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Q&A: Tamiflu

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Q: Dr Edelberg, you said in your last health tip that Tamiflu works on flu, which is caused by a virus, but not on colds. Why doesn’t it help with colds–aren’t most of them caused by a virus?

A: Great question. Antiviral medications are designed for a specific virus and Tamiflu is designed specifically for the influenza virus. Even though the flu virus changes ever so slightly each year (endlessly eluding vaccine makers), its basic structure remains the same. On the other hand, the common cold is caused by more than 50 different viruses, each one different enough from the next to sidestep a single antiviral cold medication. Also, annoying as they are, colds aren’t particularly disabling or dangerous. Nothing beats your own immune system for clearing the virus from your body.

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