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Tamiflu for Kids: Is It Safe? (What You Should Know)

Yes, Tamiflu is safe for kids.

Tamiflu is an antiviral medication meant to speed up recovery from the flu. It can also help people to avoid contracting the flu in the first place, although it is not meant to replace a flu vaccination. Adults and children as young as 2 weeks old can use it. (Learn More)

Tamiflu comes in two forms: capsules and liquid. The medication should always be taken as intended.

Capsules are usually dosed relatively easily, but the liquid requires use of a measured plunger, which is provided with the medication. Ask your doctor or a pharmacist how to use one if you are unfamiliar. (Learn More)

Tamiflu can cause a number of side effects, including nausea and headache. If these symptoms are serious, or if you experience one of the more worrying symptoms like rash or hives, contact your doctor immediately. Call 911 if a person on Tamiflu collapses, has a seizure, cannot breathe properly, or cannot be awakened.(Learn More)

Tamiflu is only appropriate for helping a person recover from the flu or preventing them from contracting it. As an antiviral, it is useless against bacterial infections, which are relatively commonly associated with the flu.

It should only be used as prescribed by a doctor, and it should not be given to infants younger than 2 weeks old. (Learn More)

Tamiflu for Children

tamiflu

Tamiflu, which is the brand name of the drug oseltamivir, is a medication used to treat some types of influenza infection in adults, children, and infants older than 2 weeks.

Importantly, it should be used quickly if you intend to use it at all (within two days of symptoms manifesting).

As a prophylaxis, Tamiflu can also help with prevention. This type of use is only appropriate for those over 1 year of age. Such use should generally be saved for when someone is potentially exposed to the flu, such as interacting with someone else who has the flu or touching things like toys that have been used by someone with the flu. The FDA notes this is not as effective as a flu vaccine, which it still recommends.

Proper Use

If your child shows signs of the flu or has likely interacted with someone who has the flu, talk to your doctor about whether Tamiflu could be right for them.

Tamiflu is an antiviral, meaning it is only useful for viruses (which influenza is). It will not address bacterial infections that are sometimes related to the flu.

The medication comes in a liquid suspension and in capsule form. While it can be taken without food, it is less likely to result in nausea when taken with milk or food. Be sure to follow the dosing correctly.

  • To take Tamiflu capsules correctly:

    • Take only the noted dose. Do not take more just because flu symptoms seem especially bad.
    • If the user has difficulty swallowing capsules, hold the capsule over an empty bowl and carefully empty out the powder inside. A small amount of sweetened liquid and water can then be added. The mixture should be stirred and then swallowed right away.
  • To take liquid Tamiflu correctly:

    • Use the plunger to measure the correct dosage. Put the liquid directly into your mouth (or your child’s mouth). Thoroughly wash the plunger when you’re done.
    • For children under the age of 1, you will need a special plunger, as the one provided by the manufacturer will not be able to accurately measure such a small dose. Talk to your doctor about getting the necessary tools to properly administer Tamiflu.

Even if you begin to feel better, make sure to take all of your prescribed Tamiflu at the prescribed doses. Failure to take the rest of your Tamiflu just because you begin to feel better may weaken its overall effect.

Side Effects and Risks

Tamiflu can cause the following side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache

If you experience the above for a long time or they are particularly serious, contact your doctor immediately.

Also, contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following side effects, some of which are signs of an allergic reaction to the drug:

  • Rash, hives, or blisters on the skin
  • Mouth sores
  • Itching
  • Swelling of the face or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Confusion
  • Speech problems
  • Shaky movements
  • Hallucinations

Call 911 immediately if anyone on Tamiflu collapses, has a seizure, cannot breathe properly, or cannot be awakened. That could be a sign of life-threatening danger. Be sure to alert the 911 operator that the person took Tamiflu.

When the medication is used appropriately, most of the above should not be a worry for most users. At the same time, be on the lookout for such symptoms, especially if an infant has been given Tamiflu.

Be sure to safely store medication away from children. Call the Poison Control helpline at 1-800-222-1222 immediately if someone takes more Tamiflu than intended. Call 911 instead if they experience any of the above symptoms that warrant emergency medical attention.

When Tamiflu Is Not Appropriate

Tamiflu is designed specifically to prevent the flu and to help users recover from the flu faster. It should not be used for other purposes unless you are specifically told to do so by your doctor.

Tamiflu should not be used for children younger than 2 weeks old, and it should not be used as a preventative measure in children younger than 1 year old. Using it on these age groups in unintended ways may be hazardous to their health.

If a person has had an adverse reaction to Tamiflu in the past, be sure to mention this to the doctor if they are prescribed it again. It may still be an appropriate prescription for some, but it is in the person’s best interest to bring it to the doctor’s attention.

Mention to your doctor if a child has a fructose intolerance, as liquid Tamiflu is sweetened.

References

Antiviral Tamiflu in Liquid Form Is FDA-approved to Treat Flu in People 2 Weeks of Age and Older. Genentech USA, Inc.

Tamiflu: Consumer Questions and Answers. (November 2017). Food and Drug Administration.

Oseltamivir. (May 2019). MedlinePlus.