As winter draws near, the threat of colds and the flu looms large. If you happen to be pregnant right now, doctors say you should be doubly careful, since even a simple virus can leave you feeling more stuffy, as well as achier and crankier than usual.
One reason is because the high estrogen levels present in pregnancy cause mucous membranes to dry out, and swell – making any congestion from a cold or even an allergy feel much worse. As your pregnancy progresses and your baby pushes harder against your diaphragm, lung capacity is also reduced, making it harder to breathe. So, even a slight respiratory infection can seem disastrous. Although pregnancy doesn’t increase your susceptibility to the flu, if you do get sick you are up to 5 times more likely to develop a serious complication – including pneumonia or bronchitis. If you’re like most women you may feel a bit hesitant about using any medication while you are pregnant, since even doctors prefer to stick with natural treatments, particularly during the first trimester. However, in the event that you do need more help, don’t hesitate to check with your obstetrician, since there are a number of safe and effective medications you can try.
Your Pregnancy Medicine Chest: What’s Safe, What’s Not
If a hacking cough or chest congestion is getting you down, talk to your doctor about over-the-counter products like Robitussin, Robitussin DM and Vicks plain cough syrup. These medicines are considered relatively safe to use during pregnancy, and most will offer at least some relief.
If you are running a temperature – particularly 101 degrees or more – the March of Dimes says Tylenol is your best defense. And, it might also be crucial to insure the health of your baby. Studies show that letting a high fever languish during pregnancy increases baby’s risk of neural tube defects, a life threatening malformation of the brain or spine. Sustaining a temperature of 102 degrees or more during your first trimester might also increase your risk of miscarriage.
While the recommended dosage for Tylenol is 2 regular strength tablets every four hours, be sure to check with your doctor first. Also important: Keep taking your prenatal vitamins, especially while you are sick. A study of some 2,000 pregnancies conducted at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities in England found that women who took a multi- vitamin high in folic acid during pregnancy were able to reduce their baby’s risk of birth defects, even if they ran a fever.
If your flu or cold is complicated by diarrhea, don’t be surprised if your doctor doesn’t prescribe anything for the first 24 to 48 hours. As long as you drink plenty of fluids to reduce your risk of dehydration, it’s usually safe to wait it out. In the event that you do need treatment, drugs like Donnagel and Kaopectate are often recommended. Since neither one is absorbed by the body, they never reach your baby
What you want to avoid: Any of the newer anti-viral medications for the flu. Most have not been tested in pregnancy . Also pass on most decongestants unless specifically prescribed by your obstetrician.
For all natural treatments, nothing works better than pampering bed rest, drinking plenty of fluids and in particular, have yourself a bowl or two of chicken soup or two. Not only is this a great comfort food, studies have documented the soup stops the movement of immune system cells to the site of inflammation – which in turn helps reduce symptoms like coughing and sneezing.
You can also try hot tea with honey, particularly if you have a sore throat. The steam from the hot liquid will decrease your congestion, while the tea can act as a mild anti-inflammatory. Studies have also shown honey has mild antiseptic qualities and could help control the local growth of bacteria.
Pregnancy Cold and Flu Alerts:
While in most instances you can ride out a cold or even the flu on your own, do make certain to call your doctor immediately if:
Your cold produces green or yellow nasal mucous, or if it lasts more than 7 days – you could have sinusitis, a bacterial infection that does require antibiotic.
You are running fever, even if other symptoms seem mild.
Diarrhea or vomiting continues for more than 36 hours, if cramps are severe; if diarrhea or vomit contains blood; if you exhibit any of the signs of food poisoning including fever, chills, and other flu-like symptoms.
For more detailed information on all pregnancy health concerns visit http://www.PamperingMom.com
About the author: Colette Bouchez is the author of Your Perfectly Pampered Pregnancy: Health, Beauty and Lifestyle Advice for the Modern Mother To Be (Broadway Books, NY) and the creator of http://www.PamperingMom.com – the premier online source for pregnancy information.