Category Archives: Flu

Flu and Reye’s

Beware Fraudulent Flu Products

In the past week, FDA has sent an additional nine warning letters to firms marketing fraudulent flu products, including flufraudredflagan online firm marketing an “alternative to the flu shot,” a firm selling an oral spray online and in major retail stores, and three firms marketing dietary supplements online. (The latter three firms’ letters are co-signed by the Federal Trade Commission, which regulates the advertising of many consumer products.)

The remaining four warning letters were issued to online firms selling what they claim to be generic and other unapproved versions of oseltamivir phosphate (the active ingredient in Tamiflu). Tamiflu is an FDA-approved brand-name drug; no generic is approved in the U.S.

As the flu continues to make people sick—and even cause deaths—scammers are alive and well, promoting their fraudulent products to the unsuspecting public.

These scammers sell their products with claims to prevent, treat or cure the flu, even though they have not been tested and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved them.

FDA warns consumers to steer clear of fraudulent flu products, which can be found online and in retail stores and may include products marketed as dietary supplements or conventional foods, drugs, nasal sprays and devices.

“As any health threat emerges, fraudulent products appear almost overnight,” says Gary Coody, R.Ph., FDA’s national health fraud coordinator. “Right now, so-called ‘alternatives’ to the flu vaccine are big with scammers.”

“These unproven products give consumers a false sense of security,” says Mary Malarkey, director of FDA’s Office of Compliance and Biologics Quality. “There is no need to buy a product that claims to be an alternative to the vaccine. Flu vaccine is still available and it’s not too late to get vaccinated.”

Flu Fraud Red Flags!

These flu claims on an unapproved product indicate that it may be fraudulent:

  • reduces severity and length of flu
  • boosts your immunity naturally without a flu shot
  • safe and effective alternative to flu vaccine
  • prevents catching the flu
  • effective treatment for flu
  • faster recovery from flu
  • supports your body’s natural immune defenses to fight off flu

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated every year, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the vaccine for adults and children over six months of age. To find a list of clinics, supermarkets, pharmacies and other vaccine providers in your neighborhood, visit, click on “Flu Vaccine Finder” and enter your zip code.

If you get the flu, two FDA-approved antiviral drugs—Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir)—are treatment options recommended by CDC. These prescription drugs can help fight the virus in your body and shorten the time you’re sick. They can also be used to help prevent the flu.

Types of Fraudulent Flu Products

There are no legally marketed over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to prevent or cure the flu. However, there are legal OTC products to reduce fever and to relieve muscle aches, congestion, and other symptoms typically associated with the flu.

NOTE: Never give aspirin or aspirin products to children under that age of 19 for flu or viral No Aspirin Products for Children!infections!

Unapproved drugs (which sometimes are marketed as dietary supplements), conventional foods (such as herbal teas) or devices (such as air filters and light therapies) are fraudulent if they make flu prevention, treatment or cure claims, says Coody, “because they haven’t been evaluated by FDA for these uses.”

On Jan. 25, 2013, FDA and the Federal Trade Commission jointly sent a warning letter to the company that markets “GermBullet,” a nasal inhaler that makes flu prevention and treatment claims. The firm is required to remove the language in its labeling and advertising that violates federal law.

“If the company continues to sell the product without removing the deceptive and illegal language, the firm may be subject to enforcement action, which could include seizure of the products or other legal sanctions,” says FDA Regulatory Counsel Brad Pace, J.D., of FDA’s Health Fraud and Consumer Outreach Branch.

Fraudulent Online Pharmacies

Online pharmacies present an opportunity for Internet scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. Legitimate online pharmacies do exist, but so do many websites that look like professional and legitimate pharmacies but are actually fraudulent and illegal.

These websites may be selling unapproved antiviral drugs. “Beware of websites that sell generic Tamiflu or Relenza,” says FDA pharmacist Connie Jung, R.Ph., Ph.D., of FDA’s Office of Drug Security, Integrity and Recalls. “Currently there are no FDA-approved generics available for these drugs on the U.S. market.”

“With unapproved products, you really don’t know what you’re getting and can’t be sure of the quality,” adds Jung. “The products could be counterfeit, contaminated, or have the wrong active ingredient or no active ingredient. You could experience a bad reaction, or not receive the drug you need to get better.”

Jung also warns consumers not to be tempted by an online seller that offers much lower prices than typically charged for prescription drugs by your local pharmacy. “Deep discounts on price are a good indicator of a fraudulent, illegal online pharmacy. You should avoid these online sellers because you might get products that are harmful to your health.”

FDA encourages consumers to buy prescription drugs only through an online pharmacy that requires a valid prescription from a doctor or other authorized health care provider and is licensed by the state board of pharmacy (or equivalent state agency) where the patient is located.

Health fraud is pervasive and it’s not always easy to spot a fraudulent product, says Coody. “If you’re tempted to buy an unproven or little known treatment, especially if it’s sold on the Internet, check with your health care provider first.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Fraudulent Flu Products, Resources

Is it a Cold or the Flu?

How do you tell the difference between a cold and the flu?

With children, trying to figure out the difference between a cold, defined as;  A contagious viral upper respiratory tract cold_or_fluinfection. The common cold can be caused by many different types of viruses, and the body can never build up resistance to all of them, and the Flu, defined as; Short for influenza,  is caused by viruses that infect the respiratory tract.

The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar flu-like symptoms it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone.

In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense.

Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.

How can you tell the difference between a cold and the flu?
Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult (or even impossible) to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can be carried out, when needed to tell if a person has the flu.

What are the symptoms of the flu versus the symptoms of a cold?
In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense.  Most people who get the flu recover completely in 1 to 2 weeks, but some people develop serious and potentially life-threatening medical complications, such as pneumonia.

Colds are a frequent and recurring problem. Going out into cold weather has no effect on causing a cold. Antibiotics do not cure or shorten the duration of a cold.

Symptoms of a Cold include:
Symptoms of a cold can be felt about 1 to 4 days after catching a cold virus.

  • Burning feeling in the nose or throat
  • followed by sneezing
  • a runny nose
  • feeling of being tired and unwell
  • fever is not usually present
    This is the period when you are most contagious — you can pass the cold to others — so it’s best to stay home and rest.

If you are coughing up dark material — or feeling a lot of distress low down in your lungs,  you may have a bacterial infection. These symptoms can also be caused by a cold virus other than a rhinovirus (the most common viral infective agents in humans and the predominant cause of the common cold).

Usually there is no fever. In fact, fever and more severe symptoms may indicate that you have the flu rather than a cold.

Cold symptoms typically last for about three days. At that point the worst is over, but you may feel congested for a week or more.

Except in newborns, colds themselves are not dangerous. They usually go away in four to ten days without any special medicine. Unfortunately, colds do wear down your body’s resistance, making you more susceptible to bacterial infection.  If your cold is nasty enough, seek medical attention. Your doctor may take a throat culture by brushing the throat with a long cotton-tipped swab. This will show whether you have a bacterial infection, which requires treatment with antibiotics.

Call Your Doctor About a Cold If:

  • You notice an inability to swallow
  • You have a sore throat  for more than two or three days, particularly if it seems to be worsening
  • You have an earache
  • You have a stiff neck or sensitivity to bright lights
  • Your are pregnant or nursing
  • Your newborn or infant has cold symptoms
  • Your throat hurts and your temperature is 101 degrees F or higher
  • Your cold symptoms worsen after the third day. You may have a bacterial infection.

And, NEVER give a child or infant any medications that contain aspirin, or salicylates, due to the risk of triggering Reye’s Syndrome.

How Are Flu Symptoms Different From Cold Symptoms?
Unlike symptoms of a common cold, flu symptoms usually come on suddenly. It often starts with the abrupt onset of fever, headache, fatigue, and body aches.

  • fever (usually high)
  • severe aches and pains in the joints and muscles and around the eyes
  • generalized weakness
  • ill appearance with warm, flushed skin and red, watery eyes
  • headache
  • dry cough
  • sore throat and watery discharge from your nose

Seasonal influenza is not usually associated with gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting, at least not in adults. However, these symptoms appear with stomach flu, which is a popular but inaccurate term for gastroenteritis.

Common Flu Symptoms in Children
Typical signs of seasonal flu in children include high-grade fever up to 104 degrees F (40 degrees C), chills, muscle aches, headaches, sore throat, dry cough,  and just plain feeling sick. Flu symptoms in children may also cause vomiting and belly pain. These flu symptoms usually last for three to four days, but cough and tiredness may linger for up to two weeks after the fever has gone away.

And, NEVER give a child or infant any medications that contain aspirin, or salicylates, due to the risk of triggering Reye’s Syndrome.

Flu Symptoms in Infants and Toddlers
In young children, seasonal flu symptoms may be similar to those of other respiratory tract infections such as croup,   bronchitis, or pneumonia. Abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea are frequently observed in young children. Vomiting tends to be more significant than diarrhea. Fever is usually high and irritability may be prominent.

Because young children are at increased risk of getting severe flu complications, the CDC recommends that all children aged 6 months get a seasonal flu vaccine every year.

And, NEVER give a child or infant any medications that contain aspirin, or salicylates, due to the risk of triggering Reye’s Syndrome.

 Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of Reye’s Syndrome, a disease that can be triggered after a child suffers through a viral infection.   Reye’s Syndrome symptoms can often be mistaken for flu, or gastroenteritis, since vomiting is one of the first signs of Reye’s, followed by lethargy, listlessness, loss of pep, then confusion, irritability, and combativeness.

Do not give your child medications that can mask these symptoms, such as pepto-bismol, (of which, some products contain salicylates (aspirin)).

ALWAYS read the label before administering any Over the Counter medication to your child!  If in doubt, ask your pharmacist. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Flu, Is it a Cold or the Flu

It’s Flu Time!

It's Flu Time

Influenza Information

How do you know if you have the flu? Common signs of influenza are high fever, severe body aches, headache, extreme tiredness, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, and vomiting, and or, diarrhea, which is more common in children.

If your child (up to age 19) comes down with the flu, do not give him or her anything with aspirin (salicylate) in it.  That includes items like pepto-bismol, alka-seltzer, Excedrin, and so on.  In place of aspirin products use Tylenol, Advil, or Motrin. For a more complete list of medications that contain salicylates see: http://www.ReyesSyndrome.Org/literature.html

According to the CDC, the best protection against the flu is to get a flu vaccine, which is still widely available.

Here are some simple steps you can take to help prevent the spread of the flu;

1) Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, or use your sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.  Then, be sure you use a sanitizer on your hands to kill off germs.

2) Wash your hands often, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60 to 95 percent alcohol) especially after coughing or sneezing, or touching public doors, stairway railings,other people’s computer mouse and keyboards, and so on.

3) Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

4) And if you’re sick, or your child is sick, stay home!

5) Carry anti-bacterial wipes with you, along with alcohol-based hand sanitizer (Must be 60 to 95 percent alcohol to be effective).

If someone in your household comes down with the flu, the best way to care for them is to designate one person to be the caregiver.

As a caregiver, use plastic throw away gloves when handling items touched by the person who is sick.  Be sure to clean or dispose of gloves frequently, and wash your hands well with soap and water after removing your gloves.

If you can separate the one who is sick from the rest of the family, that might ease the contagion, also.

Keep everyone’s personal items separated. Household members should avoid sharing pens, papers, clothes, towels, sheets, blankets, drinking, food or eating utensils unless thoroughly cleaned between uses.

Disinfect doorknobs, light switches, handles, computers, telephones, toys and other surfaces that are commonly touched around the home or workplace.

Wash everyone’s dishes in the dishwasher or by hand using very hot water and soap.

Wash everyone’s clothes in a standard washing machine using detergent and very hot water, and wash your hands after handling dirty laundry.

Wear disposable gloves when in contact with or cleaning up body fluids.

It may be difficult to tell if you, or a family member are suffering from the flu or another illness. Your doctor should be consulted if you are concerned about flu-like symptoms, especially profuse and projectile vomiting, delirium, and overly lethargic actions in children.  Contact your doctor immediately should these symptoms appear. (Learn more about Reye’s Syndrome)

Leave a comment

Filed under It's Flu Time

It’s Flu Season: Do you know what meds to avoid?

Flu Season is here again.  Remember to check the ingredients on the prescription, over the counter, and topical products and medications you consider buying to make sure they don’t contain salicylates.

Our handy wallet size ingredient cards can assist you with this, and are available by contacting the NRSF office by email or by phone.  (A small donation for the wallet cards would help us print more as we need them, and cover postage, but it is not mandatory.)

The NRSF does not condone Chicken Pox Parties.  Parents need to be aware that chicken pox is a virus, and in exposing their child to a virus, they also run the risk of Reye’s Syndrome, stroke, and a host of other potential viral complications.  Read more about this issue at www.ReyesSyndrome.Org/chickenpox.html

Reye’s Syndrome is often misdiagnosed as Encephalopathy, which it is a form of, along with drug overdose in Teens and Young Adults, and as SIDs in infants.

This time of year, when Influenza, (Flu) can run unchecked through our communities and schools, we need to do all we can to stave off  viral infection.  If your child is sick, keep him or her home and encourage other parents of sick children to do the same.

Teach children to wash their hands and to sing the Happy Birthday song as they do so.  Three times through, and those little hands can be mostly germ free!  The NRSF, using the CDC’s Kidtastics Flu video has created a video for kids about keeping safe during flu season at Angela and the KidTastics  (Video)

Save a Life this Flu Season; ask your neighborhood School, Day Care, Sunday School, Head Start Program, or Physician’s Office if they know they can download a valuable package of  Reye’s Syndrome information from the Reye’s Syndrome website at www.ReyesSyndrome.Org/schools.html.

Download some information and take a sample to them to pass on to parents, teachers, and caregivers.  Your actions will save a life!

Other Names for Aspirin:

Acetyl Salicylic Acid
Acetylsalicylic Acid
Aluminum Acetyl Salicylate
Ammonium Salicylate
Amyl Salicylate
Benzyl Salicylate
Butyloctyl Salicylate
Calcium Acetyl Salicylate
Choline Salicylate
Ethyl Salicylate
Lithium Salicylate
Methyl Salicylate
Methylene Disalicylic Acid
Octyl Salicylate
Phenyl Salicylate
Procaine Salicylate
Sal Ethyl Carbonate
Salicylsalicylic Acid
Santalyl Salicylate
Sodium Salicylate
Strontium Salicylate
Sulfosalicylic Acid
Tridecyl Salicylate
Trolamine Salicylate

Leave a comment

December 30, 2012 · 1:15 am