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.

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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.”

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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Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Gabrielle Union + Dwyane Wade have been blended family goals, an inspiration to those struggling with infertility and now they are an inspiration to parents of trans kids and supporters of trans rights.

Earlier this month Wade appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and spoke about his 12-year-old daughter Zaya coming out as transgender and Union posted a beautiful video + caption to Instagram, inviting fans to "meet Zaya."

This week Wade appeared on Good Morning America, explaining that Zaya has known she was transgender since she was 3 years old.

"Zaya has known it for nine years," the proud dad said on GMA, adding that he credits Zaya (who was assigned as male at birth) with educating him and helping him grow.

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"I knew early on that I had to check myself... I've been a person in the locker room that has been a part of the conversation that has said the wrong phrases and the wrong words myself," he told GMA's Robin Roberts. "My daughter was my first interaction when it comes to having to deal with this conversation...Hopefully I'm dealing with it the right way... Inside our home we see the smile on my daughter's face, we see the confidence that she's able to walk around and be herself and that's when you know you're doing right."

It sure seems like Wade and Union have been doing it right. When Union posted a video to Instagram earlier this month introducing Zaya it was clear the tween's dad and step-mom have her back.

In the video Zaya is riding in a golf cart with her dad and dropping wisdom. She says: "Just be true to yourself, because what's the point of even living on this earth if you're going to try to be someone you're not?...Be true and don't really care what the 'stereotypical' way of being you is."

Union was so impressed by her step-daughter, captioning the video: "She's compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her. It's Ok to listen to, love & respect your children exactly as they are. Love and light good people."

Later in the week Union addressed criticism of Zaya's transition on Twitter, writing: "This has been a journey. We're still humbly learning but we decided quickly w/ our family that we wouldn't be led by fear. We refuse to sacrifice the freedom to live authentically becuz we are afraid of what ppl might say. U have the ability to learn & evolve."

Zaya's big brother is also on her side. Newly 18-year-old Zaire posted the cutest throwback pic from when he and Zaya were just little kids, noting how the siblings were and are best friends.

"Man, I remember bugging my mom as a kid telling her I wanted a brother so bad. I was the only child looking for company and someone to look after and take care of," Zaire began his caption. "I have been blessed to have my best friend, Zaya with me for 12 years. We did everything together … we fought, we played, we laughed and we cried. But the one thing we never did was leave each other behind."

Zaire continued: "I've told you that I would lay my life down to make sure you are ten toes down and happy on this earth," he told his younger sibling. "I don't care what they think Z, you are my best friend and I love you kid, and if it means anything, just know there's no love lost on this side ✊🏾"

We are so impressed and inspired by the love Zaya's family is showing her (and other kids by sharing this story publicly). You've got this Zaya!

[A version of this story was posted February 12, 2020. It has been updated.]

News

Back in August the the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Contigo announced the recall of millions of Contigo Kids Cleanable water bottles—about 5.7 million of them.

Now, the CPSC and Contigo are recalling millions of water bottles and the replacement lids that were given to consumers as part of the August 2019 recall.

"Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled water bottles and the replacement lids provided in the previous recall, take them away from children, and contact Contigo for a free water bottle. Consumers who received replacement lids in the previous recall should contact Contigo for the new water bottle," the CPSC states.

Millions of Contigo Kids Cleanable water bottles were originally recalled after it became clear the silicone spout could pose a choking hazard.

"Contigo identified that the water bottle's clear silicone spout in some cases may detach from the lid of the water bottle," Contigo stated in a notice posted to its Facebook page back in August.

According to the CPSC, "Contigo [had] received 149 reports of the spout detaching including 18 spouts found in children's mouths" before the original recall.

Now, the CPSC reports "Contigo has received a total of 427 reports of the spout detaching including 27 spouts found in children's mouths."

All of the recalled water bottles have a black color spout base and spout cover.

This week Contigo expanded the recall. The original date range was for Contigo Kids Cleanable Water Bottle from April 2018 through June 2019. Now it is for bottles purchased through February 2020, and all the replacement lids.

[facebook https://www.facebook.com/GoContigo/posts/2818210118254719?__xts__[0]=68.ARCXck6nWTHGJZoD1UVkCZ-AZT-GCthqKjEsXC3Z161OeS29u_0fkbHy755S14cQafdqa1GaI-J9N4FC9If7FrrVcVZSxuaGHE177RiylE-MPqrmX3ruWHi3JJfchrUF7E4eAFeRLwIRkPlP83uYzFiXnyKvuKojryXQq2yhOK_W3TyYiaqA3NvRBmATECIu3FCP87CORYp5SZlefy8yDcQtN2V4DXjSEUFL1nnp8WBp3B_06oQishA_Bm4ufdh19fn9-LlddUu6DnIHDngitDNjL68dZOZEAoP1j5S2XiANzN8lUHlSKo-lyTFg5wJbMu8UaQsvHHZb11XGw4nq_w3tWw&__tn__=-R expand=1]



If you are looking for some alternative water bottles, here are a few of our favorites:

Hydro Flask

Hydro Flask features an easy-to-drink (and clean) top, a silicone bottom that won't scratch your furniture.

Motherly has tested these with a two-year-old and an eight-year-old and found these bottles are perfect for Pre-K to elementary school.

$29.95

CamelBak

The CamelBak is a big hit with little kids as it is easy to maneuver and it's a big hit with moms because it is easy to clean in the top rack of the dishwasher. CamelBak Eddy 12 oz Kids Vacuum Stainless Water Bottle

$14.99

Skip Hop

The designs on the Skip Hop stainless steel bottle keep kids happy and the silicone sleeve keeps the bottle from falling out of little hands! Bonus points for a flexible straw that is easy to clean!

$17.99


Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

{A version of this story was originally posted August 27, 2019. It has been updated.]

News

Shannon Bird is a well known mom blogger and influencer with more than 100,000 Instagram followers. For years she's been known for her style and for her family's quirky adventures, but in 2020 the mom of five became internet famous for something else.

This mama called 911 in the middle of the night because she ran out of breastmilk and asked the police to bring her formula.

The criticism was swift, but Bird's story isn't just about when it is appropriate to call emergency services—it's about who has the privilege of being able to call 911, the lack of support for mothers in America, gender roles and the erosion of the village. In short, this isn't just a story about Shannon Bird calling 911. It's a story about a society that is failing mothers.

Here's what you need to know about this viral story:

This week Bird appeared on Fox News Channel's Daily Briefing, but the 911 call happened in January 

It's been weeks since certain corners of the internet blew up after literally watching Bird (via Instagram stories) call 911 because she ran out of breastmilk and had no formula. To Bird's followers, this is old news, but it's been making the news in recent days.

On February 17 Bird appeared on Fox News Channels' Daily Briefing with her youngest child to talk about why she called 911 when she ran out of breastmilk (and had no formula in her home). As the Utah mom previously told Fox 6, "I've never not had food for my newborn. It was really scary for me."

How this mom ended up calling 911 for formula

Those watching Bird's Instagram Stories on January 28 saw this unfold in real-time. Bird was recovering from some postpartum complications at the time and a medication she was taking may have been a factor in her declining milk supply.

She found herself home alone (her husband was out of town) with her infant and her four other young children (one of whom had a cast on a broken leg). She thought she had enough pumped breastmilk in the freezer to get her though the night, but eventually realized she didn't. She also didn't have any baby formula.

In her Instagram Stories she detailed how she called friends and family for help around 2 AM but no one picked up the phone. Eventually, she called 911, telling the operator she was scared and had no way to feed her 6-week-old baby.

"I've been calling neighbors and no one will answer," she said on the call. "I've never been in this predicament ever. My milk just literally dried out. This is my fifth kid and this has never happened."

Soon, the police were at her door.

The police brought this mom milk + formula in the middle of the night

After the 911 call, Bird posted video footage of police arriving at her home to her Instagram Stories (as her doorbell cam had captured the footage). It shows Officer Brett Wagstaff of the Lone Peak police department arrive at Bird's door with a gallon of milk.

Bird explained that what she needed wasn't regular milk, but baby formula. "We'll be right back with some formula for your baby — she's adorable," Wagstaff told Bird.

Soon enough he came back with baby formula from Walmart, telling Bird, "That's the same stuff we gave my daughter when she was first born, so hopefully it doesn't upset her stomach."

Officer Wagstaff and his fellow officer Konner Gabbitas have been hailed as heroes in the recent news coverage of this story (and they are) but many critics pointed out that Bird had the privilege of being a wealthy, white mom when she called 911, and wonder if the response would be the same from mothers of color or lesser means.

The backlash over privilege + a need for postpartum support 

Twenty-four hours after posting the Instagram Stories showing the police delivering baby formula, Bird announced she was taking a break from social media (she's since returned) which isn't surprising when you look at the comments on her accounts.

People were upset with her for using 911 the way she did, and upset with her husband for leaving her alone with five kids while he went out of town. When Fox News picked up the story the criticism continued.

"This is not what 911 is for... In some places, you'd get a ticket for misuse of emergency services. But, here is everyone enabling some more. Saying how heroic and brave this was. I can't even handle it," one Instagram user commented.

"Flip this narrative and you would get a drastically different response. #whiteprivilege," another noted.

That does need to be part of this conversation. There are many mothers in America who would not feel comfortable calling 911 during a parenting emergency due to institutional bias and racism. And that's not fair, because all mothers should be able to get help when they need it.

Many people have pointed out all the things Bird could have done differently in this situation—maybe she could have gotten her kids up and driven to Walmart herself, maybe she could have used Uber Eats or Instacart to order formula for delivery—but at that moment she couldn't. She was in crisis.

Calling 911 is an act of desperation, and it's a sign that the cultural expectations on women are causing a lot of maternal stress.

It takes time to recover from birth (especially if you have postpartum complications).

Breastfeeding can be very difficult (even if you've breastfed before with ease).

And when your baby is crying and you can't help them, that's terrifying.

Many commenters suggest this is a story about a woman abusing the 911 service, but maybe it's a story about a country where mothers in crisis feel they have no one to call. Maybe it's a story about how when the "village" erodes, mothers suffer the most. Maybe it's a sign that we need more postpartum supports, more education and more empathy for mothers.

[Motherly reached out to Shannon Bird for comment and will update this post if we receive a reply.]

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