How cold and flu medicine puts your heart in danger

When you have a cold or flu, you feel it in almost every part of your body…

Your head throbs. Your throat stings. Your sinuses burn. Your muscles ache.

But there’s one body part that suffers silently — your heart.

While the rest of your body screams at you, your heart’s struggling too, albeit in a subtler way. As your body fends off the virus, your heart rate rises and that causes inflammation.

A healthy heart can usually handle this, so you recover from your virus unaware that your heart was under any strain. The problem arises when you combine the heart strain caused by a cold or flu with other heart-related risk factors like heart disease, high blood pressure…. or common cold and flu medications.

That’s right. Many of the cold and flu medications you take to ease your discomfort are hard on your heart. And the strain caused by the virus combined with the strain caused by these medications could be more than your heart can handle…

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Decongestants and NSAIDs are dangerous for your heart

When you have a cold or flu there are two medications you’re likely to take: decongestants (like pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Unfortunately, both medications cause cardiovascular distress.

Decongestants narrow blood vessels. That prevents fluid from filling your sinuses, which — voila! — “unstuffs” your nose. But narrowing blood vessels also cause blood pressure to rise and reduce blood flow to the heart. Bad news for your heart attack risk. especially if you’ve had a heart attack or stroke in the past or have heart disease.

But even people with healthy hearts put themselves at risk by taking certain cold and flu medications…

Most people don’t think twice about popping NSAIDs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin to relieve headaches, fevers and other viral symptoms. But a 2017 study found that these drugs increase your heart attack risk… even if your heart health is in good shape.

In fact, people who used NSAIDs during a respiratory infection were three times more likely to have a heart attack. Why?

Related: When common medications become uncommonly dangerous

Well, NSAIDs decrease the amount of sodium you expel through your urine. That causes your body to retain fluid, which raises blood pressure. That’s why NSAIDs have a label warning about the increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Finding heart-safe cold and flu relief

Is a little bit of symptom relief worth the heart risk? That depends on how miserable you are, but I’d say usually not. And if you have a history of heart trouble definitely not.

The question is… how can you feel better without putting your heart in jeopardy?

Well, if it’s congestion you’re looking to tackle, there are lots of natural ways to clear out those sinuses, like:

  • Steam vaporizers infused with essential oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, pine. or spruce essential oil.
  • Nasal irrigation with a neti pot (but don’t use tap water, because it could contain bacteria that causes serious brain infections).
  • Herbs like butterbur, which can ease sinus irritation.

If it’s pain that’s bothering you, many supplement companies make NSAID alternatives that contain natural anti-inflammatories like white willow bark extract or turmeric.

No matter how you choose to ease your symptoms, don’t forget to give your immune system the help it needs to vanquish the virus that’s putting your heart in jeopardy. Drink lots of water, get plenty of rest, increase your vitamin C intake and try an antiviral supplement. My personal favorite contains olive leaf extract, elderberry, echinacea, garlic, astragalus and plenty of other effective herbs.

Editor’s Note: You may have heard the news report recently that popular heart treatments aren’t cutting it. It’s time to discover the truth you won’t find at your doctor’s office! Before you submit to any heart treatment, read this FREE report…


  1. Taking medicine for a cold? Be mindful of your heart — MedicalXpress
  2. Butterbur Ze339 for the Treatment of Intermittent Allergic Rhinitis Dose-Dependent Efficacy in a Prospective, Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled StudyJAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery
  3. 7 Ways to Clear Up Sinus Congestion — Better Nutrition
  4. Triggering of acute myocardial infarction by respiratory infectionInternal Medicine Journal
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and