Treating a cold or flu when you’re pregnant

A stuffy nose, cough and muscle ache are even more uncomfortable when you’re preggers. Find ways to ease the discomfort.

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Exhausted from looking after her 18-month-old, Janice Chong, who is 8 months pregnant with her second child, found herself falling ill frequently in the last three or four months.

“Lucas is at the age where he’s getting more confident in his movements, so he is walking and climbing everywhere,” she says.

The stay-at-home mum, who is well into her third trimester, adds that she is also dealing with backaches and swollen feet. “I have also been nursing a cold that never seems to get better, which results in me not being able to sleep well, and feeling extremely tired,” she laments.

It’s not uncommon for expectant mums to fall ill. Whether it’s a cough or the common cold, your suppressed immune system keeps your body from fighting off, or rejecting foreign bodies, which is what your baby technically is. As such, you will be more vulnerable to viruses.

Other than Panadol (paracetamol), Chong tried refrained from taking any medication. “I was able to cope with most of the symptoms ― but Panadol helped to alleviate my headache, which was important to me because I needed my concentration when looking after Lucas,” she explains. “Other than that, I try to stay away from medication, as I don’t think it is good for the baby.”

The telltale signs that you’re falling ill can include symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose, a sore throat or dry cough, sneezing, and perhaps even a fever ― depending on whether you’ve caught a cold or contracted influenza.

“Avoid cough mixtures that contain codeine in them. Antihistamines can be given, but the pregnant woman should check with her gynaecologist or pharmacist.”

Colds are usually milder than influenza, nor does a fever usually come with it. If you contract the flu, the symptoms are usually more severe and sudden, and include a fever, chills, headaches and muscle soreness.

Gynaecologist Dr Christopher Ng of GynaeMD Women’s and Rejuvenation Clinic, notes that if the symptoms are bad, then the expectant mum should take medication to treat the illness, so that she can recover faster.

“But avoid cough mixtures that contain codeine in them. Antihistamines can be given, but the pregnant woman should check with her gynaecologist or pharmacist,” he adds.

Dr Gordon Lim, a gynaecologist with Gordon Lim Clinic & Surgery for Women, notes that during pregnancy, antibiotics and anti-asthmatic medication should only be prescribed by a doctor.

He suggests trying mild over-the-counter medicines, such as cough drops, Decolgen and Panadol. “The ingredients in these medications are generally safe when they are not taken in excessive doses,” he explains.

Other safe ways to relieve cough and cold symptoms include taking a “high dose of vitamin C, using a saline nasal wash or spray, and getting plenty of rest,” Dr Ng says.

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Avoid falling ill

Even though your immune system is suppressed during pregnancy, you can take steps to avoid coming down with a cough or a cold.

* Stay away from people who are feeling ill, or may be having a cold. This can be difficult, especially if it is someone in your family or work environment. Try to let your friends or colleagues know that you are more vulnerable in this time, and you may have to miss gatherings or even work from home during this period.

* Look after yourself Get enough rest and nighttime sleep, eat well, take your prenatal supplements, and exercise regularly. Here are several exercises that will benefit you and your bump! Also, make sure that you drink enough water.

Get enough rest and nighttime sleep, eat well, take your prenatal supplements, and exercise regularly.

· Wash your handreguards regularly Hygiene is important during this time. Wash your hands before meals, and after you’ve touched something in a public space like a used cup or a dirty tissue. Besides preventing you from catching a cold or flu virus, it will also reduce the likelihood that you may contract something contagious, like HFMD or conjunctivitis, particularly if you have older children to look after.

* Keep your home and workspace clean Your home and living environment could be the reason that you keep falling ill. Home spaces could be a breeding ground for dust mites, mould and bacteria. Keep surfaces, like kitchen counters and bathroom door handles clean, limit dust magnets like stuffed toys, and change towels regularly.

* Avoid sharing Whether you’re eating out or dining at home with the family, try to use serving spoons and avoid sharing food or utensils. Also, don’t share towels or napkins.

Falling ill or catching a cold can be uncomfortable, even miserable for you, but it’s unlikely to harm your baby.

Here are several natural remedies to try if you want to avoid taking medication.

Natural ways to relieve symptoms:

* Steam You can try inhaling steam to relieve a stuffy nose. Pour some boiling water into a basin and let the warm, moist air rise up into your nose, throat and lungs. This will alleviate difficulty breathing, soothe throat irritation and even loosen mucus.

* Nasal sprays A non-steroidal decongestant spray may be helpful. A sea water spray like this is safe.

* Honey A couple of teaspoons of honey, mixed with hot water and lemon can help soothe a sore throat or suppress a dry cough.

* Gargle with salt water Sea salt has healing properties, so mix ¼ teaspoons with a cup of warm water – this can ease a sore throat.

* Elevate your head If you’re feeling congested and a stuffy nose is preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep, prop up your pillow, so as to raise your head ― this promotes sinus drainage and helps you to breathe easier.

Photos: iStock

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