Colds are one of the most common health conditions, with the average adult experiencing 2-4 snuffly nasties a year. A cold is essentially a mild viral infection of your nose, throat, sinuses and upper airways, according to the NHS.
When you’re pregnant, your immune system is lowered because it’s putting all of its energy into protecting your growing baby. So just when you least wanted one, you're more likely to catch a cold.
What are the symptoms of a cold?
- Blocked nose
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
You may also experience a high temperature, headaches and muscle pain, but these symptoms are less common.
What medicine can you take for a cold during pregnancy?
The frustrating thing about catching a cold when you're pregnant is that you can't necessarily treat it with your usual medicines or remedies - these may be harmful for your baby.
“It’s ethically wrong to test most medicines on pregnant women and babies, so because we really don’t know the problems they could cause it’s best to avoid them,” says Lorraine Berry, registered midwife and Natal Hypnotherapist, from Birth Affinity.
In your first trimester
Midwife Lorraine says that in the first three months of pregnancy, you should avoid taking any medicines. After 12 weeks, some medicines can be taken - but always ask your doctor before you do so.
You can safely take some painkillers, but not others:
Safe to take
Unsafe for your baby
Mums hold different views on which of the allowed painkillers they feel comfortable to take. You may change your mind, like this MFMer: "I took nothing when pregnant the first time, with Jack. I had all sorts of bugs, infections and colds - and suffered. This time I've had paracetamol when I've needed it." x.Laura.
If you have a high temperature, it's wise to bring it down using paracetamol. A high temperature for a prolonged period of time may affect your unborn baby.
Are there any natural remedies?
“If you have a cold during pregnancy, it’s your body’s way of saying slow down and rest, so take as much time out as you can,” advises former NHS midwife and current independent midwife, Karina Dyer, from Infant Affinity.
Try the following natural remedies to help treat your cold:
- If your nose is congested, try saline nose drops, which will dry up some of the secretion, helping you to breathe easier and keep your airways moist
- Try simple linctus (a syrup made for glycerine and a tad of sugar) and make your own honey and lemon drink if you have a sore throat or a cough
- Try steam inhalation to unblock your airways. Get a bowl of hot water and place your head over it, with a towel over your head and breathe in and out deeply
- Keep hydrated by drinking lots of fluids, especially orange juice for vitamin C
- If you can’t sleep because you’re all bunged up, try and raise the head of your bed, by adding extra pillows so you’re sleeping propped up
You can also
- Take simple throat lozenges, but NOT medicated ones (avoid Strepsils)
What about decongestants?
“There really isn’t enough information on decongestant products like Vics, Olbas Oil and menthol, so it’s best to avoid them, particularly before 12 weeks. If you do need to use it, use it sparingly with a couple of drops on a hanky that you whiff every now and again,” explains Lorraine.
“Lots of women get nasal congestion during pregnancy because of pregnancy hormones. Regardless of whether you have a cold or not, you may be stuffed up,” she says.
When should you see your doctor about a cold?
You should see your doctor if:
- Your cold lasts longer than a week
- You have a high temperature that won’t go away after taking paracetamol
- You’re shivering uncontrollably
- You develop issues with your breathing
- Your pregnancy hormones explained
- Group B Strep: what every mum-to-be should know
- Pregnancy skin changes
Midwife Karina Dyer explains that a doctor will be looking for whether you have an infection following your cold - such as a chest or ear infection. "Colds are caused by a virus, but they can leave you open to catch bacterial infections, which need to be treated with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor,” she explains.
Remember that you get free prescriptions when you’re pregnant.
What about when a cold turns into the flu?
When pregnant, you’re more at risk from H1N1 flu, most commonly known as swine flu, because of your lowered immune system.
The symptoms of H1N1 flu include:
- Unusual tiredness
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
- Aching muscles
- Diarrhoea or vomiting
Most of these symptoms are the same as when you have a common cold, but the difference is that a common cold will clear up within a week. If you think you have swine flu symptoms, call your doctor for an assessment.
Have a flu jab
It’s advised that you have the seasonal flu jab, whatever stage of pregnancy you’re at and regardless of whether you’re in a high-risk group or not. It’s important to be well prepared against the H1N1 (swine flu) virus as the symptoms can develop into complications, such as pneumonia, which has a small chance of leading to premature labour or miscarriage, according to the NHS.
Can you prevent colds?
No, but you can try by keeping a strict good hygiene routine and encouraging others around you to follow it.
- Wash your hands regularly with hot water and soap
- Use antibacterial hand sanitizers when out and about
Also remember to:
- Include plenty of vitamin C-loaded fruit and veg in your diet. Tell me about pregnancy must-eats
- Help your immune system work efficiently by exercising regularly, avoiding smoking and getting enough rest
What MFMers say about colds in pregnancy
"I'm 24 weeks pregnant and trying my hardest not to catch another cold after two in a row in late Autumn. But it seems that now the kids are back at school that they've all brought germs home" yourjumbly
"I can't bear the thought of being ill as well as being a mum and pregnant - I feel like i've only just got through the morning sickness bit!" Ella Clifton
"We're actually cold free for the first time in months - touch wood - except me. I think I've had one this whole pregnancy." theoldwomanwholivesinashoe