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Heart Disease and the Flu

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What Flu Treatments Are Safe for Those With Heart Disease?

If you have heart disease, be cautious when using over-the-counter flu treatments. Certain flu treatments contain decongestants. According to the American Heart Association, decongestants can raise blood pressure and interfere with heart medications. Decongestants should rarely be used by someone with high blood pressure or heart disease.

When considering flu treatments, be sure to read the labels. Look for products that are specially formulated for people who have high blood pressure. Flu treatments should be "decongestant-free."

In addition, before taking any over-the-counter flu treatment, talk to your doctor or ask your pharmacist for professional advice. Make sure that all of your doctors know all of the drugs you're taking -- prescription and over-the-counter.

Can I Prevent the Flu if I Have Heart Disease?

Both the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology emphasize the importance of getting a flu shot if you have heart disease. According to the AHA, the best time to get a flu shot is October or November. If you didn't get a flu shot, you can still benefit by getting the influenza vaccine in January or even later. Flu season can begin as early as October and last through May, so make sure you're taking preventive steps throughout the entire season.

Be sure to ask for the flu shot, and not FluMist. Patients with heart disease should not receive the live, attenuated vaccine given as a nasal spray in FluMist. The live vaccine can cause influenza in some high-risk patients.

In addition to getting a flu shot, keep your hands clean to prevent flu. Thorough hand washing is vital to keep germs off your hands so you don't introduce them to your body through your mouth, nose, or eyes.

(For in-depth information, see WebMD's Flu Prevention Strategies.)

When Should I Call my Doctor if I Have Heart Disease and the Flu?

If you have heart disease and flu, talk to your doctor immediately. Your doctor may want you to come to the office for a consultation and tests. If you test positive for the flu virus, your doctor may recommend an antiviral drug, which can help decrease flu symptom intensity and how long the flu lasts if taken early in the illness.

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