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When can you take oseltamivir (generic for Tamiflu®)?

You did not receive an annual flu shot this year, and you have been feeling sick with cough, fever, chills and muscle aches for the past few days. You are worried you might have the flu (influenza) and are considering taking oseltamivir (generic for Tamiflu). Which of the following is correct regarding oseltamivir?
(A) Oseltamivir is an antibiotic that can be used to treat lung infections as well as the flu
(B) Oseltamivir can be used as a substitute for the annual flu shot
(E) Oseltamivir can be used to treat COVID-19

Oseltamivir (generic for Tamiflu) is an antiviral medication used to treat influenza, the virus that causes “the flu.” Symptoms of the flu include fever, chills and muscle aches. The best way to prevent the flu is to get your annual flu shot.

Oseltamivir has been shown to shorten the duration of flu symptoms in people with the flu. However, except in certain circumstances beyond the scope of this question, it should only be started within 48 HOURS of symptom onset. In most cases, it is inappropriate to initiate oseltamivir treatment for an otherwise healthy adult who has been experiencing flu-like symptoms for a few days.

Why are the other answers incorrect?

A) Oseltamivir is an antibiotic that can be used to treat lung infections as well as the flu
Oseltamivir is an antiviral, not an antibiotic, and does not treat bacterial infections. Of note, sometimes a bacterial lung infection (bacterial pneumonia) can develop after a viral influenza infection. Bacterial pneumonia is indeed treated with antibiotics.

B) Oseltamitvir can be used as a substitute for the annual flu shot
Oseltamivir is not a substitute for the annual flu shot (influenza vaccine). Getting your flu shot protects you and others around you. Take care of your neighbor — please get a flu shot every year.

C) Oseltamivir is free of any serious side effects
Oseltamivir has many serious side effects including psychiatric symptoms, seizures, and skin reactions that can occur in otherwise healthy people.

E) Oseltamivir can be used to treat COVID-19
As of this writing, oseltamivir has not been shown to prevent or treat COVID-19.

It can be difficult to know whether flu-like symptoms are caused by COVID-19 or influenza. While COVID-19 is top-of-mind, the influenza virus has not disappeared.

Choosing whether to start oseltamivir to treat flu-like symptoms is a complex decision. As with any illness, you should always speak with a doctor about flu-like symptoms to determine the best course of treatment.

Reference: CDC

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