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Tamiflu Side Effects

2009-2010 Flu Season

By

Updated May 16, 2014

Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is a popular antiviral flu medication during flu season.

Although its use is somewhat controversial, mainly because it is only supposed to decrease flu symptoms by a day and high rates of its use have raised concerns that it may lead to flu virus strains that become resistant to flu medications, it does seem to help many children with the flu.

One study found that tamiflu 'is safe and well-tolerated among asthmatic children, may reduce symptom duration and helps improve lung function and reduce asthma exacerbations during influenza infection.'

Anecdotally, some parents report that it helps their kids get better right away and others report that it does almost nothing. Why the differences? Tamiflu only really helps if you start it within 48 hours, and some parents may underestimate when their child's symptoms really start. And some children may simply have a milder case of the flu than others.

But some people do think that taking Tamiflu is worth it, since getting your child over his flu symptoms even a day faster can be a good idea.

Since Tamiflu also works as a preventative against the flu, if your child is around someone with the flu and they haven't had a flu shot, they can also take Tamiflu so that they don't get sick with the flu. Keep in mind that the use of Tamiflu is much more limited this flu season though, and is mainly for high risk children, including 'people who are very sick (hospitalized) or people who are sick with flu symptoms and who are at increased risk of serious flu complications, such as pregnant women, young children, people 65 and older and people with chronic health conditions.'

Tamiflu can also be important for those people who can't get a flu shot, like if they have an allergy to eggs or a previous allergy to a flu shot.

Some downsides to taking Tamiflu include:

  • its cost, as Tamiflu can be expensive
  • the not so pleasant tutti-frutti flavor if your child has to take the Tamiflu suspension
  • the possible side effects of Tamiflu
Also, Tamiflu is sometimes hard to find, as many pharmacies are reporting shortages of the liquid form of Tamiflu and are having to compound the medication from Tamiflu capsules for kids or have parents open the capsules themselves and mix it with a sweetened liquid, such as regular or sugar-free chocolate syrup .

Tamiflu Side Effects

Possible Tamiflu side effects, although not common, include:
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • bronchitis
  • stomach pain
  • dizziness
  • headache
More serious side effects have also sometimes been reported. According to the FDA, 'there have been reports (mostly from Japan) since Tamiflu became available of patients causing self-injury or experiencing delirium (confusion, hallucinations, speech problems) while using Tamiflu.' While these 'reports were mostly in children,' it is still not known if they were actually caused by taking Tamiflu.



Sources:

CDC. Antiviral Drugs and Swine Influenza. Accessed April 2009.
http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/antiviral_swine.htm

CDC. Interim Guidance on Antiviral Recommendations for Patients with Confirmed or Suspected Swine Influenza A (H1N1) Virus Infection and Close Contacts. Accessed April 2009.
http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/recommendations.htm

CDC. 2009-2010 Influenza Season: Information for Pharmacists. Accessed September 2009.
http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1flu/pharmacist/pharmacist_info.htm

Oral oseltamivir improves pulmonary function and reduces exacerbation frequency for influenza-infected children with asthma. Johnston SL - Pediatr Infect Dis J - 01-MAR-2005; 24(3): 225-32

FDA Patient Information Sheet Oseltamivir Phosphate (marketed as Tamiflu) Updated: December 12, 2006

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