Is Tamiflu Safe for Kids?

Girl is Feeling Sick and Wrapped in Blanket
Is Tamiflu Really Safe to Give to Your Kids?. Teresa Short / Getty Images

Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is a prescription medication used to treat influenza. It can shorten the duration and lessen the severity of flu symptoms if started within the first 48 hours of illness. In the event of a flu vaccine shortage or for those that are at high risk for flu complications or those who can't get the flu vaccine, Tamiflu can be taken to prevent the flu as well.  

Who Can Take It?

Until the H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak of 2009, Tamiflu was not recommended for children under 12 months old or pregnant women.

However, during that flu pandemic, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it's use in children as young as two weeks old and pregnant women. It was decided that any risk posed by the medication was not as great as the benefits it could provide. H1N1 was especially severe in young kids and pregnant women and it was determined that serious risks from the medicine was very low. 

Since then, Tamiflu has been approved and available for use in children over 2 weeks old as well as in pregnant women.

Safety Concerns and Side Effects

Although Tamiflu is approved for use in young children, there are side effects you should watch for. If you noticed any of these, stop giving the medication and tell your child's doctor or seek medical attention right away. 

  • Seizure
  • Confusion
  • Abnormal behavior - especially early in the illness

Typical side effects that may occur in both children and adults include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diaper Rash

These are not considered serious and are generally not severe enough to warrant stopping the medication. 

If your child is allergic to any of the ingredients in Tamiflu, she should not take it. If she experiences any signs of an allergic reaction after taking it (such as rash or itching), stop giving the medication and contact her health care provider.

Life threatening symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the tongue
  • Lip or facial swelling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sudden onset vomiting
  • Dizziness

These symptoms are serious. If your child develops any of these after taking Tamiflu, call 911 or seek medical attention immediately. 

There have been some reports - mainly out of Japan - of teens and young adults experiencing hallucinations or hurting themselves while taking Tamiflu. Similar episodes have not been seen elsewhere or in other populations, but you should contact your child's health care provider if his behavior is abnormal while taking this medication. 

In most cases, the benefits that Tamiflu can provide to children outweigh the potential risks and side effects. If you are concerned about Tamiflu and your child, talk to his health care provider. 

Sources:

"Tamiflu for Children." Genentech. 2015. Roche Group. 23 Sep 15. 

"Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate) Prescribing Information." South San Francisco, CA: Genentech USA, Inc.; January, 2013. 24 Sep 15.

"Children and Flu Antiviral Drugs." Seasonal Influenza (Flu). 12 Sep 14. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. 24 Sep 15. 

Continue Reading