We all know being sick anytime is always the worst time! However, being sick while pregnant is a whole different ball game. While many women believe you are your “healthiest” while pregnant, the opposite is really true. Your body is growing a little miracle that takes a lot of energy thereby lowering your immune systems ability to operate at full force, which allows you to; you guessed it, to get sick more easily.
How to Avoid Getting a Cold or the Flu While Pregnant
First and foremost there are a lot of things you can do to AVOID getting a cold or the flu in the first place.
- Practice good hygiene such as washing your hands before you eat or touch your face. I personally always wash my hands the minute I come home from anywhere so as not to spread outside germs all over my house.
- Be sure you are eating a good amount of protein. Studies show that people with low protein diets have depleted immune systems.
- Be sure to get a bit of light exercise daily. However, if you do go for a workout at the gym be sure to either lay a clean towel on any equipment you use or wipe it down.
- If you work in an office it is a good idea to sanitize areas that lots of people touch once a week, such as doorknobs, microwaves, keyboards, printers etc. To not be seen as the office germ-a-phoebe I generally bring an antibacterial wipe around the office with me to easily wipe down whatever I was touching.
- If someone is coughing or sneezing within 10 feet of you slowly breathe out as you walk by and get out of the contaminated zone. This prevents you from breathing in the air that was just contaminated.
- A daily nasal rinse with warm salt water can help clear out germs that may be lurking in your nasal passages.
- Drink lots of water. This is great for not only keeping you hydrated, but also for constantly flushing toxins out of your system.
- WATCH WHAT YOU TOUCH. I always press elevator buttons with my elbow and do not use handrails on stairs etc. Basically avoid touching any area where potentially 100’s of people’s hands have been and most likely does not get cleaned often.
- Take your prenatal vitamin. Your prenatal is chocked full of essential vitamins such as zinc and vitamin C that are essential to maintaining a healthy immune system.
- Go for a prenatal massage. Assuming your doctor gives you the ok I highly recommend getting a prenatal massage once a month. It helps oxygenate your blood and improve circulation while reducing stress, all of which can help keep your immune system healthy.
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Personally for me I need at least 10 hours of sleep to feel well rested. Even if you have to get in a cat nap at lunch during work it is very important to stay well rested so your immune system remains strong.
- There is also the obvious wash your hands often tip. Just be sure to moisturize as well so your skin doesn’t crack or flake allowing even more germs in.
- Wipe off your cell phone often. Think about how many surfaces you put your phone down on and how many times you touch it after touching how many other germy places? By wiping your phone down often you limit the amount of germs you put on your face and near your mouth.
- Get your flu shot! The CDC has found the flu shot safe for pregnant women in any trimester. While the effectiveness of the shot will rely on how correct medical professionals were able to predict the strain that is going around this year, it can still drastically reduce the duration and severity of the flu should you get it. I personally get the flu shot every year and have gotten it during both of my pregnancies.
Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy to Help Cold and Flu Symptoms
However, if at the end of the day you practice good hygiene and STILL manage to get sick there are a few remedies that are safe to ease your symptoms during pregnancy.
As always check with your doctor before taking anything.
In general if you contract a cold during the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy doctors do not recommend you take anything for your symptoms. This is the point during your pregnancy that a lot of vital growing occurs. Despite you feeling like crap your baby will be protected from the virus as the placenta is still developing.
The below medications are considered safe to take after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (AGAIN check with your doctor before taking ANYTHING):
- Cough drops
- Expectorant (Guaifenesin)
- Vicks vapor rub
- Cough suppressants (Dextromethorphan)
- Acetaminophen (for pain and fever)
- Simply saline rinses for your sinuses
- Nasal strips that open up your nasal passages
- Good ole steam to help relieve congestion
- Hot and cold packs to relieve sinus pressure. I used a wet washcloth I would heat up in the microwave and place along my brow. The steam helps as well.
- Chicken soup. There have been many studies that found that chicken soup helped thin mucus better than regular hot beverages. It is also thought to have mild anti-inflammatory properties.
- Honey or lemon in a warm cup of water or pregnancy safe tea.
In general you should NOT take any medications that contain the decongestants pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, which can affect blood flow to the placenta. Also anything that contains alcohol is a no no.
Is it a Cold or the Flu?
So how do you know if you have a cold or the flu? Below are a few key differences.
- Symptoms usually come on gradually and are mild. In general most people feel better after 7-10 days.
- Runny or stuffy nose.
- Sore throat.
- Sneezing or coughing.
- Mild chest congestion.
- Mild tiredness.
- Symptoms come on quickly and are severe. In general most people are sick for 2 weeks.
- Body chills.
- Fever, though not everyone experiences a fever with the flu.
- Severe muscle or body aches.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Intense tiredness that lasts up to 2 weeks.
When to Contact Your Doctor
If you are pregnant and have severe cold of flu symptoms you should always contact your doctor especially if you have any of the following:
- Chest pain.
- Constant fever that is not reduced with acetaminophen.
- Green mucus.
- Severe sore throat.
- Trouble breathing.
Being sick is never fun, however, it can be even worse when you’re pregnant. Remember to always ask your Doctor before taking any medications. However, your best bet is to practice some of the avoidance tips I listed above.
Hope you stay healthy mamas!
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