What Is Amantadine Used For?
Amantadine is used for preventing or treating several conditions, such as the flu, Parkinson's disease, and certain side effects caused by other medications. Healthcare providers may also occasionally recommend off-label amantadine uses, such as treating ADHD and chronic hepatitis C. Amantadine is approved to treat or prevent the flu in children as young as one year old, but is not approved for other uses in children.
Amantadine hydrochloride (Symmetrel®) is a prescription medication that is used for a few different conditions. It is approved for the following uses:
- Prevention and treatment of certain types of the flu
- Treatment of Parkinson's disease and other similar conditions
- Treatment of certain side effects of other medications, known as "extrapyramidal" side effects (such as movement disorders caused by antipsychotic medications).
Why Is Amantadine Used for the Flu?
The flu (influenza) is a respiratory infection caused by a variety of flu viruses. The flu differs in several ways from the common cold, which is a respiratory infection that is also caused by viruses. For example, people who have colds rarely get fevers, headaches, or suffer from the extreme exhaustion that the flu viruses can cause. Although nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can accompany flu symptoms, especially in children, gastrointestinal flu symptoms rarely occur. The illness that people call "stomach flu" is not really influenza (the flu).
Real flu symptoms include:
Although many people consider the flu to be bothersome (but not dangerous), serious flu complications can occur. For elderly people, newborn babies, and people with certain chronic illnesses, the flu and its complications can be quite dangerous.
Amantadine can be used to both treat and prevent the flu. Although the best way to prevent the flu is with the flu vaccine, many people cannot or do not get a yearly flu shot. Amantadine can be used for flu prevention to provide temporary protection against the flu in unvaccinated people. This is beneficial during an outbreak or if an individual may have been exposed to the flu virus, such as from an infected family member.
The drug does not completely prevent all cases of the flu, however. Often, people will still develop the flu, but will have milder cases. Amantadine can also be used during a flu outbreak to help protect people in the two to four weeks after a flu shot (it takes that long for the vaccine to start working). Amantadine should not be used in this way before or after the nasal flu vaccine (FluMist™). It does not offer permanent or vaccine-like protection against the flu.
Amantadine can also be used for flu treatment. When taken within the first 48 hours after flu symptoms start, the drug can significantly shorten the duration of symptoms. The earlier it is started, the better. Because amantadine is only effective against type A flu viruses, your healthcare provider may do tests to check which type of flu you have and to confirm the flu diagnosis.