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How safe is Tamiflu for your kids? The treatment has its own risks and benefits

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This year’s flu season is already the worst North America has endured in a decade—which is, of course, a concern for parents of young children, who are more likely to experience serious complications from the illness.


If you or your children are struck by the flu, your health care provider is likely to write up a prescription for Tamiflu: If taken within 48 hours of symptom appearance, the antiviral drug may lessen the duration and severity of the flu. This application is recommended by both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use in infants as young as 2 weeks old.

It is also approved for preventative treatment, meaning it may help other members in the household avoid the flu if a member of the family has already been diagnosed with the illness.

For parents of young children or those at higher risk for flu complications, this makes Tamiflu a particularly good option, says Allan Greissman, MD, a pediatric critical care specialist at Pediatric Critical Care of South Florida.

“Unfortunately this year we are seeing a large number of flu-positive pediatric patients having a very serious strain of the flu. We are also seeing many more deaths from the flu and many kids with other significant problems related to the flu,” Greissman tells Motherly. “So for that reason, getting a flu shot and treatment with Tamiflu should strongly be considered.”

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As with any medication, individuals should weigh the potential benefits versus risks.

“For a very mild case, especially after the first 24 to 48 hours, then taking Tamiflu may not be worth the risk of the side effects,” Greissman says. “But I want to stress that the side effects are not common and typically not serious.”

As Greissman notes, it’s always best to consult with your own doctor or child’s pediatrician. To help guide your questions, here’s a primer for what parents should keep in mind about Tamiflu.

How effective is Tamiflu?

According to a 2014 report in the British Medical Journal that reviewed results from 83 clinical trials, Tamiflu was shown to alleviate symptoms an average of 17 hours earlier for adults and 29 hours earlier for otherwise healthy children.

Tamiflu also had demonstrable benefits as a preventative treatment by reducing “symptomatic influenza in participants by 55%” if the participant was in close contact with someone who already had the flu.

The key, Greissman says, is beginning course of treatment within 48 hours of flu symptom appearance. “After that, it loses its effectiveness,” he says. “So it’s hard to say that for a child sick for a few days, that then sees his doctor, whether or not starting it is indicated. While typically we say, ‘It can't hurt to try it,’ the late effect is typically not helpful.”

What are the side-effects of Tamiflu?

According to the CDC, the most common side-effects of Tamiflu are nausea and vomiting. Specifically among children, one clinical study cited by the CDC found that 14% of adolescents who took Tamiflu had vomiting compared with 8% who took a placebo.

The studies aggregated for the British Medical Journal also noted increased risks headaches and renal or psychiatric syndromes—with the researchers noting data remains limited “because of rarity of such events and problems with study design.”

About the threat of psychiatric symptoms

The latter potential side-effect—“psychiatric symptoms”—has been the most newsworthy through the years.

In 2007, there was significant backlash to the drug following reports that 12 children in Japan died after experiencing “abnormal behavior,” such as jumping from tall balconies, following use of Tamiflu during the 2005 flu season. Although the number of deaths was statistically small—with 16 million people in Japan taking Tamiflu that season—the fatalities were understandably concerning.

As a result, Tamiflu manufacturer Roche began a new series of trials. Federal investigations were also launched in Japan, the United States and Canada.

According to a Roche document released by the Food and Drug Administration, follow-up studies found no link between the use of Tamiflu and psychiatric incidents—noting instead that the behavior was more likely a side-effect of the flu. (According to experts from the Mayo Clinic, one of the leading causes of delirium among children is high fever, which is also a symptom of the flu.)

“Roche concludes from the body of all available data that, based on the temporal relationship of the neuropsychiatric adverse events both to influenza and Tamiflu, it is difficult to distinguish between drug and disease. The relative contribution of Tamiflu to the incidence or severity of the neuropsychiatric events seen in influenza patients is unknown.”

A similar conclusion was reached by the FDA:

“Review of the available information on the safety of Tamiflu in pediatric patients suggests that the increased reports of neuropsychiatric events in Japanese children are most likely related to an increased awareness of influenza-associated encephalopathy, increased access to Tamiflu in that population, and a coincident period of intensive monitoring adverse events. Based on the information available to us, we can not conclude that there is a causal relationship between Tamiflu and the reported pediatric deaths.”

Health officials in Japan still took a cautious approach by banning the prescription of Tamiflu among people aged 10 to 19 starting in 2007, although Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare moved toward lifting the ban in 2016. More recently, The Japan Times reported officials from the Ministry found “multiple instances of adverse events were also reported among people who had not taken flu drugs,” which suggested “a potential link between adverse events and high fever” was stronger than the potential link with Tamiflu itself.

This is all reflected in a warning on the Tamiflu label, which reads, “Patients with influenza, including those receiving Tamiflu, particularly pediatric patients, may be at an increased risk of confusion or abnormal behavior early in their illness. Monitor for signs of abnormal behavior.”

Although Greissman says he has not seen any serious side-effects to Tamiflu that would cause him to recommend cessation, he says decisions about treatment are best left to your child’s prescribing physician.

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As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

Spring is officially here and if you're looking for a way to celebrate the change in the season, why not treat the kids to some ice cream, mama?

DQ locations across the country (but not the ones in malls) are giving away free small vanilla cones today, March 20! So pack up the kids and get to a DQ near you.

And if you can't make it today, from March 21 through March 31, DQ's got a deal where small cones will be just 50 cents (but you have to download the DQ mobile app to claim that one).

Another chain, Pennsylvania-based Rita's Italian Ice is also dishing up freebies today, so if DQ's not your thing you can grab a free cup of Italian ice instead.

We're so excited that ice cream season is here and snowsuit season is behind us. Just a few short weeks and the kids will be jumping through the sprinklers.

Welcome back, spring. We've missed you!

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No parent wants to imagine their child dying. To think that your little bundle of joy would pass away before they could live a full life is unfathomable. But when a parent does lose a child, it can feel like a shock to the system, and recovering is a life-long process we need to talk about.

In 2018 Catastrophe actor Rob Delaney revealed that his 2-year-old son Henry died after a long battle with brain cancer. This week, speaking at a fundraiser for families with seriously ill children, Delaney spoke candidly about how hard the last 14 months have been, the Evening Standard reports.

"I'm a mess. My child died 14 months ago and I'm basically a bag of wet rubbish. I need a lot of help. It has been very hard. It comes in waves. I've learned to not control how the waves come. Right now I'm sad a lot," he said, explaining that he shares this openly in the hopes that "if a bereaved parent or bereaved sibling reads this, I want them to know that it's okay that they feel terrible, sad, confused and so brutally humbled."

In a previous Facebook post about Henry's death, the 42-year-old comedian shared that Henry had been diagnosed with a brain tumor shortly after his first birthday, and had undergone surgery to remove the tumor, as well as additional treatment. But the cancer returned and he passed away shortly after.

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As a way to cope with his loss, Delaney wrote that he focuses his energy on his family—his two other sons and his wife, Leah. He said in his post, “I am astonished by the love-in-action displayed by Henry's mom and his brothers. They are why I will endeavor to not go mad with grief. I don't want to miss out on their beautiful lives. I'm greedy for more experiences with them."

Delaney's message about grieving is so important, especially for other bereaved parents. In that one statement, Delaney highlights one big, undeniable truth: How a parent decides to mourn the loss of their child is a deeply personal choice.

“Mourning is the outward or public expression of grief, a means of sharing grief with people who also are grieving or who want to support you," writes oncologist Dr. Edward Creagan for the Mayo Clinic. “Religious rituals, cultural traditions and personal beliefs often shape how we mourn.

Whatever form it takes, mourning is a critical process that can help you lessen the intensity of grief and help you adapt to your loss."

For Sandy Peckinpah, a certified grief recovery specialist, mourning the loss of her 16-year-old son meant turning to a journal. In an essay for HuffPost, Peckinpah writes that after her son's death from misdiagnosed bacterial meningitis, she felt as though her pain was “visible to others, and I would forever be wearing grief as a mask and a tagline... 'I'm Sandy Peckinpah and I've lost a child.'"

"Then a friend gave me a journal and said, 'Write. Just write,'" Peckinpah continues. On the first page, she could only write one sentence: “My son died and my life will never be the same."

“The next day, I wrote a paragraph, and each day after that I found words came more easily. My journal became my safe haven to empty the well of my sorrow, pouring tears of ink onto paper. And for a little while, I could let my emotions rest," shares Peckinpah.

Whether it's pouring yourself into your family or into a journal, there's one thing for sure: Grief is not a one-way street. Grief is a twisting, never-ending highway with exits and on-ramps and merging lanes and service roads.

Over time, your feelings of grief will subside or, at least, “feel less constant as if it's moved into the background of your emotions," Creagan writes. “But long after a death," he continues, “you may also find yourself caught off guard by a moment of profound grief, for example, on the anniversary of the death, during holidays or on your loved one's birthday."

In other words: You never know when the pain of your loss will hit you—or when you're even ready to move on.

And that's okay, bereaved parents. It's okay if you don't go “mad with grief"—and it's okay if you do. It's okay if you break down in your kitchen—and if you laugh at your friend's bad dad joke. Grief is not uniform.

But just remember: You don't have to walk this journey alone.

[A version of this post was first published February 12, 2018. It has been updated.]

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I say this as a sufferer: Peanut allergies are the worst. I learned I was allergic to peanuts when I was 13 years old, and although my allergy isn't severe, I choose not to bring peanuts or peanut products into my house. As a result, I was unable to expose my son to peanuts earlier in his life.

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The woman who basically single-handedly taught the world to embrace vulnerability and imperfection is coming to Netflix and we cannot wait to binge whatever Brené Brown's special will serve up because we'll probably be better people after watching it.

It drops on April 19 and is called Brené Brown: The Call to Courage. If it has even a fraction of the impact of her books or the viral Ted talk that made her a household name, it's going to be life and culture changing.

Announcing the special on Instagram Brown says she "cannot believe" she's about to be "breaking some boundaries over at Netflix" with the 77-minute special.

Netflix describes the special as a discussion of "what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty" and it sounds exactly like what we need right now.

April 19 is still pretty far away though, so if you need some of Brown's wisdom now, check out her books on Amazon or watch (or rewatch) the 2010 Ted Talk that put her—and our culture's relationship with vulnerability and shame—in the national spotlight.

The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown

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If Marie Kondo's Netflix show got people tidying up, Brown's Netflix special is sure to be the catalyst for some courageous choices this spring.

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