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HIV/AIDS, colds and flu

Mild colds that present no risk to a healthy person can be more dangerous for a person whose immune system is affected by HIV.

If you have HIV/AIDS, you're also more likely to develop complications following a cold, such as pneumonia.

Learn more about HIV, AIDS, colds and flu.

Which cold treatment should I use for a cold with HIV/AIDS?

When you first get cold symptoms, seek medical advice if HIV/AIDS has weakened your immune system. While there are no antiviral medicines for cold viruses, your doctor can recommend simple remedies to ease your cold symptoms. A cold normally lasts about 10 days and goes away on its own, even for people with HIV. However, when your immune system is weakened, you are more likely to get complications from the cold, such as pneumonia. If your symptoms don't improve or if you develop shortness of breath or a high fever, seek medical advice promptly in case you need more intensive treatment.

When you have a cold, make sure you drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, especially if you have a fever. High fever-above 39C (102 degrees F) is a sign that you may have flu. If you have flu symptoms, seek medical advice. Flu medicines, including specific antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu), may help to shorten the duration of flu symptoms.

Even if you have no appetite, try to eat something anyway. Smaller meals may help until you get your appetite back. Make sure you rest frequently and get plenty of sleep, so your body has a chance to recover.

Can I prevent colds if I have HIV/AIDS?

Because people with HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections, it's important always to use good hygiene to reduce the chances of getting sick. Talk to your family members and friends about preventing the spread of cold viruses by covering their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze, washing hands frequently, and avoid rubbing your eyes after touching surfaces.

Also, use a suitable cleaner or a mild bleach solution regularly to kill germs on common household hotspots such as the computer mouse and keyboard, telephone receivers, doorknobs, kitchen and bathroom counter tops and sinks, and the refrigerator handle.

Ask your doctor about getting both a pneumonia vaccination and a flu jab for yourself, as well as a flu jab for all your family members to avoid them spreading illnesses amongst each other.

People with underlying medical conditions, including HIV, are more at risk of becoming seriously ill with flu. Those with low T-cell/CD4 counts (especially under 200) may be more liable to illness or complications like pneumonia if they get flu. If you think you have flu, stay at home and seek medical advice. Do not go into your GP surgery or to a hospital, as you may spread the virus to others. You should also be able to get advice from your HIV clinic.

Other measures

Avoid crowds during the cold and flu season, since colds and flu can cause serious problems for people with HIV/AIDS or compromised immune systems. Keep your immune system healthy by getting plenty of sleep, eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly and avoiding stress. You should also avoid cigarette smoke and air pollutants.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on April 21, 2016

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