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HIV/AIDS and the Common Cold

If your immune system is weakened from HIV/AIDS, it may be very difficult for you to fight off colds, flu, or other viral infections. That's why it's important to understand how to stay well and avoid colds and flu. Here's what you need to know about HIV/AIDS and colds in order to keep healthy.

Why Do Colds Pose Such a Problem for People With HIV/AIDS?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) kills or damages cells in the body's immune system, making it more difficult to fight infections like the cold virus. If you have HIV/AIDS, you're also more likely to develop cold complications such as pneumonia.

Which Cold Treatment Should I Use if I Have HIV/AIDS?

When you first get cold symptoms, call your doctor if HIV/AIDS has weakened your immune system. While there are no anti-viral medicines for cold viruses, your doctor will recommend treatment for your miserable cold symptoms. A cold normally lasts a week and goes away on its own, even in people with HIV. However, when your immune system is weakened, you are more likely to get a complication from the cold, such as pneumonia. If your symptoms don't improve or you develop shortness of breath or fever, let your doctor know right away in case you need more aggressive treatment.

With a cold, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, especially if you have fever. High fever -- above 102 degrees Fahrenheit -- is a sign that you may have the flu. If you have flu symptoms, let your doctor know right away. Flu medications may be able to shorten the duration of flu symptoms, but are most effective if used early. In addition, even if you have no appetite, try to eat something, anyway. Smaller meals may help until you get your appetite back. Be sure to rest frequently and get plenty of sleep so your body has a chance to recover.

Can I Prevent Colds if I Have HIV/AIDS?

Because people with HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections, it's important to always use good hygiene to reduce the chance of getting sick. Talk with your family members and friends about preventing the spread of cold viruses by covering their mouths when they cough, washing their hands frequently, and avoiding rubbing their eyes, nose, or mouth and then touching surfaces.

Also, regularly use an antibacterial cleaner or a mild bleach solution to kill germs on common household hotspots -- telephone receivers, doorknobs, kitchen and bathroom countertops and sinks, and the refrigerator handle.  Also, be sure to clean your computer mouse and keyboard with a recommended cleaner.

Check with your doctor about a pneumonia and flu vaccine for you and a flu shot for all family members to avoid spreading illnesses among each other. The CDC recommends that people with chronic medical conditions, including HIV/AIDS and those with weakened immune systems, be among the first to get a flu vaccine each year.

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