ZocdocAnswersDo flu shots affect one's liver?

Question

Do flu shots affect one's liver?

I've been under treatment for cirrhosis of the liver since I was 38 (I'm 45 now), and I'm trying to be smart about the flu. If so, are there possible interactions between the flu shot and a damaged liver? Are there herbal tools I could use to fight off the flu?

Answer

Seasonal vaccination against influenza is recommended for all patients with chronic medical conditions, including cirrhosis. In fact, patients with cirrhosis are specifically advised to get vaccinated (www.uptodate.com provides information on current guidelines for patients and physicians). The flu carries risks of sickness and death, and vaccination is the best protection against illness. Vaccination against Streptococcus pneunomiae, which causes pneumonia and multiple medical complications, is also recommended. In stark contrast to season influenza vaccination and pneumonia vaccination, herbal remedies can be quite dangerous in the setting of cirrhosis. Aside from poor regulation of the herbal remedy market, such that product labels and contents need not necessarily be related to each other in any way, many herbs can affect liver function in untoward ways. Some must be removed from the body by the liver, and can build up in the blood and cause unintended side effects in people with cirrhosis. You should definitely strongly consider getting the seasonal flu shot. You should also talk to your doctor about any and all herbal medications you are considering taking. Without knowing the specifics of the cause of your cirrhosis and what your physician is doing to manage it, it is difficult to make specific recommendations, but you should ask your doctor about the smartest way to avoid the flu. I hope the above information helps inform your conversation.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.