Antiviral drugs are a type of prescription medicine used to treat viral infections. A flu antiviral works by stopping the flu virus from multiplying in your body, so it can no longer keep you sick.1
Antiviral medications for flu are not sold over-the-counter. Your doctor needs to prescribe them. They can help lessen flu symptoms, shorten the time you are sick, and help prevent flu from being spread to others.2,3
However, studies have shown that to make sure flu antivirals are as effective as possible, they must be prescribed within two days of you first noticing your symptoms.4 This is why it is so important that you speak to your doctor as soon as you think you might have flu.
Flu is most contagious in the first 3 to 5 days, and even before symptoms occur you can still spread the virus to other people.5 Antivirals are designed specifically to shorten the length of the illness, avoid complications and minimize its spread to other people.2,3
For those at high risk of serious flu complications (for example people with asthma, the elderly and pregnant women,6 among others), antivirals can also reduce the risk of hospitalization and developing complications,7,8 and early treatment with an antiviral medication can reduce the risk of death in people who have been hospitalized.8