Flu antivirals - Medical information

Who can request Tamiflu?

This service is for people who for any reason need to have a flu treatment in reserve at home or for travel when it is not available to them on the NHS.

People who already have symptoms of flu, and are seriously unwell, should contact their regular doctor.

Tamiflu antiviral is prescription only medicine - our doctors will issue the prescription online direct to our pharmacy. Only 1 course of Tamiflu per person per flu season is permitted.

Is it flu or just a bad cold?

Tamiflu only works against the influenza virus which causes the flu. Common colds are caused by rhinoviruses. There is a slight overlap of symptoms but the main difference is that flu also comes with a high temperature, over 38C, shivering, sweating, muscle aches, exhaustion and occasionally gut symptoms. A bad cold is generally limited to symptoms in the nose and throat, often also with a cough, though you can feel tired and 'washed out' with it.

Tamiflu (oseltamivir) uses

  • Tamiflu is used to treat flu infection caused by influenza viruses A and B.
  • Tamiflu can also be taken to prevent flu developing after exposure to flu infection.


Tamiflu (oseltamivir) treatment:

  • Reduces symptoms of flu
  • Reduces the length of symptoms
  • Reduces the incidence of serious complication such as pneumonia

Taking Tamiflu after exposure to flu infection reduces the risk of catching flu but does not guarantee against catching flu. Post exposure Tamiflu is best started within 48 hours of exposure.

A flu patient is infectious from the start of their symptoms and for about a week after the start of symptoms.

There is more information on effectiveness on the Tamiflu product page.


  • For treatment of flu Tamiflu is taken twice daily for 5 days. It must be started within 48 hours of first symptoms.
  • To reduce risk of catching flu Tamiflu is taken daily for 10 days.
  • Tamiflu is best taken with food.

Side effects

There may be no side effects. The most common side effects of Tamiflu are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach-ache and headache. For a full list of side effects and detailed information see the patient information leaflet supplied with Tamiflu.

How to treat flu yourself

Most flu will settle in a few days with plenty of rest and sleep, paracetamol or ibuprofen for the fever and aches, and lots of fluids. Stay off work or school until feeling better.

Seeking help

People in the groups listed below are at higher risk of developing complications from flu infection and should seek medical advice (telephone NHS 111, visit NHS 111 online, or contact your regular GP) if they develop flu symptoms:

  • Chronic (long-term) lung disease, including people who have had drug treatment for their asthma within the past three years.
  • Chronic heart disease.
  • Chronic kidney disease.
  • Chronic liver disease.
  • Chronic neurological disease (neurological disorders include motor neurone disease, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis).
  • Suppressed immune systems (whether caused by disease or treatment).
  • Diabetes.
  • Pregnant women.
  • People aged 65 or older.
  • Young children under five.

Tamiflu and the flu vaccine

It is best not to take Tamiflu for 10 days after flu vaccination unless otherwise advised to do so by a doctor. Tamiflu can still be used to treat flu and reduce the risk of catching flu in people who have already had the flu vaccine.

Alternative treatments

There is an inhaled antiviral medication that may be prescribed by GPs.

Although Tamiflu (oseltamivir) will reduce the symptoms of flu infection and can help prevent catching flu after exposure, most healthy adults recover fully from flu without the need for antiviral medication.