How to Safely Treat Cold Symptoms During Pregnancy

Vilma Ruddock
Pregnant woman with cold

Symptoms of the common cold can add to your discomforts during pregnancy. To relieve your symptoms, explore home remedies and over-the-counter medicines that can safely treat symptoms during pregnancy. As always, check with your doctor or midwife before using any medicines when you are pregnant.

Symptoms

During pregnancy, because of changes in your immune system, you are more susceptible to the common cold, a viral infection of the nose and throat. Symptoms of a cold are predictable and easy to recognize and include the following, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Nasal, sinus and less commonly, chest congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • A headache from your stuffy nose and sinuses
  • Mild muscle aches

You might also have a slight fever, and you may feel tired and listless and lose your appetite.

Safe Treatment Options

There are no medicines that can kill the multiple viruses that cause a cold, so the infection has to run its usual course. Your goal, therefore, is to relieve your symptoms while you recuperate. Try simple home remedies first before considering over-the-counter medicines.

Home Remedies

Home remedies are simple, can effectively improve some of your symptoms, and are safe for you and your baby. Be sure to eat enough healthy foods to maintain your energy and weight gain while recuperating.

The Mayo Clinic suggests some of the following home remedies. You can use one or more to relieve your symptoms and bring you general comfort:

  • Rest: Get as much rest as you can to improve your energy. Taking a walk in fresh air, however, might also improve your energy and sense of well-being.
  • Fluids: A sore throat might deter you from drinking, but it's important to keep yourself hydrated. Drink at least eight glasses of water or unsweetened juices daily.
  • Humidify: To relieve your stuffy nose, as well as sinuses and chest congestion, use a humidifier in your bedroom or inhale steam while showering.
  • Nasal irrigation: Clear out mucus and virus from your nasal passages by irrigating them two or three times a day:
    • Use a bulb syringe: Make a mild salt water solution by mixing half a teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water and fill the syringe. While holding one nostril closed, irrigate the other two or three times, letting the water drain after each irrigation. Switch to irrigate the other nostril.
    • Use a neti pot: You can do this irrigation by using a neti pot filled with warm saline water instead of the bulb syringe
  • Gargle: To ease your sore throat and clear mucus from the back of your throat, gargle with warm salt water or mouthwash two or three times a day as needed for comfort.
  • Throat lozenges: You can get some relief for your sore throat by sucking on lozenges or candy.
  • Hot teas: Drinking teas such lemon or peppermint can help relieve your sore throat and nasal congestion.
  • Medicated rub: Apply a small amount of a menthol or eucalyptus ointment just under each nostril (not inside). As you breathe in the medications will help relieve congestion.
  • Cold or warm pack: Apply a cold or warm pack over your sinuses for 15 to 30 minutes three or four times a day to relieve sinus congestion and discomfort or pain.
  • Elevate your head: Use an extra pillow or two or a pregnancy pillow to elevate your head at night to help drain your sinuses.

Over-the-Counter Medicines

Over-the-counter (OTC ) cold medicines can relieve your symptoms if home remedies don't help you. There are numerous brands of OTC cold medicines, all containing one or more of only a few types of ingredients. These ingredients are considered safe in pregnancy, according to a review in the journal Canadian Family Physicians, but check with your doctor before selecting a brand.

This summary from the journal review will help you understand the types of ingredients and their purpose:

  • Decongestants relieve your stuffy nose and sinuses. Pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine are the common drugs.
  • Antihistamines decrease sneezing but may cause drowsiness. Diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine are the usual antihistamines.
  • Expectorants thin out mucus so they drain easier from your nose, sinuses and throat. Guaifenesin is the usual expectorant in cold medicines.
  • Cough suppressants help suppress an irritating or hacking cough. Dextromethorphan is the main cough suppressant in OTC cold medicines.
  • Analgesics relieve muscle aches and headaches. These include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin. Tylenol is safe throughout pregnancy, but don't take ibuprofen during the third trimester because they are associated with premature closure of a valve in a baby's heart.

The best strategy for an OTC cold medicine is one that has only the ingredients aimed at your symptoms. Use it only for a short while to limit your exposure.

Consult Your Doctor

When you are pregnant and have a cold, get symptomatic relief with easy, safe, and effective home remedies and OTC cold medicines your doctor recommends. Call your doctor or midwife for the following:

  • Your symptoms don't improve with home remedies after two or three days, and you are considering medicines.
  • You have moderate to severe symptoms and have difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or chest wheezing, or you have a hacking, persistent cough.
  • You develop a fever and chills, or your cold symptoms last more than a week, which might suggest the flu or a bacterial infection instead of a common cold.

Your comfort and the safety of your baby are your main concerns when you have a cold during your pregnancy.

How to Safely Treat Cold Symptoms During Pregnancy