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Q. What medications are available for influenza?
A. In the recent past, the only things your health care professional could prescribe for the flu were lots of rest, fluids, painkillers and other approaches designed to relieve symptoms. Today, they have two different types of drugs at their disposal. The older types are antivirals that work only against Type A influenza. They have common and sometimes intense side effects. A new class of drugs called neuraminidase inhibitors (NAI) is useful in treating influenza caused by either type of virus. In inhalant or pill form, the prescription medications can shorten the duration of flu by one to three days and may reduce complications, including pneumonia and bronchitis. Note: Never give aspirin to a feverish child with flu. Reye syndrome is a severe illness that affects children, following use of aspirin-containing products for viral infections. Reye syndrome affects the liver and the brain, and is fatal in roughly 10 percent of cases. A child's risk for developing this disease is markedly lowered by avoiding aspirin use whenever he or she has a viral infection.