Brand names: Relenza
Relenza speeds recovery from the flu. When started during the first 2 days of the illness, it hastens improvement by at least a day. It also can prevent the flu if treatment is started within 2 days after exposure to the virus. Relenza belongs to a class of antiviral drugs called neuraminidase inhibitors.
As the flu virus takes hold in the body, it forms new copies of itself and spreads from cell to cell. Neuraminidase inhibitors fight the virus by preventing the release of new copies from infected cells. Relenza is taken by inhaling the medication through the mouth.
Relenza can prevent the flu as long as you continue taking Zanamivir, but getting a yearly flu shot is still the best way of avoiding the disease entirely. For older adults, those in high-risk situations such as health-care work, and people with an immune deficiency or respiratory disease, vaccination remains a must.
Relenza is delivered directly to the lungs by oral inhalation from a Diskhaler device. To benefit from the drug, you must begin taking it within 48 hours of feeling the first symptoms of flu, and must finish the entire 5-day course of treatment.
Be sure to take two doses on the first day, allowing at least 2 hours between them. On the following days, take a dose every 12 hours (morning and evening). Do not puncture a blister containing the drug until you are ready to use it.
Children should use Zanamivir only under the supervision of an adult.
Symptoms experienced during Relenza therapy are virtually the same as those associated with untreated flu. Problems reported during clinical tests are listed below.
If Relenza gives you an allergic reaction, you cannot use Zanamivir.
Relenza has been known to cause serious and potentially fatal breathing problems, especially in people who have asthma or other chronic pulmonary disorders. If you develop breathing difficulties such as wheezing or shortness of breath, stop taking Relenza and call your doctor immediately.
Relenza is generally not recommended for anyone with a chronic lung disease. If you do use it under these circumstances, be extremely cautious, and make sure that you have a fast-acting inhaled bronchodilator (a type of asthma medication such as albuterol) available and ready to use whenever you take it. If you use an inhaled bronchodilator regularly and have a dose scheduled at the same time as Relenza, use the bronchodilator first.
Relenza can also cause serious allergic reactions. If you experience swelling of the face, tongue, or throat, or develop a skin rash, stop taking Zanamivir and contact your doctor.
Serious bacterial infections may begin with flu-like symptoms or may coexist with the flu. Relenza has no effect on such infections.
Relenza has not been tested in people with medical conditions severe enough for possible hospitalization. Use it with caution if you have any kind of serious health problem in addition to the flu.
No interactions have been reported. If you regularly use an inhaled bronchodilator (a type of asthma medication) and have a dose scheduled at the same time as Relenza, use the bronchodilator first.
The effects of Relenza during pregnancy have not been adequately studied. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, inform your doctor. It is not known whether Relenza appears in breast milk. Caution is recommended if you are breastfeeding.
ADULTS AND CHILDREN 7 YEARS AND OLDER
Treatment of Influenza
The recommended dose is 2 inhalations (one 5-milligram blister per inhalation) twice a day, approximately 12 hours apart, for 5 days.
Relenza has not been studied for treating the flu in children younger than 7 years old.
ADULTS AND CHILDREN 5 YEARS AND OLDER
Prevention of Influenza
The recommended dose is 2 inhalations (one 5-milligram blister per inhalation) once a day for 10 days. If there is a general outbreak of the flu in your community, your doctor may recommend that you continue taking Zanamivir for up to 28 days.
Relenza has not been studied for preventing the flu in children younger than 5 years old.
Substantially increased doses of Relenza have caused no increase in adverse reactions. Nevertheless, if you suspect an overdose of Relenza, it would be wise to check with your doctor.