Let's Learn About Tamiflu
9 facts parents should know about oseltamivir
OK. Tamiflu. Let's talk about some facts.
At Cook Children's, 921 kids were tested for the flu the week before Christmas and 353 kids were positive (314 Flu A, 39 Flu B). So the flu has arrived in our area.
Every year our office gets inundated with phone calls about Tamiflu. Who can take it? Will it help my kiddo? Will it help me? Will it prevent contraction of the flu?
Let me try to spell a few things out so it makes some simple sense:
1. If you got your kiddo the flu vaccine this year, I want you to give yourself a big old fat kiss in the mirror because congrats on making a great decision for your child! While we aren't sure how good of a match it is until the season is over, way to give your child a fighting chance! The kids in the office that I've seen with the flu who have been vaccinated have typically been less sick than those who haven't.
2. Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is a medication anyone can take within 48 hours of starting the symptoms of the flu to REDUCE THE NUMBER OF DAYS ILL BY 1-1.5 DAYS. Notice how I didn’t say "make the symptoms go away" or "make it less severe." It mostly just reduces the number of days sick....by about a day.
3. Notice how I didn't say it cures the flu. Nothing cures the flu. It is a virus, and thus has no cure.
4. These are the reasons the AAP and CDC think a person should take Tamiflu if diagnosed with influenza (and are at "high risk of complications"):
- If under 2
- If over age 65
- Anyone with a chronic illness (diabetes, asthma, chronic heart disease, epilepsy, amongst others)
- Anyone who is immunosuppressed (cancer treatment, immune system deficiency)
- Women who are pregnant or postpartum
- Anyone hospitalized with influenza
- Healthy kids who have documented influenza and have a baby sibling under age 6 months
5. TAMIFLU DOES NOT WORK FOR VIRUSES THAT ARE NOT THE FLU. Meaning - if you or your kiddo has a "flu-like illness," and there are only about 400 circulating our area right now, Tamiflu will do nothing for you.
6. Tamiflu DOES NOT work much at all if taken more than 48 hours after the first symptom of influenza. Studies have proven this time and again.
7. Tamiflu sometimes causes more problems than it helps. It is infamous for making kids puke, be nauseous, have diarrhea, and have stomach cramps. (I personally took one dose of it a few years ago and swore I'd never do it again)
8. Tamiflu can help prevent a child from catching influenza, but given its cost and side effects, and chance for failure, we usually mostly recommend this for children who are at "high risk of complications" or have a very young or chronically ill sibling (see that list above).
9. Any provider can prescribe Tamiflu for any child they deem to be experiencing severe symptoms. If your child is really sick, and they have a positive flu test, and it's been less than 48 hours, we will write the prescription. But remember that clinicians also always have resistance in the back of our minds. The flu virus will LEARN and REMEMBER Tamiflu. And someday, maybe soon, it will no longer work. So if we seem "stingy" with this medication - that's why.
If you want to get jiggy with the beautiful science of all of this, a good stop for you would be this VERY informative page by the AAP: https://redbook.solutions.aap.org/selfserve/ssPage.aspx….
(Have fun with the 8,000 links on that page. SCIENCE! YAY!). If you don't want to read all of this information, please talk to your pediatrician if you have questions.
People are always asking my opinion of it, and I think I'm very "meh" about Tamiflu. It is costly and it can cause a lot of side effects. I do think it benefits the very young, the very old, and those with chronic illness, and I think it's worth it in those cases. Your best protection against the flu every year is to get the vaccine and wash your hands.
The flu virus can live on some surfaces for up to 24 hours. Isn't that astounding? Think about that. A guy sneezes in his hand, touches a door handle, and someone 12 hours later could touch it, wipe an eye or nose....and boom. Flu.
Again - WASH YOUR HANDS!
Hugs, everyone! Hang in there!
Get to know Diane Arnaout, M.D.
Dr. Diane Arnaout joined the Cook Children's Willow Park practice in 2011. You can stay connected with Dr. Arnaout and the Willow Park practice on Facebook. Dr. Arnaout was born and raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She attended college at Texas A&M University and medical school at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio. She did her pediatric internship and residency at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital and M.D. Anderson at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, TX where she served as a leader on the medical education committees. She is a board-certified pediatrician. Click to learn more.