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Zanamivir is used for treating and preventing the flu in adults and children. This prescription medication is approved to prevent the flu in children as young as five years old, and to treat the flu in children as young as seven. When taken within the first 48 hours after flu symptoms, zanamivir can significantly shorten their duration. There are currently no off-label zanamivir uses.

What Is Zanamivir Used For? -- An Overview

Zanamivir (Relenza®) is a prescription flu medication. It is approved for use in the following ways:
 
  • Preventing the flu (such as during flu outbreaks)
  • Treating the flu (to help shorten the duration of symptoms).
     
Unlike other flu medications, zanamivir is inhaled. This means that it may not be recommended for people who have certain lung diseases (see Precautions and Warnings With Zanamivir for more information).
 
The flu (influenza) is a respiratory infection caused by a variety of flu viruses. The flu differs in several ways from the common cold, which is a respiratory infection that is also caused by viruses. For example, people who have colds rarely get fevers, headaches, or suffer from the extreme exhaustion that the flu viruses can cause. Although nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can accompany flu symptoms, especially in children, gastrointestinal flu symptoms rarely occur. The illness that people call "stomach flu" is not really influenza (the flu).
 
Real flu symptoms include:
 
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Extreme fatigue.
     
Although many people consider the flu to be bothersome (but not dangerous), serious flu complications can occur. For elderly people, newborn babies, and people with certain chronic illnesses, the flu and its complications can be quite dangerous.
 
Zanamivir can be used to both treat and prevent the flu. Although the best way to prevent the flu is with the flu vaccine, many people cannot or do not get a yearly flu shot. Zanamivir can be used for flu prevention to provide temporary protection against the flu in unvaccinated people. This is beneficial during an outbreak or if an individual has been exposed to the flu virus, such as from an infected family member. However, the drug does not completely prevent all cases of the flu.
 
Zanamivir can also be used for flu treatment. When taken within the first 48 hours after flu symptoms start, it can significantly shorten the duration of symptoms. The earlier it is started, the better.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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