It's that time of the year, flu season, and the best way to avoiding coming down with the flu is a flu shot. The annual flu shot will offer protection against three or four of the influenza viruses anticipated to be in circulation this flu season. It is suggested that all persons ages 6 months and older, with few exceptions, get vaccinated each year for common flu strains.
Soo H. Park, MD, FACC, is a board-certified cardiologist with Franciscan Physician Network Indiana Heart Physicians, a cardiology practice in Columbus, Indiana, answers your questions about the flu and safety of flu vaccinations for people with heart disease.
Q: My Husband Has Heart Disease. Is It Safe For Us To Get Flu Shots?
A: Both of you should consider getting flu shots. For those who have heart disease or other chronic conditions, the flu season can be a hazardous time of year. Complications related to the flu are more likely in people with heart disease. The flu shot can reduce your risk of catching the flu or developing flu-related complications.
Most doctors suggest flu shots for older adults and other high-risk groups of people, including those with heart disease.
Flu shots are safe for most people who have heart disease. However, the nasal spray flu vaccine (FluMist) isn't recommended for those with heart disease. Unlike the flu shot, the nasal spray flu vaccine contains a live virus. More research is needed to determine its safety in people with heart disease.
For those who live with or care for someone who suffers from heart disease, it's a good idea for you to also get a flu shot. Getting a flu shot lowers the risk of infection for yourself and for those around you who may have compromised immune systems.
Q: Are People With Heart Disease More At Risk For Complications From The Flu?
A: People who already have heart disease might be more prone to develop complications from the flu.
Complications from the flu may include:
- Respiratory failure
- Heart attack
Having a bout with the flu also can make heart failure, diabetes, asthma or other pre-existing conditions worse.
For those who already have heart disease, research suggests getting a flu shot could reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke or dying of a cardiovascular event. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings. Studies are also underway to establish the benefits of high-dose flu shots.
Q: When Should I Not Get A Flu Shot?
A: Talk to your doctor before getting a flu shot if:
- You're allergic to eggs
- You've had a serious allergic reaction to the flu vaccine in the past
- You have a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome that developed after receiving a flu shot
- You have a fever when you go to get a flu shot
Q: When Is The Best Time To Get My Flu Shot?
A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting a flu shot every year by the end of October. However, if flu shots aren't yet available or you haven't received yours yet, you can still get a flu shot until January and sometimes even later. Flu season doesn't usually peak until the winter.
The flu shot is typically available through primary care doctors, public health departments and some pharmacies. It's usually best to call ahead to determine if the provider you are considering has the flu vaccine available and if you need an appointment.