In a nutshell
The expert view
Lemsip may seem like a safe option for a cold during pregnancy but, like other over the counter medicines, it can contain ingredients that are not OK to take when you are pregnant.
There are several varieties of Lemsip, each containing different ingredients, so it's important to be sure what is in them.
Many cold and flu remedies such as Lemsip contain decongestants which are not safe to take during pregnancy.
Decongestants work to relieve nasal congestion by narrowing the blood vessels in the nose. But when they are taken orally, they don’t just narrow the blood vessels in the nose, they can affect blood vessels elsewhere, for example to the uterus, which then may have a further impact and can also raise your blood pressure.
Other ingredients such as guaifenesin – which helps with chest congestion – has only be studied in a limited way on pregnant womena. One study on rats suggests an increased number of babies with inguinal hernias after being exposed to guaifenesin in pregnancy¹ but other research doesn't seem to show the same effect. But, due to the overall lack of research, it may be safest to avoid during pregnancy.
So what can I take instead of Lemsip when I'm pregnant?
The best option for a cold in pregnancy is to use simple paracetamol and, if needed, steam inhalation.
With steam inhalation, you should inhale the steam from recently boiled water. Put the water in a bowl, drape a towel over your head and then lean over the bowl so that the steam rises towards your face. This helps loosen the mucous in your nose and chest
Saline nose sprays can also be used to loosen mucus.
As always, if you have concerns, please seek medical advice.
What about other over-the-counter cold remedies?
Although there are many medications available over the counter at your local pharmacy, they will all contain active ingredients, so it is always important to check with your pharmacist if they are safe to use in pregnancy.
You should also check that they interact with any of your medical conditions or other medications you are taking.
What does Lemsip actually contain?
Lemsip Original Cold & Flu
This formulation of Lemsip contains paracetamol and phenylephrine and comes as a powder to make into a hot drink.
This contains paracetamol and phenylephrine and comes either as a powder to make into a hot drink or in capsule form.
Lemsip Max All-in-One
This contains paracetamol, phenylephrine and guaifensin and can be a powder for an oral solution, capsules or liquid.
Last reviewed: November 2022. Please note: Please note: Dr Philippa does not specifically recommend or endorse any brand of over-the-counter medicine. This advice is not personalised or meant to replace individual advice given to you by your doctor or medical team.
Pics: Getty Images
1. Evaluation of developmental toxicity of guaifenesin using pregnant female rats. Shabbir et al. Indian J Pharmacol. 2016 May-Jun; 48(3): 264–269 doi: 10.4103/0253-7613.182891
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