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January 16, 2013 05:57 PM

When Is It The Time For Tamiflu?

Full waiting rooms are almost a sure thing across South Dakota this flu season. It's just as likely that those who walk in have more than one sick person in their household.

“When parents call, bring their kids in and they're worried about Influenza or RSV or other illnesses going around that's perfectly normal,” Dr. Ed Mailloux with Sanford Health in Sioux Falls said.

Mailloux says of all the things you may have heard, the best way to avoid spreading the sickness is still the old-fashioned way. But what about medications, specifically Tamiflu, which is designed to help ease flu symptoms? Mailloux says your doctor will help make that decision. The drug is not a cure-all, and it doesn't help everyone.

“It's not like an antibiotic. It doesn't kill the virus. It kind of just helps shorten the illness,” Mailloux said, “It's all a matter of physical contact. So as long as everyone washes hands frequently, they should be fine.”

If Tamiflu isn't taken within two days after flu symptoms appear, it won't be as effective.  Mailloux says in some instances, it won't help at all.  But there are groups of children who may need the drug, especially those less than two years old.

“Kids who have chronic illnesses, and are exposed to Influenza, then it's a good idea.  They should get Tamiflu,” Mailloux said.

If you've gotten a flu shot, doctors may also be less likely to prescribe Tamiflu. But since it's on a case-by-case basis, doctors say the best resort is to make an appointment if you're sick or if someone else in your house is ill.

Sanford and Avera follow CDC guidelines when prescribing drugs like Tamiflu. Those guidelines include prescribing the drug first for people at highest risk of developing serious complications from the flu because of their age or a chronic illness. But some South Dakota providers are tightening the reigns on the drug for others because of an anticipated shortage in the wake of increased demand for the drugs.

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