If you haven’t had the vaccine and contract the flu, a doctor may prescribe an anti-viral medication to reduce your symptoms. Or an anti-viral might be prescribed as a “prophylaxis”, which means, to reduce the likelihood that you will contract the virus. (This would likely be to stop the spread of the flu in a setting such as a hospital.)
Q. What are the anti-viral medications?
A. The two anti-virals that are available are called Relenza and Tamiflu. Tamiflu is taken orally, while Relenza is an inhaled powder. (The makers of Relenza caution those with asthma that the drug has caused exacerbations in some people. See: H1N1 and Asthma)
Q. What if I am allergic to an ingredient in the influenza anti-viral medications?
A. If you are allergic to an ingredient in a medication, the general advice is to avoid it, says Dr. Michael Cyr, an allergist in Hamilton, Ontario. However, if the benefits of taking the anti-viral outweigh the risk, then the medication should be taken under the supervision of an allergist or a physician who has the ability to treat the reaction.
If there is no reaction, says Dr. Wade Watson, a pediatric allergist in Halifax, the medication can be continued.
Q. What are the ingredients of the anti-viral medications?
A. Relenza contains lactose (dairy protein) and Tamiflu contains corn starch and gelatin, which are allergens for some people. See the full list of ingredients here.
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