When a viral infection occurs, the virus particles start to replicate and spread within the body.2,3 Antiviral medications tackle flu by reducing the virus’s ability to do this.4
By treating flu in this way, an antiviral could help you to feel better sooner than if you didn’t take one, and could also help stop the spread of the virus to other people.5,6
Antiviral flu medications or over-the-counter remedies – what’s the difference?
Medications that you can pick up without a prescription at your local pharmacy (over-the-counter medicines) only treat the symptoms of flu and not the virus itself.7 These can be useful for treating a headache or sore throat but won’t stop flu from spreading.3
An antiviral flu medication, prescribed by your doctor, actively reduces the flu virus’s ability to reproduce.4 This stops it spreading to others and helps avoid complications.1,4–6,8
Antibiotics are used to fight bacterial infections.1 Because flu is caused by a virus and not a bacterium, antibiotics won’t have any effect.9 So if you suspect you have flu, contact your doctor to ask about antivirals.