With the height of the Cold and Flu season just around the corner, many people are weighing their options on whether or not to take medications to treat it. Since the groundbreaking discover of antibiotics like Penicillin, the first thing many people think of when they get sick are antibiotics. But, antibiotics are not helpful for Colds or the Flu because these sicknesses are caused by viruses. Unfortunately, antibiotics do nothing to stop viruses because they are only effective against bacterial infections. As for Flu-specific medications, many doctors are losing faith in antiviral drugs used to treat the Flu (Tamiflu & Relenza) because studies are finding that these drugs’ offer little benefit while coming with serious side effects including nausea, vomiting, headaches and kidney disorders.
The good news is that there are many natural remedies that may help support your immune system while inhibiting the virus. If you’d like to learn more, please see my other article for more details on natural cold and flu remedies.
Are Cold & Flu Medications Worth It?
The Flu (Influenza) and the Common Cold (Rhinovirus, among others) are viral infections which are not treatable with antibiotics. It should be noted that a cold or flu may strain a weakened immune system, leading to a patient catching bacterial pneumonia, which can be life-threatening and does require immediate medical attention. In contrast, for normal cases of the flu, some doctors will prescribe drugs like Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) and Relenza (Zanamivir). Although, as a licensed primary care physician, I do have the ability to write prescriptions for medications including antibiotics to treat acute illnesses. However, in the case of Tamiflu and Relenza, I choose not to for several reasons.
Is Tamiflu Worth It in 2018/2019?
In my medical opinion, the side effects of these flu medications (nausea, vomiting and internal organ damage) are not worth the marginal (and questioned) benefits of the medication. An article in health.com states that Tamiflu only shortened the length of illness by 17 hours (out of 10 days) in studies, which I believe may be a small enough difference to fall into statistical margin of error. Time magazine goes a step further:
…trials (of Tamiflu & Relenza) do not support claims that the drugs lower the risk of complications from flu, such as pneumonia, or that the benefits of the drugs outweigh their risks, which include nausea, vomiting, headaches and kidney disorders.
Quote from Time Magazine Article: Study Finds Tamiflu Not as Effective as Thought
Black Elderberry Syrup Vs Tamiflu
According to the US National Library of Medicine, Black Elderderry extract is effective at inhibiting bacterial respiratory infections, the Flu Virus (Influenza A & B) and infectious bronchitis. This herb has been used in traditional medicine for some time, and recent research is proving that it is in fact an effective alternative to pharmaceutical drugs for treating Cold, Flu and Upper Respiratory Infections. With the mixed results and side-effects of Tamiflu taken into account, Black Elderberry Syrup is (Sambucus Nigra) is becoming a widely accepted Cold & Flu Treatment. In a medical research study, Black Elderberry shortened the length of Influenza infection by up to 4 days, according to the US National Institute of Health. To boost the effectiveness of Black Elderderry Syrup even more, combine it with Vitamin C to help boost the immune system while also easing the congestion associated with a Cold/Flu. As naturopathic doctors, we prefer to pair Vitamin C with the Chinese Herb Astragulus, which is also known for its antiviral properties.
At our clinic in Portland, Oregon, we prefer natural food forms of Vitamin C because many chemically-derived forms of Ascorbic Acid are missing other valuable micro-nutrients present in more natural sources.
As a doctor, I don’t personally feel that the side effects of Tamiflu or Relenza are worth the marginal benefit these drugs may provide. While there may be special cases where a doctor may deem these medications necessary, I don’t see them as helpful for the vast majority of patients I see. In cases where a Cold or the Flu has progressed to bacterial pneumonia, fever is out of control, or the sickness has persisted for more than 10-14 days, more involved medical treatment or hospitalization may be necessary. This article is not a substitute for in-person medical advice, so if your symptoms are severe or don’t resolve, you should go see your doctor. If you live in Portland, Oregon and need a doctor, you can always come see us too.
In closing, I prefer natural cold and flu treatments along with other natural remedies including acupuncture to support the body and expedite recovery.
Your in Health,
Dr. Danielle Lockwood (Formerly Anderson)