Treating the flu is mainly non-pharmacological and includes staying home, getting adequate rest and staying hydrated. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication to treat the virus, and over-the-counter medication can be used to minimize discomfort associated with flu symptoms (for example, decongestant and antihistamine for congestion, cough and nasal discharge). Antibiotics are not useful in treating the flu but may be prescribed if necessary to clear up a related sinus or ear infection.
There are two commonly used antiviral drugs: oseltamivir (trade name Tamiflu®), which comes in pill form, and peramivir (trade name Rapivab®), which is administered intravenously. These drugs have been shown to reduce flu symptoms if started within a day or two of getting sick.
Treatment with antiviral medicine is most important for people with suspected or confirmed influenza who are at higher risk for complications, including:
- Children younger than 2 years old
- Adults 65 years and older
- Pregnant women
- People with certain chronic medical conditions, such as asthma or COPD, or with suppressed immune systems