Stay Away From Painkillers if You Have A Cold or the Flu

Stay Away From Painkillers if You Have A Cold or the Flu

By Staff

Common painkillers like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may increase the risk of a heart attack when used during a cold or flu-like illness, says a study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

In an observational study, researchers analyzed claims from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Program over a seven-year period (2005-2011), including data from nearly 10,000 patients who were hospitalized for a heart attack.  Their objective was to study whether two potential cardiac risk factors–an acute respiratory infection, such as a cold or influenza, and NSAID use–have a combined, joint effect on heart attack risk.

“Physicians should be aware that the use of NSAIDs during an acute respiratory infection might further increase the risk of a heart attack,” said study author Cheng-Chung Fang, MD, of National Taiwan University Hospital. Patients seeking relief from cold and flu symptoms should consult with their doctor or a pharmacist before using NSAIDs, Dr. Fang added.

They compared each patients’ own risk for heart attack over time, across episodes of respiratory illness and NSAID use, and found a stronger association with a heart attack when both risk factors were present.  Using the painkillers during an acute respiratory infection was associated with a 3.4-fold increased risk for a heart attack, with 7.2 times greater risk when patients received the medication intravenously in the hospital, compared to when patients had neither of the risk factors.

The heart attack risk when patients with an acute respiratory illness were not taking an NSAID was 2.7 times greater, while the risk was 1.5 times greater when individuals took the drugs and did not have an infection.

The authors noted that another commonly used pain reliever, acetaminophen, which eases pain in a different way than NSAIDs do, may be a safer alternative, in terms of cardiac risk, for relief from cold and flu symptoms, although the drug was not evaluated in the study.

While the study’s findings suggest an association between NSAID use, acute respiratory infections, and increased cardiac risk, they do not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.  Additional research is needed to clarify the apparent combined effect on risk and how the effect might be managed.

In a related editorial commentary, Charlotte Warren-Gash, PhD, MRCP, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Jacob A. Udell, MD, MPH, of the University of Toronto, who were not involved in the study, noted that the findings provide evidence for the dual effect of potential heart attack triggers and highlight the need for caution when using NSAIDs while future research explores the issue. “Clinicians should consider both medical conditions and existing medications when prescribing NSAIDs for symptomatic acute respiratory infection relief,” they wrote.

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Authored by: Staff

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Ben Aiken Longfellow at 1:54 pm

    I will be SURE to not use painkillers if I have a cold or flu. I just don’t know what to do the rest of the time. I WOULD take opioid painkillers IF I could be prescribed enough. Presumed GUILTY until proven innocent? Is that the way the CDC “guideline” works. I am a 58 year old AMERICAN man that has suffered with lower back trouble even AFTER 2 surgeries and fusion. My pain specialist of over 5 years and the one before of over 14 years had NEVER told me that I need to reduce dosage of medication UNTIL the CDC “guideline” was introduced. I was willing to do my part if I could help ANY bad situation I was a VOLUNTEER firefighter for over 14 years. I was never paid a dime. I love my fellow man and the people in my community. Why would ANY personnel of an extremely vital, intelligent, educated agency write such a misguided “guideline” to be followed that will only ADD to the inability for 10 MILLION people to function on a daily basis. HOW, exactly is this “guideline” supposed to decrease the mortality rate in America among the responsible, legally opioid prescribed medication chronic pain patients again? I guess I am a little lost since I don’t sell, give, or loan my PERSONAL pain medication that helps me to work and stay alive to anyone. So how is it that reducing my medication is supposed to help others? I just can’t understand how me applying for SS Disability because I can no longer work to support my family and myself is going to help the “opioid epidemic” in my country. I just can’t get a grip on HOW reducing the medication that I have been stable on for 5 years without an increase in dosage is going to help lower the opioid mortality rate. How is staying home, not able to care for myself very well after an 80% reduction in dosage will “help” the opioid mortality rate. Maybe I am missing something. Maybe I will understand better when I can not even get up to get ready to go to church. Maybe then I will understand the “guideline” and its’ intentions.

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