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Can You Take Cold Medicine While Pregnant? What To Do for a Cold or the Flu

Can You Take Cold Medicine While Pregnant? What To Do for a Cold or the Flu

Jan 17, 2023

Navigating pregnancy can be challenging, especially during cold and flu season. You’ve probably taken over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants to combat cold symptoms in the past, but if you’re pregnant, you’re probably wondering which remedies are safe for you and your baby. Here’s what you should consider when looking for relief from cold and flu symptoms while pregnant. 

What should I do if I get a cold while pregnant?

If you find yourself with a case of the sniffles during pregnancy, start managing your symptoms by getting lots of rest and drinking plenty of fluids. Because some OTC cold medications can lead to complications or harm your unborn baby, you need to know which to avoid. Before reaching for your medicine cabinet, talk to your doctor about which cold medications are safe during pregnancy. 

Can having a cold or the flu while pregnant hurt the baby?

“Catching a cold won’t affect your unborn baby,” said Olga Tusheva, M.D., Inspira Medical Group OB/GYN. “They’re protected by the placenta, your immune system and their own immune system, ensuring they don’t experience symptoms.” However, more severe infections like the flu can be dangerous and cause complications that may affect fetal development. The flu shot can be a safe effective precaution for expecting parents. If you suspect you have the flu, talk to your doctor to learn about pregnancy-safe treatments that can help reduce symptoms and get you on the path to recovery. 

Which medications are safe for pregnant people?

Cold medications that are generally considered safe for pregnant people include:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Some antihistamines, including loratadine (Claritin) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) 
  • Most steroid-based nasal sprays 
  • Some cough medications, including expectorants, cough suppressants and most cough drops 

Always talk to your doctor before starting a new medication, whether it's prescription or OTC. “If you have any concerns about your medication, don’t hesitate to call your doctor,” said Dr. Tusheva. “They can help you determine what’s safe for you and your baby.” 

Which medications should I avoid while pregnant?

Cold medications that are generally considered off-limits during pregnancy include: 

  • Some pain relievers and fever reducers, including ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen (Aleve)
  • Most decongestants, including Claritin-D, DayQuil or Sudafed 
  • Non-steroidal nasal sprays, such as Afrin 

Always read medication labels carefully and avoid alternative or homeopathic remedies, such as echinacea, vitamins, supplements and herbal remedies, until you have approval from your doctor. 

What natural remedies offer relief to cold and flu symptoms? 

“Before turning to medication to alleviate your cold and flu symptoms, consider naturally effective remedies,” said Dr. Tusheva. For symptom relief, use a humidifier or saline-based nose drops or sprays to alleviate dry nasal passages. Consider gargling with warm salt water to ease a sore throat and mix honey into your tea to suppress coughing. 

How can I avoid getting sick while pregnant?

One of the best ways to avoid getting sick while pregnant is to wash your hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water. Make sure you’re up to date on your vaccines, including your flu shot, and talk to your doctor about other ways to stay healthy. 

Inspira women’s health specialists provide personalized maternity care to pregnant people throughout South Jersey. Learn more about our treatments and services or schedule an appointment

Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.

Topics: Women's Health, Maternity