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Heart Disease and the Flu

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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.

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

Also, be sure to call your doctor any time during your illness if you have the following problems:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Symptoms that don't improve or worsen after three to four days of illness
  • After feeling a little better, developing signs of a more serious problem -- for instance, a sick-to-your-stomach feeling, vomiting, high fever, shaking chills, chest pain, or coughing with thick yellow-green mucus.

If your symptoms worsen, you may need urgent medical care. Call 911 for a health emergency. Do not hesitate to seek emergency medical care if you have heart disease and/or flu. It's far better to get a quick medical evaluation and treatment, if necessary, than to risk waiting to see if symptoms might resolve on their own.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Ann Edmundson, MD, PhD on June 21, 2012
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