid potentially serious complications2,4
  • Over-the-counter medicines
    • No prescription needed11
    • Treat symptoms rather than the flu virus itself11
    • No effect on the flu’s ability to replicate11
    • No effect on complications11
  • Antibiotics
    • Require a prescription12
    • Treat bacteria which has no effect on the flu virus itself12
    • No effect on the flu’s ability to replicate12
    • Effective against bacterial complications, but will not help ease your flu symptoms10,12,13

 

 

Using antibiotics when they are not needed can do more harm than good. This is because bacteria can start building resistance to the antibiotic, which can weaken the antibiotic response to any future bacterial infections.14

Beat the flu with antivirals, which directly target the flu virus, and stop it from replicating1

It’s important that you talk to your doctor within 48 hours of noticing your first symptoms of the flu, so that treatment can be as effective as possible.15

Don't let the flu beat you. Ask your doctor if an antiviral is right for you

It’s important to speak to your doctor or healthcare provider as soon as possible.

References

  1. Stiver G. CMAJ 2003; 168(1): 49–56.
  2. Allen UD et al. Can J Infect Dis Med Microbiol 2006; 17(5): 273–284.
  3. Hayden FG & Pavia AT. J Infect Dis 2006; 194: S119–126.
  4. Wallick C et al. Poster presented at IDWeek. 3–7 October 2018. San Francisco, CA, USA.
  5. Uyeki TM et al. Clin Infect Dis 2019; doi: 10.1093/cid/ciy866.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2011; 60: 1. Available from: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/rr/rr6001.pdf. Last accessed: February 2020.
  7. Muthuri SG et al. Lancet Respir Med 2014; 2(5): 395–404.
  8. Bouvier NM & Palese P. Vaccine 2008; 26(Suppl 4): D49–D53.
  9. Breitbart M & Rohwer F. Trends Microbiol 2005; 13(6): 278–284.
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What You Should Know About Influenza (Flu) Antiviral Drugs: Fact Sheet, 2018. Available from: www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/antiviral-factsheet-updated.pdf. Last accessed: February 2020.
  11. Klepser M. Drugs 2014; 74(13): 1467–1479.
  12. Low D. Clin Microbiol Infect 2008; 14(4): 298–306.
  13. Bonten M. BMJ 2006; 332(7536): 248–249.
  14. World Health Organization (WHO). Antibiotic resistance. Available from: www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antibiotic-resistance. Last accessed: February 2020.
  15. Lehnert R et al. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2016; 113(47): 799–807.