Skip to content

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Select An Article

Flu and Chronic Medical Conditions

Font Size

If you have a chronic medical condition, how do you treat the flu?

Antiviral drugs are available by prescription to treat the flu and should be taken 24-48 hours after symptoms begin. In some cases, antiviral drugs can be used to prevent infection with flu. These drugs work by blocking the replication of the flu virus, preventing its spread. Recommended antiviral drugs include:

Oseltamivir (Tamiflu)
Peramivir (Rapivab)
Zanamivir (Relenza)

People who are at high risk of serious complications from the flu may benefit most from antiviral medications. This includes people with chronic medical conditions. Call your doctor if you have symptoms of the flu or have been exposed to the flu if you are in one of the high risk groups for complications. You may also take some over-the-counter cold and flu medicines, but always check with your doctor or pharmacist first. You should make sure the medicine won't interfere with other medications prescribed for your condition. For example, if you have heart disease, you need to avoid decongestants. If you have COPD, you may need to avoid aspirin, antihistamines, and decongestants.



When do I call the doctor for flu with a chronic medical condition?

Some doctors recommend that people with chronic disease always go to the doctor when they get the flu or a cold. Others think you can safely wait out these viruses with bed rest and fluids. But if you experience any of the following symptoms, you need to call your doctor:

  • You have trouble breathing.
  • Your symptoms don't improve or they get worse after three to four days.
  • After feeling a little better, you develop signs of a more serious problem. Some of these signs are a sick-to-your-stomach feeling, vomiting, high fever, shaking chills, chest pain, or coughing with thick, yellow-green mucus.

Seek emergency medical help for any difficulty breathing or chest pain.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's When to Call the Doctor About Flu.

When does flu season begin?

Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May. 

October or November is the best time to get the flu vaccine, but you can still get vaccinated in January or later. The flu shot becomes effective about two weeks after your vaccination.

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
cold weather
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Boy holding ear

Loaded with tips to help you avoid food allergy triggers.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

woman receiving vaccine shot
woman with fever
Waking up from sleep
woman with sore throat