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HIV/AIDS and the Flu

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Should I Get a Pneumonia Vaccine if I Have HIV/AIDS?

Pneumonia is the term to describe any infection of the lung. The "pneumonia vaccine" is given to prevent one specific type of pneumonia -- the pneumonia caused by the pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumoniae) bacterium. Pneumonia caused by pneumococcus is the most common form of infection occurring outside of a hospital or institutional setting in the United States and is responsible for more than 6,000 deaths each year. A serious complication of pneumonia, pneumococcal meningitis, is associated with a particularly high fatality rate.

The CDC recommends that anyone at high risk for pneumonia, including those with HIV/AIDS, get the pneumonia vaccine. One dosage is usually sufficient, but your doctor may recommend a second pneumonia vaccine. Talk to your doctor about your health situation.

Does Good Hygiene Help Prevent Flu Complications With 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 flu viruses by covering their mouths when they cough, washing their hands frequently, and avoiding rubbing their eyes after touching surfaces.

In addition, avoid crowds during flu season. Keep your immune system healthy by getting plenty of sleep, eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding stress. Also, pay attention to healthy lifestyle habits by avoiding cigarette smoke and air pollutants.

When Should I Call a Doctor for Flu With HIV/AIDS?

Because of the nature of HIV/AIDS, any illness should be taken very seriously. Flu complications such as pneumonia can cause hospitalization and even death in some HIV/AIDS patients. Because of greatly increased risk, HIV/AIDS patients should consult their doctors at any sign of flu or other illness.

What Are Some Flu Symptoms?

The flu usually starts with the abrupt onset of fever, headache, fatigue, and body aches. Here is a list of flu symptoms that you might feel:

  • Fever (usually high)
  • Severe aches and pains in the joints and muscles and around the eyes
  • Generalized weakness
  • Ill appearance with warm, flushed skin and red, watery eyes
  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat and watery discharge from the nose

(For more information, see WebMD's Flu Symptoms or Cold?)

Can I Take Antiviral Drugs With HIV/AIDS?

According to the CDC, people with HIV/AIDS and other high-risk individuals who are exposed to influenza should be given antiviral drugs for seven days to help prevent the development of flu. Antiviral medications should also be given if someone with HIV/AIDS develops the flu, ideally within the first 2 days of getting sick. Antiviral medications are available by prescription from a doctor. While these medications may have side effects, there are no published findings showing an interaction between antiviral medications and the drugs used in managing HIV.

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WebMD Medical Reference

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