Fighting the Sniffles when You're Expecting

At some point during your nine months of pregnancy, you might catch a cold or get the flu, and it’s important to know what remedies you can take and what you should avoid. There are several things you can do to ease your discomfort that don’t involve medication. The University of Michigan Health System offers the following recommendations:

  • Drink more water and other healthy fluids like juice – boost your intake to eight to 10 glasses per day.
  • Eat six small meals, rather than three regular meals, if you don’t have an appetite.
  • If you’re having a hard time breathing, elevate your head to decrease your postnasal drip.
  • Rest frequently.
  • Use a vaporizer or humidifier to help loosen congestion.

After your 12th week of pregnancy, you may take these over-the-counter medications “sparingly” – while following the directions on the package – for cold symptoms, according to the University of Michigan Health System:

  • Tylenol (acetaminophen) for pain, aches and temperatures over 100 degrees F
  • Robitussin and Robitussin DM cough syrups
  • Vicks plain cough syrup
  • Sudafed nasal decongestant
  • Expectorant (for daytime use) to help you cough up phlegm or sputum
  • Suppressant (for nighttime use) to control your cough

Talk with your health care provider before taking any medication.

Consumer Reports advises women to pay close attention to any over-the-counter medication they are considering for cold or flu relief. The publication offers the following tips:

  • Read labels: Watch out for ingredients like caffeine and alcohol. The magazine notes that CVS Aspirin-Free Tension Headache contains caffeine, while Vick’s Nyquil Cold & Flu Liquid contains alcohol.
  • Avoid combination products: Multi-symptom allergy and cold medications often contain ingredients from the “off-limits” list. According to the magazine, Tylenol (acetaminophen) is “relatively safe for occasional use” while pregnant, but Tylenol Sinus Congestion and Pain and Tylenol Cold Multi-Symptom liquid, which contains the decongestant phenylephrine, aren’t safe for use during pregnancy.

Consumer Reports noted that these over-the-counter drugs should be avoided during pregnancy: Aspirin (Bayer, Excedrin Migraine); bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto Bismol); brompheniramine (Dimetapp Cold and Allergy); caffeine (Anacin Regular Strength, Excedrin Extra Strength, Excedrin Migraine); castor oil; chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton, combination products like Advil Allergy & Congestion Relief and Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold Formula, Dristan Cold); ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin); naproxen (Aleve); phenylephrine (Alka-Seltzer Plus Day, Sudafed PE Pressure + Pain, Tylenol Cold Multi-symptom, Vicks Dayquil Cold and Flu Relief); and pseudoephedrine, which is sold behind the counter without a prescription (Advil Cold & Sinus, Claritin-D, Sudafed 12 Hour). This list doesn’t include every drug that pregnant women should avoid. Talk to your physician before taking any drug or supplement.