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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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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It is time to take motherhood seriously.

For too long, the issues that women, children and families face have been treated as less important.

The responsibilities of motherhood considered a departure from 'real' work.

The duties of family life the problem of those who chose to have children.

The health of women, children, and families, less important than other government priorities.

But with Motherly's State of Motherhood survey revealing that 85% of American mothers say that society doesn't understand or support them, it's time to demand more.

That's why we're joining with MomCongress in declaring 2020 The Year of The Mother.

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We're calling on leaders at all levels—from the presidential candidates, to employers in our communities, to our partners, to take action to help mothers go from surviving motherhood to thriving in motherhood.

The burden on women today is simply too heavy. Mothers today are doing enough. It's time for everyone else—our communities, our corporations, our government, our partners—to finally do their share.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

Support our platform

Call or visit your representative

Demand more from your employer

Negotiate responsibilities with your spouse

Start the conversation in your community


STAY IN TOUCH

Use the hashtag #YearOfTheMother to share what you're doing to demand more.

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As a business person, Aston Kutcher did better than anyone ever expected the kid from That 70's Show to do, and his wife and former co-star, Mila Kunis has also made a ton of money—she's among the highest-paid actresses of her generation. These two are wildly successful and they recognize how privileged their kids are because of it, but they have a plan to teach their children work ethic. Kutcher explained the plan last year on an episode of Dax Shepard's podcast Armchair Expert.

"My kids are living a really privileged life, and they don't even know it," he told Shepard. "And they'll never know it, because this is the only one that they'll know."

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He goes on to explain how he and Kunis don't plan to create trust funds for the kids and want to put their wealth into philanthropic efforts instead. "I'm not setting up a trust for them. We'll end up giving our money away to charity and to various things," he said.

According to Kutcher, the only way his two kids are getting money from him is if they come to dad with a good business plan. If they do that, he'll be happy to invest in their vision. "I want them to be really resourceful. Hopefully they'll be motivated to have what they had, or some version of what they had," he explained.

We all want our kids to be successful, but sometimes too much help can stunt their growth. It's good to hear Kutcher and Kunis are so dedicated to making sure their children understand the value of money and can stand on their own two feet.


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Becoming a parent also means becoming a magnet for unsolicited advice. It can feel like every random person at the grocery store has an opinion on how you're caring for your baby, and that fact that certain safety recommendations have evolved in recent decades doesn't help.

That's why a post by reddit user MindyS1719 is going viral again. It was first posted last year, but as winter temperatures return, Mindy's message is resonating again: She wants people who haven't recently had a baby to understand why babies and little kids may not be wearing coats when families are unloading in parking lots this winter.

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"New car seat guidelines avidly warn against children wearing coats in car seats—and this makes it really challenging for caregivers (particularly those with multiple small children) to get kids out of the house then in the car then out of the car again and into the destination," she wrote.

i.redd.it


👏👏👏

This reddit user is so right. It does seem counterintuitive. If it's cold out of course you'd dress your little one all warm and cozy before strapping them into their car seat, but safety experts say parents should take off kids' winter coats before strapping them into car seats. A coat that protects a kid from cold could prevent them from being protected in the event of a crash.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, bulky coats and snowsuits can compress in a car crash, leaving the straps too loose to keep a child safely in their seat.

With temperatures falling in much of the country, a video demonstrating just how this works is having a resurgence online. Back in 2015, Sue Auriemma from safety non-profit Kids and Cars took The TODAY Show to an official crash test lab in Michigan and strapped a child sized crash test dummy into a car seat while it was wearing a winter coat. During the crash, the coat compressed. Like the AAP warns, the dummy came hurtling out of the car seat.

In the video Miriam Manary, a safety expert in the University of Michigan's crash test lab, tells a TODAY reporter that parents should remove puffy coats before strapping kids in. “We want to see a nice tight harness to the child's body, you should not be able to pinch any webbing up the shoulder, and [the] harness clip should be at armpit level."

In the video, after Manary straps the dummy back in without a coat, the crash test is repeated and the dummy remained safely in its car seat.

In the two years since the video aired more and more parents have heard about the dangers of mixing car seats and bulky winter clothing, but first time parents or those from warmer climates may still be surprised to hear of the recommendation as it's not something they're used to dealing with.

In cold states or places like Canada, parents might worry about a child freezing in the event of a crash, but experts say you can still prepare your child for cold weather without preventing the car seat or booster from doing its job.

"Families can dress their babies and children in layers to keep them warm and safe—fleece is a good top layer for trapping heat without adding padding under the harness or seat belt," Katherine Hutka, president of the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada, told the Globe and Mail, noting that just because a kid can't wear a bulky winter coat doesn't mean they can't wear a thinner fleece jacket as well as their boots, mittens and hat.

"When it's really cold, kids can wear their puffy coats over top of these layers on the way to the car," Hutka said. "After they are safely buckled, they can wear their coat backwards over their arms to stay warm."

Kids and Cars director Amber Rollins takes a hard line on the issue of bulky coats and snowsuits, telling the Washington Post that parents should never make exceptions, and shouldn't worry about how cold their backseat might become after a crash. “First you have to survive the accident. If you don't survive the accident, then this is not an issue."

Those are chilling words, for sure, but if we make sure to follow proper car seat safety and remove bulky coats before buckling up, the chances of coming home safe and warm go way up.

It's important for parents to know the guidelines, but it's also important that other people don't judge parents who are just trying to do their best in this situation. As Reddit's Mindy suggested, we all need to "cut parents some slack. We're trying. And we're doing everything we can to keep our kids warm while maintaining what's left of our sanity."

To all the mamas bundling and unbundling kids in parking lots this winter, we salute you.

[A version of this post was originally published December 1, 2017. It has been updated.]

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Most of the time, being inclusive isn't that hard. Actually, it's so easy, even 4-year-olds can grasp it. That's the message body acceptance activist and Instagram user Milly Smith wanted to share when she posted a photo of her son, Eli, explaining a very simple thing: "Some men have periods too. If I can get it, so can you."

Theoretically, it is easy to get the fact that non-binary people and some trans men menstruate. Usually, body-affirming hormone treatments stop them from menstruating, but that's not always the case. Sometimes their period will stop for years but make a surprise return for a variety of reasons, such as a medication change. Bodies like to keep us guessing like that.

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And yet, many of us, particularly cisgender people, fall back on our habitual ways of speaking about periods without even thinking about it. We have a hard enough time discussing menses as it is, so this may be one of the last vestiges of non-inclusive talk. When a young kid asks why mama is bleeding, the knee-jerk reaction could be to say, "It's just something that women do," hoping not to have to explain the finer points of sex and reproduction for a few more years.

But Smith is here to remind us not to do the knee-jerk thing.

"Eli has been told about periods since he saw blood on my pants a couple of years ago," Smith wrote on Instagram. "I didn't use the language of women have periods because it's not entirely inclusive. I told him that SOME women, SOME non binary people and SOME men have periods. It was easy for him to accept as he hadn't had to unlearn the engrained [sic] societal norm but if a 4-year-old can grasp it I'm sure most of us can have a crack at unlearning transphobic/misinformed norms and open our minds... ya think?"

Some corporations have begun to do their part to unlearn those gender stereotypes. According to PopSugar, Always announced in October that it was removing the Venus "female" symbol from its packaging. While the website for Thinx period underwear is still Shethinx.com, it has attempted to appeal to trans and nonbinary customers as well, referring to "people with periods." Last year, British period subscription service Pink Parcel launched a campaign that included trans man Kenny Jones as one of its spokespeople.

Sadly, a couple of ads and an Instagram featuring a cute kid have not quite solved the problem of transphobia in this world. Smith has turned off the comments on her post, probably because of negative backlash from the shining citizens of the internet. That's an upsetting reminder of how far we have to go.

But at least we can still enjoy Smith's concluding words, "It's not insulting to women, it's not discrediting women," she said of this change of wording. "It's opening up the community to make it a safe space for those who don't identify as women but still have periods."

The world isn't always black and white and it's time we start recognizing the beauty in accepting the grey areas.

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