While catching a cold is a hindrance at the best of times, becoming unwell during pregnancy is especially complicated. After all, everything that happens to you during pregnancy affects not just your body but that of your baby. Given this, you want to be careful with the medications you use to alleviate symptoms.
Although cold and flu are both highly common illnesses, pregnant people are at increased risk since the immune system is suppressed to protect the baby from the body’s defences. As such, pregnant people are more likely to experience worse cold symptoms, take longer to recover and are more vulnerable to cold complications, such as bronchitis, sinus infections and pneumonia.
If you are pregnant and suffering from a cold, here is our guide to managing your symptoms.
Do I have a cold or the flu?
A cold is a mild viral infection of the nose, throat, sinuses and upper airways. Symptoms of a cold may include a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and cough. A cold usually comes on gradually and is much milder than the flu. You can expect a cold to last for around a week.
On the other hand, the flu is much more severe and usually comes on more suddenly than a cold. Symptoms may include a high fever, headache, chills, muscle soreness, sore throat and fatigue. If you develop the flu during pregnancy, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
Ideally, you should not take any medication during pregnancy, especially in the first and third trimester. However, if you require relief from cold and flu symptoms, the following methods are safe during pregnancy:
ACHES AND PAINS
- Paracetamol is generally regarded as the safest medication for pregnant people
- Whilst pregnant, you must nottake Aspirin/Disprin, Voltaren or Nurofen, or any cold and flu preparation containing pseudoephedrine
- For a dry cough, a cough suppressant medication such as Bisolvon Dry, Benadryl Dry and Duro-Tuss Dry are considered safe in pregnancy for short periods
- For a moist cough, an expectorant may be more appropriate such as Bisolvon Chesty, Benadryl Chesty or Duro-Tuss Chesty
- Ideally, to soothe a sore throat, we recommend gargling with salt water, or sipping lemon juice with honey
- Short term use of Betadine Gargle is generally considered safe in pregnancy
- Throat lozenges, such as Strepsils, are safe to use in pregnancy
- Decongestant nasal sprays, such as Drixine or Otrivin, are safe options for congestion, however, you should use them for a maximum of three to four days
- A saline nasal spray, such as FESS, or inhalation of eucalyptus and menthol oils in hot water can also reduce congestion
Reducing the risk
When it comes to illness during pregnancy, prevention is better than a cure. Some of the simple things you can do to avoid coming down with the cold or flu include:
- Frequently washing your hands
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Exercising regularly
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Minimising stress
- Avoiding close contact with family or friends who are sick
As mentioned, pregnant people are far more likely to experience adverse flu complications. Given this, it is highly important that pregnant people remain up-to-date on their vaccination schedule.
Getting the flu vaccination will reduce your risk of infections and complications and is safe during any stage of pregnancy. In fact, the flu vaccine even passes some protection on to their unborn child, which lasts for up to six months after birth. Speak to our obstetricians about how you can organise your flu vaccination.
Learn more about influenza in pregnancy here.
When to see a doctor
While the common cold or flu may not cause too much concern when you aren’t pregnant, it should be taken more seriously when you’re expecting. If you experience any of the following, please seek medical advice:
- Chest pain or pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe vomiting
- Vaginal bleeding
- High fever not reduced by paracetamol
- Decreased fetal movements