Are HIV-Positive People At Higher Risk For Flu Complications

November 21, 2020
by John Kelly, MD
Are HIV-Positive People At Higher Risk For Flu Complications

People who are HIV positive are at a higher risk of suffering from serious complications of the flu. This is especially true of individuals with a low CD4 cell count or are not on an antiretroviral therapy.

People who have HIV should get a flu vaccine every year, as it is the best defense against the flu. People who get vaccinated are less likely to be diagnosed with the flu. If you do get sick, the illness is likely less severe. The chances of going to the hospital with flu complications are less.

HIV-positive individuals should opt for the flu shot over the nasal spray. The nasal spray contains a weakened live flu virus, unlike the shot, which is not a live flu virus. The chances of complications are higher with the nasal spray.

People are advised to make providers aware of they are allergic to eggs (as some vaccines comprise of flu virus grown in eggs) or if they have had an adverse reaction to the flu shot.

Besides getting a flu shot, HIV-positive people should do five key things:

  • Stay home when sick
  • Avoid sick people
  • Cover your mouth when coughing
  • Cover your nose when sneezing
  • Regularly wash your hands

If you suspect you have the flu, immediately get in touch with your doctor. If you notice any symptoms such as fever, cough, running or stuffy nose, chills, lethargy, headache or sore throat, be sure to call the doctor right away. It is also possible to have the flu without a fever. If you experience shortness of breath or have problems breathing, see a doctor as soon as possible.

The CDC recommends HIV-positive people quickly get antiviral drugs (within 48 hours after the initial symptoms) to overcome the illness.


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