When you become pregnant, your immune system is likely to change. As a result of these changes, you may contract a cold or a cough at some point during your pregnancy. In addition, your illness may last longer. The good news is that even though you probably feel fatigued, the symptoms of a cold or flu are not typically dangerous to your baby. However, it is important to take the necessary measures to avoid contracting a cold or a cough while pregnant and to treat it once you get one.
How to Prevent Getting a Cough or Cold During Pregnancy
In order to avoid getting a cold or cough, the most important step to take is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Make sure you are eating nutritiously, getting the necessary amount of sleep, and exercising on a regular basis. In addition to this, it is important that you take your prenatal vitamins, as well as probiotics. Wash your hands regularly. If you know you are around someone who is struggling with a cold, avoid touching their hands or eating after them. Take extra effort to wash your hands more frequently when you are around those who have a cold or cough.
How to Treat a Cold or Cough During Pregnancy
If you get a cold or a cough, try treating it by doing the following:
- Get ample rest – Take naps, sleep through the night, and sit down to relax. These are great ways to give your body much needed down time.
- Drink plenty of fluids – Drink water, juice, or broth to add necessary fluids back into your body.
- Eat well – Even if you cannot stomach larger meals, try eating small portions often.
For your own comfort, it is important that you treat the symptoms associated with your cold or cough.
Natural remedies to some of your most bothersome symptoms include:
- Reduce congestion – Place a humidifier in your room, keep your head elevated on your pillow while resting, or use nasal strips.
- Alleviate your sore throat – Suck on ice chips, drink warm tea, or gargle with warm salt water.
It is best to reduce the number of over-the-counter medications you take. Many medications you normally would use to treat the symptoms of your cold are not safe to take during your pregnancy. The following is a list of medications that pose little risk to your baby during pregnancy; however, it is best to consult with your doctor before taking any medications to relieve your symptoms.
- Acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) can be used to alleviate fevers, headaches, and body aches.
- Anesthetic sore throat lozenges can ease the pain in your throat.
- Codeine and dextromethorphan can often be used as cough suppressants.
When to See Your Doctor
It is important to call your doctor if your symptoms are causing you to stop eating or sleeping, or if they last for more than a couple of days without improving. It is also important to consult your physician if you develop a fever that is 102° Fahrenheit or greater. Lastly, if you begin to cough up discolored mucus or if your cough is accompanied by chest pain and/or wheezing, make sure to call your doctor. They may need to prescribe an antibiotic to kill the infection.
A Special Consideration: Whooping Cough
Whooping cough is a contagious infection that is characterized by excessive, violent coughing followed by an intake of breath that makes a whooping sound. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that all pregnant women receive the Tdap vaccine during each of their pregnancies, preferably between the 27th-36th weeks of pregnancy. This will ensure that protection against whooping cough is passed down to your baby for the first couple of months after birth. Since your child will not receive their first whooping cough vaccine until they are 2 months old, getting this vaccine while you are pregnant will ensure your infant is protected until then.
References: Yankowitz, Jerome. (2008). Drugs in Pregnancy in Gibbs, Ronald S., Karlan, Beth Y., & Haney, Arthur F., & Nygaard, Ingrid E. (Eds.), Danforth’s Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th edition (126). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. (1994). The First Trimester: First 12 weeks in Johnson, Robert V. (Ed.), Mayo Clinic Complete Book of Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year (136). New York, NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc. (2004). Common concerns and questions of pregnancy in Harms, Roger W. (Ed.), Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy (432-3). New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013, Mar. 19). Whooping Cough. Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/whooping-cough/basics/definition/con-20023295 (2014, June 11). Pregnancy and Whooping Cough. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/rec-vac/pregnant/whooping-cough/get-vaccinated.html