How to protect yourself against cold and flu during pregnancy
Catching a cold or the flu is never pleasant. It can leave you feeling tired, cause aches and pains, and drain you of your energy. Catching a cold or flu during pregnancy can amplify these symptoms and can also affect the health of your unborn baby.
What’s the difference between cold and flu?
While the initial symptoms between cold and the flu (short for influenza) can seem the same, there are a few differences between these two illnesses and knowing the differences can help you put in measures to firstly try and prevent falling sick, or help your body get better if you do fall sick.
The Common Cold – a cold is a mild infection of the nose, throat and sinuses. It is caused by a number of different viruses. It can cause a blocked nose, a runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat and a cough. It normally takes about a week for your body to fight the infection of a cold.
Influenza – is caused by influenza virus and is a more serious form of common cold that can be spread through coughs and sneezes. The symptoms of flu are similar to those of a cold but tend to be more severe and last longer.
You can catch either of these illnesses all year round, but they are more common during the winter and colder months. While there is no direct cure for either the common cold or the flu, if you feel yourself experiencing these symptoms, it is possible for you to treat yourself effectively at home.
What can I do to help alleviate the symptoms?
The best way to help your body fight the infection of a cold or flu is to get plenty of rest, especially if you are pregnant. Giving your body a chance to fight the infection by taking time off and relaxing is best for you and your baby.
You can also try the following:
Stay warm – you might experience a higher temperature if you have a cold or the flu – this is your body fighting the infection so it’s important to stay warm to aid your body. A hot bath and a hot water bottle are good for this, and can also help with any aches.
Stay hydrated – drinking plenty of water will also help your body heal
Try over-the-counter medication – paracetamol is recommended for mild aches and pains during your pregnancy and is safe for you and your baby. It can help with any headaches or fever you may experience.
If you have a cold and your symptoms last for than a week, it might be worth speaking with your midwife or doctor so they can advise on the best course of action to help you get better.
What cold and flu medications can I use during pregnancy?
It is generally recommended that you avoid taking any medication when you’re pregnant, particularly during your first trimester, unless otherwise prescribed by your doctor.
Taking paracetamol when pregnant: If you are experiencing a particularly bad case of the cold or flu, paracetamol is usually the preferred choice to help with any minor aches, pains or fever. There is no evidence that paracetamol will harm your baby.
Taking ibuprofen when pregnant: ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAID) and it is not recommended you take this when pregnant. It is very important to speak to your doctor before taking ibuprofen when pregnant.
Antiviral Medication: if you are in a high-risk pregnancy, as determined by your doctor or midwife, then your doctor may prescribe you antiviral medication which can help speed up your recovery and reduce the potential for complications.
Before taking any medication during your pregnancy, it is strongly recommended that you consult with your doctor or midwife first. When opting to take paracetamol, always make sure to take the lowest effective dose.
Should I get the flu jab?
Many doctors and midwives will recommend that you get the flu job, as this will protect you and will also protect your baby – while they are in the womb, and when they are first born, up to around 6 months old.
Some evidence has shown that some women have a higher chance of developing complications during their pregnancy if they fall sick with the flu. The flu can develop into more severe conditions such as bronchitis, a severe chest infection, or blood infections – both of which can have a severe impact on your health and your body’s ability to care for your unborn baby.
The flu vaccine is safe to have at any stage during your pregnancy and does not carry any risks for you or your baby.
What other preventative measures can I take?
Keeping active, hydrated and remembering to follow simple healthy advice can help keep you in good health during your pregnancy.
Good tips to remember include:
Wash your hands – make sure you wash your hands regularly, as this is the best way to kill germs that can pass on infections. Carrying a small hand sanitizer with you can help when you’re out and about.
Eat right – stock up on nutrient rich foods that help your body’s immune system including fresh fruits and vegetable, leafy greens and iron rich foods.
Stay hydrated – drinking plenty of water can help your body flush out toxins quickly before they become a problem.
Light exercise – taking some light exercise can help keep your body’s immune system up. Try walking or swimming to maintain a healthy body and mind.
Keep your distance – if someone you know has fallen sick, keep your distance! Colds and flu are usually passed on from one person to another so it may be wise to keep away until they’re better.
Rest well – sleeping well and remembering to rest properly while pregnant will keep your body healthy and strong, and better able to fight off infections.
Try a natural supplement – there are several over-the-counter natural supplements that can aid your immune system. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist who can recommend the best one for you to use while pregnant.
Knowing your body and what feels ‘right’ for you is the best way to cope when unhealthy symptoms happen, and whether you need to consult your doctor. If your symptoms persist for more than a week, whether you have a cold or the flu, it is important to speak with your doctor so they can provide you and your baby with appropriate medical care, and get you back to being healthy.