Flu shots: Especially important if you have heart disease

If you have heart disease, a flu shot can reduce your risk of dangerous flu complications. Learn the benefits of a flu shot and when to get one.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you have heart disease, flu season can be a dangerous time. Complications from the flu (influenza) are more likely in people with heart disease. Fortunately, getting a flu shot can reduce your risk of catching the flu or developing complications from the flu.

Doctors have long recommended flu shots for older adults and other high-risk groups — that also includes those with heart disease.

Why are flu shots important for those with heart disease?

If you have heart disease, you're more likely to develop complications from the flu — including pneumonia, respiratory failure, heart attack and death. Having the flu can also make heart failure, diabetes, asthma or other pre-existing conditions worse.

If you have heart disease, research suggests that getting a flu shot might lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke or dying of a cardiovascular event. However, more studies are needed to confirm these findings. Research is also underway to determine if high-dose flu shots offer even greater benefit.

If you live with or care for someone who has heart disease, it's a good idea to make sure you get a flu shot. Getting one helps lower the risk of infection for yourself and those around you.

Is the flu shot safe if I have heart disease?

Flu shots are safe for most people who have heart disease.

However, the nasal spray flu vaccine (FluMist) isn't recommended for people with heart disease. Unlike the flu shot, the nasal spray flu vaccine is made with a live virus. More research is needed to determine its safety in people with heart disease.

Flu vaccines are usually injected by needle into the upper arm. Some people develop temporary side effects, such as mild soreness at the injection site, muscle aches or a mild fever.

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

When should I get a flu shot?

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 or sometimes later. Flu season doesn't usually peak until the winter.

Do I have to get a flu shot from my cardiologist?

You don't have to get your flu shot from your cardiologist. The flu shot is also available through primary care doctors, public health departments and some pharmacies. It's best to call ahead to determine if the flu vaccine is available and if you need an appointment.

Feb. 20, 2019 See more In-depth

See also

  1. Air pollution and exercise
  2. Angina
  3. Atkins Diet
  4. Automated external defibrillators: Do you need an AED?
  5. Blood Basics
  6. Blood tests for heart disease
  7. Bradycardia
  8. 4 Ways to Prevent Heart Attack
  9. Fact or Fiction? Debunking Exercise & Nutrition Myths for Preventing Heart Disease and Risk Factors
  10. Freezing Heart Muscle
  11. Healthy Heart Numbers
  12. Heart disease in women
  13. Mayo Clinic - Holiday Heart Attack and Stroke Risk
  14. New Route to the Heart
  15. Screenings of newborns and athletes for genetic heart disease
  16. Sports Cardiology Program
  17. Supraventricular Tachycardia
  18. Transplant Advances
  19. Butter vs. margarine
  20. Calcium supplements: A risk factor for heart attack?
  21. Can vitamins help prevent a heart attack?
  22. Cardiac ablation
  23. Infographic: Cardiac Ablation
  24. Cardiac amyloidosis — Treatment options
  25. Cardiac amyloidosis — What is amyloid and how does it affect the heart
  26. Cardiac catheterization
  27. Cardioversion
  28. Chelation therapy for heart disease: Does it work?
  29. Chest X-rays
  30. Complete blood count (CBC)
  31. Control your portions, control your weight
  32. Coronary angiogram
  33. Coronary angioplasty and stents
  34. Coronary artery spasm: Cause for concern?
  35. Coronary bypass surgery
  36. Cough
  37. CT scan
  38. CT scans: Are they safe?
  39. Daily aspirin therapy
  40. Dizziness
  41. Don't get tricked by these 3 heart-health myths
  42. Dyspnea
  43. ECG at Mayo Clinic
  44. Echocardiogram
  45. Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
  46. Exercise and chronic disease
  47. Fasting diet: Can it improve my heart health?
  48. Fatigue
  49. Flu Shot Prevents Heart Attack
  50. Foot swelling during air travel: A concern?
  51. Grass-fed beef
  52. Hand swelling during exercise: A concern?
  53. Is chocolate healthy?
  54. Healthy eating: One step at a time
  55. Healthy Heart for Life!
  56. Healthy heart for life: Avoiding heart disease
  57. Heart arrhythmias
  58. Heart attack
  59. Heart attack prevention: Should I avoid secondhand smoke?
  60. Heart attack symptoms
  61. Heart Attack Timing
  62. Heart disease
  63. Heart disease in women: Understand symptoms and risk factors
  64. Heart disease and oral health
  65. Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease
  66. Heart murmurs
  67. Heart transplant
  68. Supplements and heart drugs
  69. Holter monitor
  70. Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs)
  71. Leg swelling
  72. Limit bad fats, one step at a time
  73. Mediterranean diet
  74. Mediterranean diet recipes
  75. Menus for heart-healthy eating
  76. MUFAs
  77. Need a snack? Go nuts!
  78. NSAIDs: Do they increase my risk of heart attack and stroke?
  79. Nuclear stress test
  80. Numbness
  81. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
  82. Olive oil
  83. Omega-3 in fish
  84. Omega-6 fatty acids
  85. Infographic: Organ Donation Donate Life
  86. Organ transplant in highly sensitized patients
  87. Pacemaker
  88. Pericardial effusion
  89. Polypill: Does it treat heart disease?
  90. Protein: Heart-healthy sources
  91. Pseudoaneurysm: What causes it?
  92. Pulmonary edema
  93. Put fish on the menu
  94. Red wine, antioxidants and resveratrol
  95. Shortness of breath
  96. Silent heart attack
  97. Sitting risks: How harmful is too much sitting?
  98. Mediterranean diet
  99. Vegetable recipes
  100. Guide to gourmet salt
  101. Sodium nitrate in meat: Heart disease risk factor?
  102. Sodium: Smarten up
  103. Heart disease prevention
  104. Stress symptoms
  105. Stress test
  106. Tachycardia
  107. Testosterone therapy side effects: What are the heart risks?
  108. Infographic: The blueprints to your heart
  109. The Last Brother's Heart
  110. The power of a plant-based diet for heart health
  111. Integrative approaches to treating pain
  112. Lifestyle strategies for pain management
  113. Nutrition and pain
  114. Pain rehabilitation
  115. Self-care approaches to treating pain
  116. Treating pain: Conventional medical care
  117. Treating pain: Overview
  118. Understanding pain
  119. Trans fat
  120. Triathlete Transplant
  121. Trouble breathing
  122. Coronary angioplasty
  123. Video: Heart and circulatory system
  124. Can having vitamin D deficiency cause high blood pressure?
  125. What is meant by the term heart age?
  126. Whole grains for a healthy heart
  127. Infographic: Women and Heart Disease