Tamiflu if given early enough can slightly shorten the course of the flu in children, but is it safe? Here are the side effects of Tamiflu you need to know about before filling that prescription.
Flu infections – both seasonal and H1N1 – can hit kids hard. Children, particularly those under the age of five, have a higher rate of hospitalization for flu complications than do adult flu sufferers. According to the CDC website, around twenty thousand children are hospitalized for flu complications each year. When a child has a health problem such as asthma, the risk of complications from influenza is even higher. For this reason, your doctor may recommend giving your child Tamiflu to reduce the severity of his or her illness. What are the side effects of Tamiflu in children and is it safe to use?
The Positive Effects of Tamiflu
A study published in the journal Pediatrics looked at the effects of Tamiflu on the rate of hospitalization in kids between the ages of one and seventeen. These kids had chronic medical conditions that put them at high risk for flu related complications. They found that using Tamiflu in these children at higher risk significantly reduced their risk for hospitalization and flu complications. To get these benefits of Tamiflu, it has to be given within forty-eight hours after the flu symptoms appear and usually offers no benefits after that point. Tamiflu is only approved for flu treatment in children who are older than a year of age.
What about using Tamiflu in children who have the flu and are otherwise healthy? When children are given Tamiflu within two days of developing flu symptoms it can shorten the course of the illness by a day or a day-and-a-half. While shortening the course of the flu by thirty-six hours doesn’t sound like a lot, it can also reduce the severity of the symptoms and allow a child to get back to school a day or two earlier.
The Side Effects of Tamiflu
On the other hand, the side effects of Tamiflu in children have some parents concerned. The most common side effect of Tamiflu in children is nausea and vomiting. If severe, the vomiting can lead to dehydration and increase the risk for hospitalization which is what the medication was designed to avoid in the first place. More serious side effects have also been reported with use of Tamiflu such as seizures, changes in personality, hallucinations, and memory loss; but these side effects have been seen primarily in Japanese children. There have even been reports of twelve deaths among Japanese children taking Tamiflu. The reason for these more serious side effects of Tamiflu among Japanese children isn’t clear and the FDA is still investigating.
The Side Effects of Tamiflu: The Bottom Line?
Children who have underlying medical problems that could increase their risk for flu complications, would be the ones most likely to get significant benefits from Tamiflu. In other children, it isn’t clear reducing the length of the illness by a day or two is worth the risk of dehydration from vomiting. As long as the flu symptoms are relatively mild, it may be best to treat it like any other illness with lots of fluids and rest. These are all issues you should discuss with your child’s doctor.