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When it comes to cold during pregnancies, it is always good to understand the situation better; right from why we get colds and how it affects the body to the best remedies and what to avoid.
Causes of Cold and Cough
Changes in the functioning of the immune system in an expecting mother can make her susceptible to cold and flu symptoms. A cold is caused by many types of viruses, the most common being rhinoviruses. Colds spread through contact with an infected individual, and the virus enters via the nose, eyes and mouth.
A cough is caused by viral or bacterial infections in the respiratory tract, which can be due to a cold. A cough can also get worsened because of irritation caused by pollutants in the air, a common occurrence in many cities across India.
A chronic cough can linger on after a cold too; after the virus leaves your system, your respiratory airways may still remain swollen, sore and irritated. A cough can also stay on if you are not properly hydrated, causing an increase in mucus build-up.
Symptoms of Cold
There are certain symptoms that generally define a cold:
- A runny nose, which gets stuffy as the cold progresses
- Sneezing fits
- Sometimes the cold is accompanied by mild fever
- A sore throat
- A cough, which becomes dry and can sometimes last longer than the cold itself
- Fatigue and dehydration
Can Cough and Cold Harm Your Baby?
Typically, a common cold or influenza and its related symptoms have not been known to have adverse effects on a baby. A pregnant mother will probably feel more fatigued because of the stress the body is going through. The coughing also does not affect the baby as he is cushioned by amniotic fluid. However, it is practical to treat a cough before it gets worse or violent.
Remember that cough and cold make the expecting mother weak and also affects her nutrition, which, in the long term will have a detrimental effect on the baby’s development. Therefore it is paramount that you are always on top of the situation and not allow symptoms to linger.
How to Determine If It’s a Cold or a Flu?
Make sure you do not misdiagnose your cold as flu or vice versa. Flu is a much worse condition than cold and would need extra attention and care.
The main distinctive symptom between the two is that the flu involves a high fever, chills, headache and a sore throat that worsens by the second day or third. When you have flu you will also experience soreness in your muscles and feel physically weak. Flu lasts longer than a cold.
Even the most severe cold does not show the extreme symptoms that flu has so it is very easy to distinguish between the two. With a cold, you can still be functional and the sore throat during a cold soothes by the second day. A runny nose and a cough are the two core symptoms of a cold.
Safe Medications for Cold and Cough
When finding medication for treatment for cough during pregnancy, choose wisely. There are many home remedies you can try out before you jump to over the counter medicines. Sometimes though, hot showers, ginger tea and a chicken soup may not be enough, and a pill or two will speed up the healing process. Your doctor will know best but in case you decide to buy over the counter meds, ensure that you keep in mind a few things.
Know how to choose medicines. When you pick up medications for cold and cough during pregnancy, study the ingredients and choose the product with the least number of them. What you are looking for is a compound or chemical that fights the symptom you are addressing, not a combo of many. Here is a basic safe list.
- Acetaminophen (pain-relieving medicine)
- Cough syrups with a Diphenhydramine base (Benadryl)
- Chloraseptic spray (can be substituted with a saltwater gargle)
- Loratadine (used for treating allergies)
- Pseudoephedrine (used as a decongestant agent)
Medications You Should Avoid
There are some medicines which should be avoided when you have a cold as their side effects are harmful to pregnant women or the child. However, it is best to consult your doctor first.
- Certain pain relievers like ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen
- Over the counter herbal remedies (many herbal medicines are unregulated and there is no information on how they affect the unborn)
- Nasal sprays containing oxymetazoline
- Majority of decongestants (especially in the first trimester)
- Supplemental vitamins (without the advice of a medical practitioner)
There is no reason to ring the alarm bells if you catch a cold or flu during pregnancy. In fact, there are many natural remedies for a cough and cold which can be easily sourced and administered.
- Continuously hydrate yourself with lukewarm water, small sips throughout the day.
- Fresh garlic is known to have many anti-viral properties. You can add some in a soup or consume a clove or two as a whole.
- Ginger tea is a hot and pugnacious drink that will help clear up your throat.
- Indian home remedies for cold also include Tulsi tea or a mixture of Tulsi and ginger.
- Un-medicated saline sprays, nose drops and rinses also help hydrate the nasal passages.
- A saltwater gargle is good for a sore throat.
- Honey is a good remedy for dry cough as it can be mixed with lemon and administered.
- Warm milk and turmeric is an age-old Indian solution that encourages good rest which is important to fight cold symptoms.
- Flaxseed water with a bit of lemon and honey alleviates cough and cold symptoms.
- Rich in vitamins, carrot juice is also a good dietary supplement that helps fight cold viruses.
- A humidifier is a useful thing to have around, as it helps moisten your nasal passages.
A healthy lifestyle is a must to keep that immune system strong and prevent cold infections. Hygiene is another important aspect of the prevention of cold. Also, make sure that you do not expose yourself to extreme climate, as that stresses the body and weakens the body’s defences.
- Regularly wash hands, that is the most common way microbes travel
- Avoid spending too much time near someone who is suffering from a cold
- Good sleep and a bit of exercise goes a long way in keeping the immune system strong
- Eat healthy and hygienic food- avoid eating out too much
- Keep your surroundings clean- especially surfaces which you have to touch a lot- doorknobs, keyboards, phones, etc.
When to Consult a Doctor?
When the cold symptoms do not go away after a few days or are getting worse, then you need to promptly consult a physician. A severe cough is an indicator that you need to see a professional. Do not self-medicate when the symptoms are severe. Doctors will prescribe safe medicines for pregnant women.
Not many recommend self-choosing a cough syrup in pregnancy, wait for your doctor to prescribe a particular formula that is safe.
Lowered immunity is one of the many challenges that pregnancy poses, and something as innocuous as a cough and cold can be unsettling for a mother-to-be. Taking preventive measures and having medicines which are safe for pregnant women can help speed up recovery.