While getting a flu vaccine each year is recommended by CDC as the first and most important step in protecting against the flu, there also are drugs that can treat influenza. These are called “influenza antiviral drugs” and they are an important treatment option for the flu. (These drugs are not a substitute for vaccination, which can prevent flu illness.)

Antiviral drugs for children come in the form of pills, liquid, or an inhaler. They fight the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in the body. Antiviral drugs must be prescribed by a doctor — they are not available over-the-counter. For treatment, influenza antiviral drugs should ideally be started within 2 days after becoming sick and taken for 5 days. If a child gets sick with the flu, antiviral drugs offer a safe and effective treatment option.

Influenza antiviral drugs only work against influenza viruses — they will not help against other viruses that may cause illness symptoms similar to the flu.

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