Colds and pregnancy

resting pregnant womanYou know the symptoms—a runny nose, sore throat, stuffy head, coughing, and congestion. Catching a cold while you are pregnant won’t hurt you or your baby, but it can be very annoying and make you uncomfortable.

The common cold is a viral infection that is spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and contact with another infected individual.

During pregnancy you may be more likely to catch a cold. When you’re pregnant, your immune system isn’t as quick to respond to illnesses as it was before pregnancy. Your body knows that pregnancy is OK and that it shouldn’t reject your baby. So, your body naturally lowers the immune system’s ability to protect you and respond to illnesses so that it can welcome your growing baby. But a lowered immune system means you’re more likely to catch viruses like colds and the flu (one of the many reasons it is so important to get your flu shot).

Preventing a cold

The best way to prevent a cold is by practicing good hygiene:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Don’t share eating utensils.

Treating a cold during pregnancy

Unfortunately there is no cure for a cold. Antibiotics will not help because they do not work on viruses. If you are thinking about taking an over-the-counter medication to treat any cold symptoms, make sure you talk to your health care provider first. Not all medications are safe to use during pregnancy.

If you are under the weather, getting lots of rest and drinking plenty of fluids will help you to feel better. Some other ideas include:

  • Saline nasal drops to loosen mucus;
  • Using a humidifier in your room to help reduce congestion (but be sure you follow the instructions to keep it clean);
  • Drinking warm decaffeinated tea with lemon or honey to help relieve a sore throat;
  • Raising your head when you are resting to help you breathe better.

Most colds last 7-10 days. Make sure you call your doctor if you have one or more of the following signs:

  • A fever over 100.4F;
  • Symptoms that last more than 10 days or are severe or unusual;
  • Signs and symptoms of the flu; or
  • Uncontrollable, violent coughing that makes it hard to breathe. This may be a sign of pertussis or whooping cough. Make sure you get your Tdap vaccine at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy.

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