How do flu antivirals work?

Antiviral flu medications help you recover by fighting the influenza virus in your body.1

How do antivirals work to treat the flu?

When a viral infection occurs, the virus particles start to replicate and spread within the body.2,3
Antiviral medications tackle the flu by reducing the virus’s ability to do this.4

By treating the flu in this way, an antiviral could help you to feel better sooner than if you didn’t take one.5

It’s important that you talk to your doctor within 48 hours of noticing your first symptoms of the flu, so that treatment can be as effective as possible.6

Why 48 hours?

Antiviral vs. over-the-counter remedies or antibiotics


Require a prescription

Treat the flu virus directly4

Can reduce the flu’s ability to replicate4

Can help avoid potentially serious complications5,7

Over-the-counter medicines

No prescription needed

Treat symptoms rather than the flu virus itself8

No effect on the flu’s ability to replicate

No effect on complications9


Require a prescription

Treat bacteria so have no effect on the flu virus itself10

No effect on the flu’s ability to replicate

Effective against bacterial complications10,11

And what about Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are not the same as antivirals. Antibiotics are used to fight bacterial infections.1 Because the flu is caused by a virus and not a bacteria, antibiotics cannot target the source of the flu and will not help people get better.10

Antibiotics will not help ease your flu symptoms either.10 In fact, using antibiotics when they are not needed can do more harm than good. This is because bacteria can start building resistance to the antibiotic, which can weaken the antibiotic response to any future bacterial infections.12

So if you suspect you have the flu, remember that antibiotics will not have any effect on the flu.

Think you’ve got the flu? call or visit your doctor to discuss if an antiviral flu medication might be right for you

If you get sick this flu season, it’s important to speak to your doctor or health care provider as soon as possible.