Question: I recently learned that I am pregnant and have been battling a terrible cold. I know most cold medicines are off limits, but is there anything I can do to relieve my symptoms without harming my baby?
Answer: Pregnancy has its own occasional discomforts. Add a cold, or any illness for that matter, and discomfort can quickly turn to misery. Furthermore, during pregnancy a woman’s immune system is lowered, making her more vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections, such as colds or the flu.
The best option is to not catch a cold. Colds are a pesky and inevitable part of life, but there are a few things you can do to decrease your risk during pregnancy. First, it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet with ample fruits and vegetables, which provide many of the vitamins and minerals needed to enhance your immune system. Getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids, reducing stress, and avoiding tobacco are also critical for a healthy immune system during pregnancy. In addition it is a good idea to avoid persons who are coughing, sneezing and demonstrating other cold symptoms. Lastly, but most importantly is to get the flu vaccine and encourage others who come in close contact with you to do the same.
However, there is no foolproof way to prevent a cold, despite our best efforts. When a cold does strike, there are several ways to ease symptoms. Saline nasal sprays, vapor rubs, steam inhalation, throat lozenges, and gargling with saltwater can be effective ways to alleviate the congestion, cough, and sore throat that often accompany a cold without posing a risk to your baby.
When it comes to medications, there are certain drugs in the antihistamine, expectorant, cough suppressant, anesthetic, and pain reliever families that are considered safe, while others should be avoided. It is vital to ALWAYS consult your healthcare provider before taking ANY medication (especially during the first trimester), regardless of what the labels might say. Your provider can help determine how to best relieve your symptoms based on your illness, health history, length of pregnancy, and potential risks.
Remember, your healthcare provider is a wealth of information. Feel free to ask your healthcare provider questions when it concerns your health and the health of your baby.