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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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What to Know if You Have HIV/AIDS and the Flu

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If you or a loved one has HIV or AIDS, you know how hard it is to prevent viral infections like the flu. And you know that complications like pneumonia can put added stress on a weakened immune system.

But you can stay well and avoid complications. You just need to know all you can about the flu and to take the easy steps to prevent it.

Recommended Related to Cold & Flu

Prevent Flu: Healthy Habits Beat the Virus

To prevent flu -- or any illness -- you've got to stick with a healthy lifestyle. "I really believe your immune system takes care of a lot of things," says Erica Brownfield, MD, a professor of internal medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "Even if you've been exposed to the flu, you don't have to get it." The best flu prevention strategy is basic -- good nutrition, regular exercise, and enough sleep, she tells WebMD. "You can also wash hands frequently, and avoid people who...

Read the Prevent Flu: Healthy Habits Beat the Virus article > >

Why Is the Flu Serious for People With HIV/AIDS?

HIV kills or damages cells in your body's immune system, making it more difficult to fight infections like the flu virus. This means you’re more likely to get complications like pneumonia from the flu. And that can raise the odds that you’ll wind up in the hospital with heart- and lung-related problems. Flu can also be fatal.

How Can I Prevent the Flu?

The CDC recommends that high-risk groups -- people with chronic conditions like HIV or AIDS -- get the influenza vaccine from a flu shot. This is key if you’re going to be around others who might have the flu, whether it’s at home, in the workplace, or in social settings.

The CDC says to get the flu shot instead of the nasal spray version (FluMist). The flu shot uses a dead flu virus. FluMist contains a live, weakened flu virus and is only approved for use in healthy people ages 2 to 49.

When Should I Get a Flu Shot?

Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May. October or November is the ideal time to be vaccinated, but you can get it as late as December.

The flu shot starts to work about 2 weeks after you get it. That’s why you need to get it early in the fall. The longer you go without it, the more likely you are to get the flu or have complications.

Do I Need a Shot Every Year?

Yes. Flu viruses change each year, so the shot you get this year may not protect you from future strains. Also, your immunity to the virus declines over time. Getting an annual shot helps boost protection.

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