FOR UK HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS ONLY

This section is intended for healthcare professionals and associated healthcare employees who are involved in patient care or service provision for influenza immunisation in the UK only – this includes (but is not limited to) GPs, nurses, practice managers, pharmacists, and pharmacy counter assistants.

I AM A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL OR ASSOCIATED HEALTHCARE EMPLOYEE I AM NOT A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL OR ASSOCIATED HEALTHCARE EMPLOYEE

Risks from flu in people with chronic heart disease

If you have chronic heart disease you have an increased risk of developing serious complications from flu1,2. This is because your heart has to work harder to combat the flu virus and is therefore, under increased stress3.

There is also evidence that suggests you are more likely to experience a heart attack during, or immediately after, having the flu2 than someone without heart disease.

According to US statistics, during the 2015-16 flu season, 41% of people admitted to hospital with flu had heart disease1, including:

  • Heart failure
  • Hypertensive heart disease
  • Pulmonary heart disease
  • Heart valve disorders
  • Arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation
  • Congenital heart defects

Flu can also interfere with medication you may be taking for your heart condition, such as a blood-thinning drug like Warfarin, as it can affect the clotting-rate of your blood2. And some over-the-counter cold and flu treatments, such as painkillers or cough medicines, can’t be used alongside prescription heart condition medications2. Always speak to your pharmacist if you buy any cold or flu medication and discuss any other medicines you may be taking.

 

Protecting yourself from flu

The flu viruses predominantly circulate during the winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself as the flu season approaches, as this is when you are most vulnerable.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu4, and if you have chronic heart disease, you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS.

Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter5.

 

Other ways to avoid infection

You can also take additional steps, such as avoiding public transport and crowds. However, if you’re unable to avoid public transport (for example, if you need to get to hospital for treatment or an appointment), wash your hands after every trip, use the antiseptic hand gel dispensers in the hospital regularly, cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and dispose of any used tissues as quickly as possible.

 

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

 

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu and Heart Disease & Stroke. August 2016. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/heartdisease/ (accessed July 2018)
  2. British Heart Foundation. Flu. Available online: https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/living-with-a-heart-condition/weather-and-your-heart/seasonal-influenza (accessed July 2018)
  3. British Heart Foundation. Cold weather and your heart. Available online: https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/living-with-a-heart-condition/weather-and-your-heart/cold-weather (accessed July 2018)
  4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, January 2018. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
  5. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)

Adverse Event Reporting

I AM A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL OR ASSOCIATED EMPLOYEE I AM NOT A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL OR ASSOCIATED EMPLOYEE