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The treatment for influenza is based mainly on helping the immune system to destroy the virus and secondly on controlling symptoms and preventing complications.

1. Proper rest and nutrition. This is the first step: stay indoor, keep warm, eat properly and drink plenty of fluids. If you keep busy as usual your body will have to split its precious resources between your daily activities and the fight against the virus. This is overwork is a stress for the body, which may delay the recovery and open the door to complications.

2. Generic, over the counter drugs: the second step consists in controlling the symptoms, especially the fever, and preventing complications. A wide range of drugs are available for this purpose. They act to reduce the fever, to reduce the inflammation, to relieve the pain and the congestion.

The most common ones are:

  • Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid): this used to be the most common, non-prescription drugs used to control fever and pain due to flu. However, because there appears to be a connection between aspirin and Reye's syndrome, aspirin should not be used in children under twelve years.

  • The alternative to the acetylsalicylic acid is paracetamol. Paracetamol is a safer alternative to aspirin when taken in therapeutic doses, but can be extremely toxic in overdose. The main advantages of paracetamol, over aspirin, are that it is more effective in reducing the fever, it can be used in children and is also a safer choice for elderly patients.

  • A wide range of decongestants drugs are also available over the counter. The can be helpful in reducing the typical nasal obstruction of colds, which often appear together with the flu.

IMPORTANT: All drugs, even those available over the counter, should not be taken without a doctor's advice.

3. Antiviral medications: Attaching directly the virus by pharmacological means, although it seems the more logical approach, it has always been very problematic. Our success in fighting bacterial infections has never been reached in the fight against virus, until very recently, where some antiviral drugs have been developed.

However, these drugs, which are available under prescription, are effective only during the early phase of infection and are recommended only in some specific cases. In general, antiviral drugs are different in terms of who can take them and how they are given. Also, the dosing changes based on age, medical conditions and side effects.

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