GUEST BLOG by Dr. Jessica: Pregnancy and the Common Cold
Well, I’m currently getting over my third cold of the season - are you in the same boat? Watery eyes. A nose that's either constantly running or so congested that it’s difficult to breathe. Sore throat. Sinus pressure. Headache. And lately, almost every patient I have seen has either just gotten over a cold or is currently suffering from one. This season seems to be bad, with symptoms often lasting up to 10 days and involving the sinuses. It's hard enough suffering from a cold when you’re busy with everyday life and caring for your family, but even harder dealing with a cold while you’re pregnant.
While there are many over the counter options out there to try to alleviate cold symptoms, there is a warning on every box telling pregnant women to talk to a doctor before taking that medication. Lately, the most common question my patients have been asking: “What's safe to take for a cold during pregnancy?”
Safe Options for Relief
There are non-medicinal ways to alleviate discomfort, including: Neti pot, saline nasal spray, hot tea or water with lemon, ginger, and honey, warm showers in a steamy bathroom, hot soups, humidifiers, vasoline or coconut oil for chapped lips and sore noses, and gargling with warm salt water for sore throat. Some studies have even shown that a spoon full of honey can be as effective as cough syrup.
For pain or fever it's safe to take Tylenol. *we tell our patients to stay away from NSAIDS (Ibuprofen/Motrin/ Aleve), but if you've tried everything and are still miserable, a few doses of Motrin should be okay, as long as you are not in the third trimester. Please do not take any form of NSAIDS in the third trimester.
If you're suffering with allergy and sinus problems you have a few options: Antihistamines (Benadryl, Claritin, Allegra, Zyrtec) with or without a decongestant; Tylenol Cold and Sinus Daytime or Nighttime; Afrin nasal spray (3 day max; my go to for sinus congestion); Sudafed (do not use if you have hypertension or if you are still in the first trimester).
To help with a cough you can use Mucinex-DM, Robitussin/Robitussin DM, or Vicks Vapor Rub. And for your sore throat: throat lozenges, cough drops, or chloraseptic spray.
As far as sleep aids - if you're miserable, can't sleep, and want something to help, try Benadryl, Unisom, or Melatonin (okay to use for a few nights, not routinely).
Although many people don’t have an appetite when they’re sick, please make sure you are eating and drinking enough, especially if you’re pregnant. Make sure you are doing your normal obstetric monitoring, like making sure your baby is moving enough and you're watching out for signs of anything abnormal, such as contractions, bleeding, or leakage of fluid.
While most colds are viral and are not treated with antibiotics, sometimes what begins as a common cold can be the start of something worse, such as a bacterial sinus infection or bronchitis, ear infection or even pneumonia (illnesses that may require antibiotics). Colds can also exacerbate preexisting conditions like asthma, which especially in pregnancy, needs to be dealt with immediately. Additionally, colds can mask the starting symptoms of the flu. If you ever experience a high temperature, worsening or new symptoms or anything you’re concerned about, please do not hesitate to call your doctor - that's why we're here!
If you’re currently suffering from a cold in pregnancy, don’t worry, there's an end in sight! Take time for yourself to ensure you’re doing what is best for you, your baby, and your family. I hope this list of safe medications will be helpful for you and that you feel better soon!
Dr. Jessica Katz
Dr. Jessica Katz is a private practice OBGYN at South Suburban Women's Center, serving the Greater Cleveland community. She completed her residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Jessica lives with her husband, son, and Labrador. She enjoys cooking, being active in the community, binge watching shows on Netflix, and anything related to Cleveland sports.