How To Treat A Cold Or Flu During Pregnancy
How To Treat A Cold Or Flu During Pregnancy
Your go-to cold remedy before pregnancy? Nonstop cold meds and Project Runway. While reality TV can still help, you do have to be careful what you take now that you're pregnant -- though there are still plenty of smart strategies you can try to get relief from cold symptoms, as well as somemedications that are safe to take during pregnancy. Good thing, too, because your immunity is down now that you're knocked up. Infections (the common cold is a viral infection) are likely to lay you lower and last longer. Here's how to safely ease your symptoms and feel better fast.
Always Treat a Fever
You know the drill: Wash your hands well and often; get as much sleep as you can; stay away from sneezers and snifflers. But the most important thing you can do to keep yourself and your baby healthy is get a flu shot, says Marjorie Greenfield, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio and author of The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book. The influenza virus can be especially serious (and in rare cases, deadly) for expectant women, she says. For many cold and flu symptoms when you're pregnant, it's often better to try non-medical treatments before heading to the pharmacy. But there's one important exception: a fever of 100 degrees or higher. High maternal temperatures, particularly during the first trimester, have been linked with defects of the central nervous system in fetuses. If you're burning up, don't hesitate to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) according to the manufacturer's instructions, and call your doc if the fever doesn't subside.
Sip and Soothe
To ease an achy throat, sip on a cup of decaf tea (or even just plain hot water) with lemon and honey, recommends Dr. Greenfield. Great -- and safe -- tea choices: ginger, chamomile, lemon and decaffeinated green. Decaf teas help keep you hydrated, warm liquids soothe a sore throat and the steam can help clear sinuses, making it easier to breathe.
Get Sweet on Honey
Besides being a time-honored sore-throat remedy, honey may also soothe coughs: One study showed that two teaspoons of buckwheat honey (a dark honey) before bed eases nighttime coughing just as well the cough suppressant dextromethorphan. And, of course, it tastes a lot better than over-the-counter cough syrup -- especially when chased with garlic-stuffed green olives. (Weird pregnancy cravings anyone?)
Gargle With Salt
Another "your-grandma-told-you-so" remedy that really works for sore throats: Gargling warm water with a teaspoon of salt. We don't know exactly why it works, though it could be that the salt absorbs excess fluid from swollen throat tissues, temporarily reducing their size and making them less tender.
Slurp Some Soup
Chicken soup really does help you feel better, says Dr. Greenfield. Whether it's the placebo effect, the steam that rises from it and helps clear sinuses, or some healing property of the soup's ingredients, no one knows. Maybe it's just a more palatable version of gargling with warm salt water. But research shows the stuff can shorten the length of a cold, so who cares?
Try Miso, Too
Chicken isn't the only healing broth on the block. Many swear by miso soup to cure a cold. Miso (fermented soy) is packed with vitamins and minerals and beneficial bacteria that will make you feel better faster, says Jill Nussinow, a registered dietician and author of The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatmentcookbook. Follow her recipe or order a bowl from your local Japanese take-out place.
Embrace the Neti Pot
If you don't already own a Neti Pot, it's time to get over your heebie jeebies and give one a try. Forget that it’s a "nasal irrigation system." Forget that it looks and feels ridiculous when you use it. Just lock the bathroom door and rinse out your nose with warm, soothing saline water. (Note: Forsafety, it's important to always use distilled or boiled and cooled water, and not water that's straight from the tap. In rare cases, tap water can contain harmful bacteria.) Just as salt helps heal throats, saline solutions -- you can also try the sprays sold at drugstores -- rinse out excess mucus and irritants from your shnoz. Ed Neuzil, ARNP, Ph.D., owner of the Allergy, Sinus and Asthma Family Health Center in Lady Lake, Florida, recommends flushing your nose with one every day, even when you're not super-stuffy, to help prevent congestion.
Get Your Strip On
A Breathe Right strip, that is. These sticky little doo-dads are a pregnant mama’s best friend. Affixed to the bridge of your nose, the strips open up -- hooray! -- your stuffed nostrils and let sweet, sweet air finally go in and out. They look hot, too!
Steam Things Up
Take a hot shower (but not a bath) and breathe in the steam, which can break up congestion in your chest and help subdue coughing. Use a vaporizer in your room at night to avoid a dry, irritated throat and to help keep your nasal passageways moist.
Rub Your Chest
For a stuffy nose and a persistent cough, massage some Vicks VapoRub on your décolleté. Your partner will need noseplugs, but the strong vapors may do the trick to help you sleep better.
It may seem "natural" and harmless, but this cold treatment has not been adequately tested for safety during pregnancy. In time, it may prove to be perfectly safe, but until we know for sure, don't stock up on Echinacea tea. And be sure to ask your doctor before you take any other type of supplement. Zinc lozenges, for example, may be fine in small doses, but you shouldn't take them until you ask your doctor.
Ask About Homeopathy
Many pregnant women swear by Chestal, a homeopathic cough remedy with a honey base. But homeopathy has not been studied thoroughly during pregnancy, so talk to your OB before you try it. If she has any concerns, try plain honey instead.
Choose Acetaminophen over Ibuprophen
If the natural remedies don't do diddly for your worst cold ever, don't be afraid to take some Tylenol, which contains acetaminophen, the safest over-the-counter pain reliever for pregnancy. Avoid ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin, and naproxen (Aleve), which may increase your risk of pregnancy complications and birth defects, advises Dr. Greenfield.
But Don’t Worry if You Goofed
Did you pop a few Advil before learning it wasn't advised during pregnancy? Don't freak out. One or two doses of ibuprofen is not going to have an adverse effect on you or your baby, assures Dr. Greenfield. Your stress over the "what if's" is more likely to take a toll on your baby than the medicine.
Ask Your Doctor About cold Medications
If you're really under the weather, there's no reason you should suffer. After all, when you're miserably sick, it's hard to get much sleep, and shut-eye is what pregnant women need most of all. Many OTC cold remedies are safe during pregnancy, depending on your trimester. But it's confusing to keep up with which ingredients are okay and which aren't. (For help, check out our list of medications that are safe to take in pregnancy.) But ALWAYS ask your OB/GYN before trying anything. In general, best bets are alcohol-free, single-ingredient formulations. Guaifenesin (the ingredient in Mucinex) is often recommended for chest congestion, for example, and dextromethorphan (Robitussin) is advised for coughs.