Tamiflu safety for children


Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is a popular oral antiviral medication used to treat or prevent influenza (flu) . Despite its popularity, the use of Tamiflu in children remains a controversial topic.

It is not uncommon for parents to claim that this does not always work, read reports suggesting that overuse can lead to the development of resistant strains of the flu, or hear some warning that Tamiflu use causes hallucinations and suicidal thoughts in children. Sometimes it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction, so this is what the study says.

Get Medical Information / Alexandra Gordon


Tamiflu is one of four antiviral drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment and prevention of influenza .

The other two are the intravenous drug Rapivab (peramivir) and the inhaled drug Relenza (zanamivir) . Unlike other antiviral medications used to treat influenza, these three medications are effective in treating influenza A and B viruses.

Tamiflu has been approved by the FDA specifically for the treatment of influenza in children 2 weeks of age and older and for the prevention of influenza in children 1 year of age and older. However, this is not recommended for mild cases .

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several benefits to using these antiviral medications. The main one is the prevention of influenza.

Flu Prevention

Antiviral medications are 70% to 90% effective in preventing influenza, so they are important for preventing influenza in children who are at high risk for complications within 48 hours of infection .

Children are considered to be at high risk for complications from influenza, such as pneumonia and respiratory failure, if they are younger than 5 years old and / or have an underlying medical condition, such as asthma, lung disease, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, or renal. disease. or liver problems, blood disorders, cancer, immunodeficiency, or cerebral palsy.

These medications are also a source of prevention for children exposed to children who cannot receive the flu vaccine, such as those who have previously had an allergic reaction to the vaccine.

Other benefits

Other benefits identified by the CDC include :

  • Reduce the duration and severity of symptoms : Using antiviral medications such as Tamiflu within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms can reduce the length of time flu symptoms persist, as well as their severity.
  • Reduce the risk of complications : Antiviral medications can reduce the risk of complications that can occur with the flu, such as pneumonia, ear infections, hospitalization, and respiratory distress.
  • Shorter hospital stays : When children are hospitalized for the flu, early antiviral treatment can shorten their hospital stay and help prevent respiratory failure or death. Even if your child's 48-hour window has passed, antiviral medications can still help.
  • Effective for Infants – Although not FDA approved, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend the use of Tamiflu to treat children under 14 days of age with influenza and to prevent influenza in children 3 months to 1 year of age, as these In children, the risk of complications from influenza is especially high .


Despite the evidence supporting the use of Tamiflu in children, there are a number of barriers that prevent parents from using it.


Price is the main issue: a five-day course without insurance costs more than $ 100. Although cheaper generics are now available, the price is still high. If your child needs Tamiflu, try searching online for prescription drug discounts and coupons.

I don't understand how it works

Some parents do not believe that Tamiflu really works. In most cases, however, this has more to do with misuse or unrealistic expectations than with the drug itself.

In fact, the effectiveness of Tamiflu can vary depending on when treatment is started. To this end, most health professionals recommend taking the drug within 48 hours of the first symptoms onset .

The problem, of course, is that parents can sometimes skip or ignore minor symptoms, such as a runny nose or sore throat, for a day or two, especially if the child appears healthy.

What's more, although some people think that Tamiflu should kill the flu virus immediately and eliminate all symptoms, the point is that it does not work as an antibiotic, although it will probably shorten the duration of your child's illness. Tamiflu also doesn't work against other types of viruses, so it won't work if he or she is sick with something other than the flu.

Do not use it for prevention.

Tamiflu can be extremely effective in preventing the flu in a child who has not yet been vaccinated or who is at high risk for complications and has been around other people with the flu. However, because the benefits are largely invisible, parents often only turn to it when symptoms appear, rather than using it for prevention. This is a mistake.

Any high-risk child should be treated with Tamiflu as soon as possible after getting the flu.

Side effects

Parents often associate price with potency and the fear that a drug like Tamiflu could cause more symptoms than it can alleviate. For the most part, this is not true.

According to the FDA, the two most common side effects are nausea and vomiting, which are generally less severe and occur within two days of starting treatment. Taking Tamiflu with food can generally reduce the risk of these side effects. Other side effects can include mild abdominal pain, nosebleeds, headaches, and fatigue.

More serious side effects have been reported. Reports, mainly from Japan in 2005 and 2006, suggest that Tamiflu increases the risk of neuropsychiatric symptoms such as delirium and hallucinations, and may lead adolescents to self-harm or suicidal thoughts .

To date, no such events have been reported and further research has not shown an increased risk of neuropsychiatric effects in Tamiflu users. However, updated product labels now include information on hallucinations, self-harm, abnormal behavior, and suicidal behavior. Thoughts, although extremely rare, are possible.

If you notice any serious side effects while your child is taking Tamiflu, call your doctor immediately.

Antiviral resistance

As with antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections, there has long been a concern that the widespread use of antiviral medications for influenza could lead to the development of a supervirus. We have not seen this to date.

Because flu viruses can change so rapidly, CDC regularly tests for resistance to antivirals and has encountered little or no resistance during recent flu seasons. This regular testing also determines which antiviral medications CDC should recommend each flu season and helps keep recommendations current .

However, it is not recommended to take any medication when it is not really necessary. In addition to potential health risks, this can limit the supply of the drug to those who really need it.

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