‘Tis the season of chilly mornings, warm evenings by the fire, and of course, runny noses. It’s cold and flu season. As hard as you may try to escape it, sometimes it comes for you.
While your typical plan of action may be to pop cold medicine as soon as the sick feelings strike, there’s more to think about if you’re pregnant.
To ensure you’re making safe decisions for yourself and your baby, we spoke with Dr. Meredith Kapner, MD specializing in Obstetrics and Gynecology, to learn the best ways to avoid a cold and the safest ways treat one this winter.
We’ll start with a couple of tips to stay healthy, hopefully avoiding a cold or other illness during pregnancy. First things first, the best thing you can do to avoid serious illness and protect your baby during pregnancy and lactation is to get a flu vaccine.
Beyond a flu shot (remember, it’s never too late to get one!), stay diligent about hand washing and avoid being around sick people as much as possible. It might feel rude to opt-out of seeing friends and family who are sick, but during pregnancy, your focus is on your health and your baby’s. So, it’s OK and even encouraged to steer clear of people who are sick.
And now, let’s say you do come down with a cold. Though you’re not feeling great, try not to get too worked up about how this impacts your baby. “It is extremely common to be sick while pregnant since your immune system is suppressed, and it is not dangerous to you or your baby in the vast majority of cases,” Kapner said.
However, if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms (sore throat, fever over 100.4 degrees, body aches), you should visit an urgent care to be screened for the flu, especially if you haven’t had your flu vaccine.
If it turns out that you have a cold (and not the flu), Kapner advises that pregnant women avoid Sudafed, Dayquil, and NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen (like Advil, Motrin, and Aleve).
During pregnancy, it is generally safe to take Tylenol, allergy medicines Benadryl and Claritin (for sleep/congestion), as well as Robitussin DM (for cough), menthol lozenges, and to use Vicks VapoRub.
Remember to always reach out to your own doctor or nurse before taking any sort of medication or supplement. Each doctor has their own recommendations and can guide you to what is best for your body. Many doctors give patients a “safe” list of medications and wellness guidelines at the beginnings of their pregnancy – this is great to have on hand to refer to throughout.
Then, there is the natural approach. If you feel yourself coming down with a cold, there are a few non-medication actions that may make you feel better. Make sure to stay hydrated, drink hot liquids, get plenty of rest, use multiple pillows to elevate your head while sleeping (which can make breathing easier), and take hot and steamy showers (aim for twice a day).
It can be scary when you are sick during pregnancy. Remember that it is very normal, and hopefully, with plenty of rest and appropriate treatment, it will pass quickly. And never hesitate to call your doctor or nurse if you are concerned about your health or wellness of your baby.