Flu and pneumonia pose special problems for heart patients. About half the U.S. adults hospitalized for flu have heart disease. Studies have shown that the flu is associated with an increase in heart attacks and strokes. Serious heart complications occur in about 1 in 8 adults hospitalized with the flu.
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can prevent your lungs from getting enough oxygen into the blood, creating a strain on the heart. It can also increase risks for stroke survivors.
Flu season starts in the fall
Flu season begins in October and typically runs until early to mid-spring. It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a common cold and the flu. Generally, a cold is milder than the flu and you are likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. The flu is worse with more intense symptoms.
The flu can strike suddenly and can cause fever, chills, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Vomiting and diarrhea associated with the flu is more common in children.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year, ideally by the end of October. A yearly flu shot can help guard against the influenza viruses. Flu vaccines are created to combat the strains of flu expected to be circulating in a given year.
It’s a very safe vaccine and adverse reactions are rare. Occasionally there is soreness in the spot where the shot is given.
People develop immunity to the flu two weeks after getting vaccinated. You can get the flu vaccine in September before flu season hits and even months into the season.
People with heart disease and stroke survivors are at higher risk of developing serious flu complications. If you have heart disease, or have had a stroke, it is especially important that you get a flu vaccine every year to protect against flu and its potentially serious complications.
Additionally, heart and stroke patients should also be immunized against pneumonia unless they’ve experienced a bad reaction or allergy to the vaccine. Re-vaccination should be discussed with your health care professional and will depend on the person’s age, the type of vaccine used and prior vaccination history.
Basic preventive steps
There are other precautions you can take to avoid the flu. It’s important to stay away from people who are sick. It seems like an obvious thing, but one we forget about.
If you haven’t been vaccinated, stay out of crowds, particularly if the flu is spreading through your community. Washing hands frequently is also a good practice, along with keeping your hands away from your face.
If you do suspect you have the flu, get to your health care professional early. If it’s confirmed that your illness is the flu, an oral antiviral treatment can help reduce the duration of the sickness.
But prevention remains the best bet. So, it’s very important to be vaccinated to protect yourself.