Most healthy people will recover from the flu with supportive treatment (hydration, analgesics) and do not need antiviral drugs. Antiviral (Tamiflu, Relenza) medications are recommended for persons suffering severe flu illness requiring hospitalization and for persons with medical conditions placing them at higher risk for flu complications. It is occasionally necessary to use antiviral medications in persons who do not fall into these two groups.
Antiviral medications can shorten the duration of flu symptoms by 1-2 days if started less than 48 hours from the first flu symptoms. For more information on antiviral treatment for the flu:
Analgesicsmay be used to control fever, muscle aches, headache, and sore throat. These include: Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Naproxen, and Aspirin. Aspirin use should be avoided in children and teenagers if influenza is suspected.
Hydration- Fever increases the daily fluid requirement by about 10% for each degree of fever. If the average adult requires 1.5 – 2 liters of fluid/day from food and drink, this should be increased about 15o ml of fluid for each degree of fever above normal. Drink enough fluids for your urine to have a clear to pale yellow color.
Decongestantshelp alleviate nasal congestion, sinus pressure and ear pressure due to inflamed/swollen sinus passages caused by acute respiratory pathogens. These include: Pseudoephedrine, Phenylephrine (less effective), and Oxymetazoline. Read the warning label for Persons with certain medical illness (including cardiovascular disease) or who are on certain medications (including MAO inhibitors) should consult with their healthcare provider before using decongestants.
Expectorantshelp loosen thick secretions and facilitate drainage from the sinuses and chest. These include:
➢ Water is an effective expectorant. Drink approximately 8 glasses a day. ➢ Steam, Humidified Air, Hot Shower - can help loosen secretions ➢ Guaifenesin - Available as a liquid or pill to help loosen secretions and facilitate drainage. ➢ Saline nasal irrigation of the nasal passages can loosen nasal secretions to facilitate drainage and relieve obstruction.
Cough Suppressants– have demonstrated modest success in alleviating the cough which commonly accompanies acute respiratory infections. These include:
➢ Dextramethorphan – Non-sedating (Over-the-counter). ➢ Opiod Cough Suppressants (Codeine/Hydrocodone) Rx required. ➢ Benzonatate perles (non-narcotic peripherally acting agent) Rx required. ➢ First Generation Antihistamines (Diphenhydramine, Chlorpheniramine, Bropheniramine) help thicken respiratory secretions when cough is due to post-nasal drainage.