What to Do When You Have a Cold or Flu During Pregnancy?

cold flu during pregnancy

On the list of things that can ruin your day, probably a cold will take the #1 place and then comes the flu in the #2 place. Normally you won’t catch a cold or flu easily, but when you are expecting, your body suppresses your immune system in order to support your baby. This means now you are more susceptible than usual to viruses, and the chance of getting sick with a cold, flu or other illness will be higher. One more bad news, your illness will also last longer. Also another bad news – you can’t treat the cold/flu like you always did before since it might harm your baby. So what can you do when you are pregnant with a cold/flu?

Little Wikipedia About a Cold and the Flu

1. What is a cold and what is the flu?

– A cold is a mild viral infection of the nose, throat, sinuses and upper airways. It usually lasts for about a week as the body fights off the infection. More than 200 viruses cause symptoms of the common cold. In case you haven’t known, there is no cure for a cold, although you can usually relieve the symptoms of a cold at home by taking over-the-counter medication.

– The flu (aka Influenza) is a respiratory illness, caused by influenza viruses. To put it simply, the flu is a common cold that uses a lot of steroids – it can make you feel very sick and has more dangerous consequences than a cold. Because the influenza virus is constantly mutating, there are an unlimited number of flu viruses.

2. Is it a cold of the flu? Here are some symptoms to check:

A cold:

  • A runny (and later stuffy) nose
  • Sore throat
  • Lots of sneezing
  • Mild fatigue
  • A dry cough, particularly near the cold’s end. It may continue for a week or more after other symptoms have subsided
  • Some headache
  • Little or no fever (usually less than 100°F)

The flu:

  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Fever (usually 102°F to 104°F or higher in three of four days)
  • Headache or muscle/body aches
  • Chills
  • A sore throat that generally worsens by the second or third day
  • General weakness and fatigue (which can last a couple of weeks or longer)
  • Occasional sneezing

It is hard to distinguish between them two since they have too many in common; however, you just need to remember that the flu has more severe and long-lasting symptoms than the cold. If you have these flu’s symptoms below, consider calling your doctor immediately:

  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or belly
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Signs or symptoms that get better but then come back with fever and a worse cough
  • High fever that doesn’t go down after taking acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
  • Feeling your baby move less or not at all

3. How will the cold/flu affect my baby?

Good news: your baby is protected from the common cold during pregnancy. The only miserable one is you since the symptoms could be exacerbated or last longer during pregnancy. During pregnancy, your immune system is working at a slightly lower function, and your changing body may not be able to deal with cold symptoms as effectively (like chest congestion).

However, things are not the same to the flu.

Pregnant women who have influenza and deliver during their influenza hospitalization are more likely to deliver low-birth-weight babies than healthy women. Some studies show that that influenza may be linked to preterm labor and premature birth (labor/birth that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Furthermore, fevers from the flu can lead to birth defects in your baby. Other worries you may have are miscarriage and autism or other developmental disorders, though these cases are very rare.

Other health complications from the flu such as pneumonia can be serious and even deadly.

Safe Treatments for a Cold/Flu

1. What can pregnant women take for a cold/flu?

According to the University of Michigan Health System and most OB-GYNs, it’s best to avoid all medications in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This is the critical time for the development of your baby’s vital organs. Nevertheless, if the symptoms make you too unpleasant, please consider asking your doctor for advice before using these cold/flu medicines during pregnancy below:

– Tylenol for fever or pain.

– The antihistamines (chlorpheniramine, loratadine, doxylamine, brompheniramine, phenindamine, pheniramine, triprolidine, hydroxyzine, and diphenhydramine) can relieve sniffling and sneezing. However, they can make you sleepy, especially doxylamine and diphenhydramine. Newer antihistamines (including cetirizine, desloratadine, fexofenadine, and loratadine) are often preferred by women because they don’t cause drowsiness.

– For a stuffy nose, decongestants (like pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine), are considered safe when taken for a few days – no more than a week.

Once again, we strongly recommend you not to use any medicines while pregnancy, for the sake of both you and your little angel(s).

2. What other natural treatments can I take for a cold while pregnant?

  • Get plenty of rest and water.
  • Take supplements, both from your parental vitamins as well as other natural sources.
  • Keep eating, even if you don’t feel like to eat anything at all. Eliminate nutrient poor foods such as white sugar and flour.
  • Turn on the facial steamer or humidifier to help loosen congestion. Even a hot shower might help too.
  • Rescue yourself from a sore throat and nasty cough by using some cough drops, drinking warm tea, or gargling with warm salt water.

How Can You Prevent a Cold/Flu?

Prevention is better than cure, so:

  1. Take a flu shot. Remember to treat any fever as soon as possible.
  2. Maintain good hygiene everywhere, from your house to your office. Wash your hands before meals and don’t touch your face.
  3. Get enough sleep.
  4. Eat a healthy diet.
  5. Get plenty of exercises.
  6. Stay away from anyone who has a cold, if possible. Remind the sick person to cover their mouth when coughing and to wash hands frequently.
  7. Allow fresh air into your home.


Although a cold/flu happens often, (20% of pregnant women in the US have the flu, and almost everybody has a cold – that’s why it called common cold duh), don’t underestimate it. Take good care of your health and listen to the smallest changes in your body will surely prevent you and the little angel(s) from unwanted consequences.

References: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/pregnant.htm



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Jack - August 12, 2019

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