While you’re lying in bed as sick as a dog with the flu and wondering if this is raising your blood pressure, you’re right.
The flu — even the common cold — can actually cause your blood pressure to go up.
But this doesn’t happen in every single case, however. It’s possible but not guaranteed.
“When you have a cold or flu, you may have an increased heart rate (especially if you have fever),” says Susan L. Besser, MD, with Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore, and Diplomate American Board of Obesity Medicine and board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.
“This could cause your blood pressure to elevate,” adds Dr. Besser. “Also, any stressful situation can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure.
“Lastly, some cold and flu medications have an ingredient (decongestant) that can raise your blood pressure.”
If you already have a hypertension diagnosis, you’ll want to avoid taking any cold or flu medications that contain decongestants.
For example, the cold medication Coricidin HBP does not contain a decongestant.
Why Might a Cold Medication Raise Blood Pressure?
Decongestants narrow blood vessels in the nose, subduing stuffiness. At the same time, though, this constriction may affect other blood vessels, causing a rise in blood pressure.
There are other treatments for your cold or flu that will not raise blood pressure.
• Aspirin or acetaminophen to relieve headache or sore throat.
• Saline nasal spray to relieve stuffiness.
• Flush your nasal passages with a neti pot to loosen up gunk in your nose so you can blow it out more easily.
• Gargle with warm saltwater to relieve a cough or scratchy throat.
• Drink up: water, tea, juice, chicken broth or tomato soup, etc.
• If you have a portable humidifier, put it on wherever you are, and go to bed with it.
• Rest. The housework can wait.
If you have normal blood pressure, there is no reason for you to be worried over whether or not it will rise from your cold or flu. This is the body’s way of helping get rid of the illness.
Dr. Besser provides comprehensive family care, treating common and acute primary conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Her ongoing approach allows her the opportunity to provide accurate and critical diagnoses of more complex conditions and disorders.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.