HIV and the Flu: What are the Dangers?

HIV risks with fluIf you or someone you love are HIV positive, you are concerned about every illness that spreads through the community.  In your eyes, every germ holds danger.  It is right to care so much, but what we hope to do is give you information that can reduce your worry while giving you powerful knowledge.

Getting the flu is more dangerous for an HIV positive person, right?

Wrong!  It is great to know that those who are HIV positive get colds and flu with the same complications as any other person.  There is no greater risk for complications with the flu than for an uninfected person.  Why?  In very simple terms, it is because there are two types of immune systems in your body, the humoral and cellular.  The viruses that cause the flu and common cold affect the humoral immune system, not the celluar immune system.  It is the cellular immune system that is damaged by HIV.

What should I do if I have HIV and get a cold or flu?

Do the same thing any person needs to do for a cold or flu:  Rest.  Drink plenty of fluids.  You can use over-the-counter cold relief without worry; these don’t interact with HIV drugs.

I’ll need some antibiotics just to be on the safe side, right?

Colds and flu are caused by viruses.  Antibiotics kill only bacteria.  Taking an antibiotic unnecessarily actually causes drug resistance; something you do NOT want to develop if you have HIV.  Viral infections will get better on their own.

Antibiotics are helpful and potentially lifesaving for HIV patients with certain illnesses:

  • strep throat
  • sinusitis
  • pneumonia

Follow up immediately with your health care provider if you feel you may have any of these bacteria-caused illnesses.

What about antivirals like Tamiflu?

It’s true that anti-flu drugs can shorten the course of the illness, but only in certain circumstances.  By all means, if you have developed a cough and fever, check with your doctor and follow his or her recommended course of treatment.

Spring is coming soon, and with it, the end of flu season.  Until then, we at Brian’s Pharmacies are here for our Philadelphia customers with over-the-counter remedies, helpful advice, and a friendly smile.  We wish you the very best of health!

Source material:  100 Questions and Answers about HIV and AIDS.  2012, Second Edition.  Joel Gallant, MD, MPH.

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