Usually, you can manage flu symptoms yourself at home and there’s no need to see a GP. Most people feel better within a week.
You should consider seeing your GP if you’re at a higher risk of becoming more seriously ill. This includes people who:
- are 65 or over
- are pregnant
- have a lung, heart, kidney, liver or neurological disease
- have a weakened immune system
- have diabetes
In these cases, your GP may suggest taking antiviral medication.
Managing your symptoms at home
If you’re otherwise healthy, you can look after yourself at home by resting, keeping warm and drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
If you feel unwell and have a fever, you can take paracetamol or anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen to lower your temperature and relieve aches. Children under 16 shouldn’t be given aspirin.
Stay off work or school until you’re feeling better. For most people, this will take about a week. See your GP if your symptoms get worse or last longer than a week.
Read the page on preventing flu for more information about stopping the infection spreading to others.
In 2009, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended that doctors should consider treating people in the at-risk groups mentioned above with the antiviral medications oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) to reduce the risk of complications of flu.
Antivirals work by stopping the flu virus from multiplying in the body. They won’t cure flu, but they may help slightly reduce the length of the illness and relieve some of the symptoms.
Recent research has suggested that Tamiflu and Relenza may not be effective at reducing the risk of flu complications and could cause side effects, so not all doctors agree they should be used.
But there is evidence that antivirals can reduce the risk of death in patients hospitalised with flu. In the light of this evidence, Public Health England says it is important that doctors treating severely unwell patients continue to prescribe these drugs where appropriate.
For more information, read Effectiveness of Tamiflu and Relenza questioned and the NICE guidelines on antivirals to treat influenza.
Taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do more harm than good. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of getting an infection later that may resist antibiotic treatment.
Why Won’t Antibiotics Cure Cold or Flu?
Antibiotics only cure certain infections due to bacteria — and if taken carelessly, you may get more serious health problems than you bargained for.
With any illness, it is critical to address the underlying cause, whether it’s bacterial or viral. Antibiotics will not kill cold or flu viruses.
Should I Avoid Antibiotics Altogether?
Not at all. Antibiotics can save people’s lives, and if you need them, you should get them as quickly as you can. Since only a doctor can prescribe antibiotics, this means that you should talk to your doctor if you think you might need them (as opposed to taking your friend’s leftover antibiotics from last winter’s illness, for example).
However, it is the grave over-reliance and inappropriate use of antibiotics that have contributed to the global antibiotic resistance crisis that we face.
A study by the CDC showed that many adults believe that if they are sick enough to see a doctor for a cold, they should get an antibiotic treatment. The study also showed that patients are not aware of the consequences of taking the drugs if they are not needed. And when antibiotics are misused, bacteria can become resistant.
What Are Antivirals?
Antivirals are medications that reduce the ability of flu viruses to multiply. The CDC considers antiviral drugs as a “second line of defense against the flu” after getting an annual flu vaccine. When taken at the onset of flu, these drugs help decrease the severity and duration of flu symptoms. They can also be used in cases to help prevent the flu, but they are not a replacement for getting the flu vaccine
Which Antivirals Does the CDC Recommend?
The CDC recommends oseltamivir (Tamiflu), peramivir (Rapivab), and zanamivir (Relenza) for flu. They are most effective when given within 48 hours after symptoms start to appear. These flu drugs can decrease the duration of the flu by one to two days if used within this early time period. These antivirals are usually given for a period of five days for the treatment of flu. For prevention of flu, antiviral drugs may be given for at least 7 days. In some cases, antivirals may be given for longer periods of time.
Oseltamivir is approved for treatment in those over 2 weeks of age and for prevention in people ages 1 and older.
Peramivir, given in one intravenous dose, is approved for people ages18 and older.
Zanamivir, an inhaled medication, is approved for treatment of people ages 7 and older and for prevention in people ages 5 and older.
Are There Side Effects With Antiviral Drugs?
Side effects of antiviral drugs may include nervousness, poor concentration, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Zanamivir is not recommended for people with a history of breathing problems, such as asthma, because it may worsen breathing. Discuss side effects with your doctor.
What Does Antibiotic Resistance Mean?
According to the CDC, antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria changes in some way to reduce or eliminate the effectiveness of the antibiotic.
When bacteria are exposed to antibiotics repeatedly, such as when you take the medication needlessly or too frequently, the germs in your body start to evolve. These changes can make the germs stronger than before so they completely resist the antibiotic. Your illness may linger with no signs of improvement. Or your illness may suddenly take a turn for the worse, requiring you to seek emergency medical care. You may have to be admitted to the hospital and get several different antibiotics intravenously. Sadly, those around you may get the resistant bacteria and come down with a similar illness that is very difficult to treat.
But Aren’t Antibiotics Quick Cures for Illnesses?
Unfortunately, demand for a “quick fix” for what ails us has fueled this resistance crisis. In fact, more than two-thirds of the 150 million antibiotic prescriptions written each year for patients outside of hospitals are unnecessary, according to a CDC study.
How Can I Protect my Family and Myself From Antibiotic Resistance?
There is a way to protect yourself and others from resistant bacteria, and that is to respect antibiotics and take them only when necessary for a bacterial infection. Here are some useful tips:
- When you see a doctor, don’t demand antibiotics. Understand that antibiotics are used for bacterial infections, not symptoms of a cold or flu virus.
- If a doctor prescribes antibiotics, use them as prescribed. Take all of the antibiotics as directed and don’t save some for future use.
- Don’t share antibiotics with others.
Preventing the flu in the first place may help you avoid getting sick altogether. Get a flu shot each year. Also, make sure you wash your hands frequently and thoroughly to prevent spreading germs. Flu (influenza) is a very common viral illness. In medical journals, you can find information that antibiotics are not used to combat influenza viruses. Antibiotics for flu infection do not really exist. After all, antibacterial and bactericidal medications are not effective in the treatment of diseases caused by viral infection.
It should be noted that many patients diagnosed with the flu develop bacterial infections. Therefore, antibiotics are prescribed in addition to antiviral drugs for influenza treatment.
Bacterial infection is one of the most frequent complications of severe influenza. Therefore, many people taking antibiotics during the treatment of severe viral infection are convinced that they use antibiotics for flu treatment.
Every year, millions of people around the world take antibiotics during influenza treatment. Therefore, you can often find statements about the use of antibiotics for flu and cold, cough or sore throat on the forums.
Given the fact that antibiotics are not used for flu treatment, bactericidal (antibacterial) drugs for severe influenza are called drugs to treat flu complications. The most serious and dangerous complication of influenza is pneumonia. Common antibiotics for the treatment of this flu complication are drugs for the treatment of diseases caused by pneumococcal, streptococcal or staphylococcal infection. It should be noted that many symptoms of bacterial infection are similar to flu symptoms. Therefore, the use of antibiotics to fight influenza complications helps to reduce some symptoms of a viral infection.
Antibiotics for flu complications can be sold at pharmacies under various names, such as Ampicillin, Amoxicillin, Cefazolin, Cefuroxime, Cefotaxime, Ceftazidime, Cefepime, Imipenem, Ertapenem, Erythromycin, Roxithromycin, Azithromycin, Clarithromycin, Doxycycline, Clindamycin, Ciprofloxacin, Levofloxacin, Vancomycin, Linezolid.
Each of antibiotics mentioned above for the treatment of bacterial influenza complications can be sold under the original trade names. For example, common antibiotic – Ciprofloxacin for flu complications is registered in the UK under the brand names Cetraxal, Ciloxan, Ciprobay.
Antibiotics for flu symptoms and complications can be prescribed both to adults and to children. During pregnancy, antibiotics for flu should be taken with caution.
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