Flu (seasonal influenza)
Flu is a virus that can leave you feeling
weak and unwell. If you have a heart condition, you have a greater
risk of becoming more seriously ill from the flu than the general
There is also evidence that heart
attacks happen more often during or immediately after an acute
inflammatory illness, such as flu.
If you have a chronic heart condition,
including heart failure or congenital heart disease, you are recommended to
get the flu vaccination. If you think you have the flu you should
contact your GP as soon as possible for advice.
Does the flu affect my medication?
If you take
warfarin, it's important to know that if you have cold or flu
like symptoms, it can affect your blood clotting rate (INR). So if
you are feeling unwell, speak to your doctor or anticoagulation
nurse about monitoring your INR.
Some medications to relieve the symptoms of
flu can’t be used when taking prescribed medicines for heart
conditions, so contact your GP surgery or pharmacist before taking
over the counter medicines such as painkillers and cough
How can I avoid the flu?
Getting a flu vaccination or the ‘flu jab’
helps protect you from getting the flu. No vaccine can protect you
completely, but you are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated if
you have a heart condition or are in one or more of the following
- people with heart
- people over the age of 65
- those with diabetes, chronic
liver or chronic kidney disease
- pregnant women
- those with respiratory
diseases, such as chronic asthma
- those with a weakened immune
These groups of people are not more likely to
catch the flu than others, but they are more likely to become very
ill from the flu. Your GP or practice nurse can tell you more about
the vaccine and how to get it. It's also a good idea to avoid close
contact with friends or relatives who have already got the
Is the flu vaccine safe?
Yes, for most people the flu vaccine is
considered safe and would not be used if it was considered unsafe
in any way. Your GP or Practice Nurse will talk to you about any
risks or potential side effects that may affect you.
How do I know if I’ve got the flu?
The flu is a debilitating illness that has
similar symptoms to a common cold. However, the symptoms of
flu last a lot longer and are more severe. Some symptoms you may
have with the flu are:
- a runny nose
- a sore throat
- muscle aches and pain
- a fever
- a cough
Some people also develop complications to the
flu such as a bacterial lung infection or bronchitis.
How long does the flu last?
Most people recover within a week of getting
the flu. However, as with any illness, it will depend on your
general health and how soon you get treatment. You should speak to
your GP practice as soon as you feel unwell or if you think you
have been exposed to the flu.
Swine flu and Bird flu
Swine flu is the H1N1 virus - a strain of flu
that is carried by pigs. It doesn't normally affect humans, but
this particular strain has mutated and can infect humans. It can
now be passed from human to human. There is no evidence that pigs
in the UK carry the infection. In the autumn/winter of 2012 the
seasonal flu vaccine included the swine flu vaccine.
Bird flu (also called avian flu) is the H7N9
virus. This virus can infect humans, but it happens rarely and
hardly ever passes from human to human.
The Health Protection Agency has more
information on swine and bird flu.
Choices has more information on this year's
flu jab (2013/14).