Colds and the flu can be serious for people with heart disease. Not only are you at risk for pneumonia, but it’s hard to tell whether your symptoms are a sign of a cold or of worsening heart failure.
And if you do have a cold, you may not be able to take over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to help you feel better. Drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or diclofenac, for example, also called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can cause you to retain fluid and make your heart failure worse. Also, many OTC cold medicines, including nasal sprays, contain decongestants like phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine, oxymetazoline, and naphazoline, that can raise blood pressure and interfere with prescription medicines.
Prevention is the best medicine for a cold or the flu. Ask your health care provider about when and how to get a flu and pneumonia vaccine. Avoid contact with people who have colds, and wash your hands often.
If you feel a cold coming on, talk with your health care provider. He or she can evaluate your symptoms and may recommend a pain reliever like acetaminophen, which is not an NSAID. Also ask about cold medicines that don’t contain decongestants. The bottom line: Always talk with your health care provider before taking any new medicine.