How to Treat a Cold or Flu in Pregnancy

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Getting a cold or even the flu when you're pregnant isn't an impossibility. In fact, it could be your reality. Being pregnant can actually impair the function of your immune system, making it more likely that you'll get sick. But don't panic. Here are some cold and flu remedies in pregnancy that can help you feel better faster.

Are You Stuffed Up?

Try nasal rinses, like the store-bought saline solutions. This will help you clear your congestion. You can also go into your bathroom and run the shower on high heat. You don't need to get wet—just allow the steam to penetrate clogged sinus passages.

Stay Hydrated

Even if you don't feel like eating, be sure to stay well hydrated. Dehydration can bring on contractions that could possibly lead to preterm labor. This can be a real risk when pregnant, so even small sips of fluids will be a good thing. And when you can eat, try to eat well.

Rest

While sleeping may be difficult, at least try to lie down and rest. If you're able to sleep, try to get a nap. If you are having difficulty breathing when lying down, consider propping yourself up with some pillows to ease your breathing.

Sore Throat

If your throat hurts, tea can be very comforting to your sore throat. It has tannins that can help soothe your throat. You can also add honey for added comfort. Watch out for specialty teas, though, which have herbs that may or may not be safe in pregnancy. Check with your doctor or midwife first before using any products like that to treat your symptoms.

Medications

Be sure to check any over-the-counter medications or herbal remedies with your doctor or midwife before taking them. While some may be safe for pregnancy, many others are not—and your particular medical history may make some medications off-limits for you, while others are recommended. Your practitioner is the best judge of whether or not a product is safe for you to take while pregnant.

For instance, it's usually safe to take acetaminophen occasionally for pain, but not necessarily nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In fact, according to the Food and Drug Administration, NSAIDs—these include Advil (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), and aspirin—should be avoided in pregnancy at 20 weeks or later due to the risks of serious complications.

Can You Prevent Colds and the Flu?

While you can't prevent every cold or sniffle, remember that the best offense is a good defense. Wash your hands, avoid people who are ill, and take care of yourself by eating well and getting enough rest. Avoid people who are sick, even if they are in your family. Do not drink or eat after others. Become a germaphobe—it will serve you well. 

You have to remember that pregnant women are more likely to have complications from the flu. This can lead to an increased risk to mom and baby, including the likelihood that you will die from the flu. Its rare, but it does happen.

Flu Shots

Flu shots are considered safe in pregnancy. In fact, flu shots can sometimes offer flu immunity to your baby after birth. This is a great reason to consider getting the flu shot, even while pregnant.

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  1. Food and Drug Administration. FDA recommends avoiding use of NSAIDs in pregnancy at 20 weeks or later because they can result in low amniotic fluid. Updated October 16, 2020.

Additional Reading
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnancy and influenza. December 15, 2015.

  • Laibl VR, Sheffield JS. Influenza and pneumonia in pregnancy. Clin Perinatol. 2005 Sep;32(3):727-38.