Research published in the British Medical Journal has warned that antiviral flu drugs do little in the way of protecting children from seasonal strains of the flu virus.

The UK Government relies on drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza as a front-line treatment to reduce symptoms and the likelihood of the virus being passed on in children and adults.

The report published by researchers from Oxford University showed that antivirals such as Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir) can reduce the duration of the virus by up to a day and a half, but do little to protect children from symptoms such as asthma.

The drugs also do not reduce the need for treatment with antibiotics, but treatment with Tamiflu in particular can cause vomiting.

The trials, none of which tested the H1N1 pandemic strain, involved four randomised trials in two sets, first with 1,766 children and then with 863 children.

Based on the results of the trial, researchers concluded that the effects of the drug on the incidence of serious complications and on the A/H1N1 influenza strain remain to be determined.