Cough & Cold in Pregnancy: Comfort Measures to Comfort Mamas!

| Posted On Apr 23, 2015 | By:

pregnant with coldWhile pregnancy certainly brings many joys, there is no denying the discomforts that can accompany it as well: morning sickness, heartburn, constipation and back pain are just a few.

On top of that, pregnant women are susceptible to all the regular germs that get passed around. This reality is a double whammy: not only are you already having a hard time breathing, moving and sleeping, but add a bad cough or cold into the mix and it’s enough to make any pregnant woman want to hibernate right through spring until summer!

So what’s a sick and desperate expectant mother to do?

First rule of thumb: We always recommend trying non-drug remedies (i.e., comfort measures) before seeking drug therapy in pregnancy. These include:

  1. Neti pot or saline nasal spray for stuffy nose
  2. Gargle warm salt water or drink decaf black tea with honey or lemon for sore throat
  3. Phenol throat spray or plain, non-herbal throat lozenges (in moderation) for sore throat
  4. Vaseline inside nose for chapping
  5. Chest rub (e.g., Vicks Vaporub) and room humidifier for congestion
  6. Clear broth chicken or vegetable soup, hydration and REST

If comfort measures aren’t providing you with enough relief, you’ll need some tips to help you navigate the pharmacy.

General rules about safe medication use in pregnancy include:

  1. Using the lowest dose for the shortest duration possible
  2. Avoiding long-acting, extended release and/or alcohol-containing products
  3. Calling your OB’s office for advice if you have questions about the safety of any medication
  4. Avoiding any medication that isn’t absolutely necessary in the 1st 12 weeks of pregnancy

Medications that are generally considered safe in pregnancy are:

  1. Cough: dextromethorphan (e.g., plain Robitussin Cough or Delsym)
  2. Chest congestion: guaifenesin (e.g., Mucinex) EXCEPT in the 1st trimester
  3. Sleep: doxylamine (e.g., Unisom sleep tabs)
  4. Aches & pains: acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol)
  5. Allergies/Runny nose: chlorpheniramine (e.g., Chlor-Trimetron), benadryl, Tavist, Zyrtec or Claritin

All of the above medications are generally considered safe in pregnancy; available data shows that they are not associated with any birth defects or adverse effects to the fetus when used according to package directions.

General guidance recommends AVOIDING (unless instructed by a clinician):

  1. phenylephrine (e.g., Sudafed products)
  2. Afrin nasal spray
  3. Ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin, Advil, Aleve) or aspirin

Remember: While comfort measures and avoiding medication are always our first recommendation, sometimes using medication makes sense. However, the choice to take medication is ultimately up to you.

If you would like to research any medications on your own, the following websites are good places to start:

Finally, don’t forget common sense! If you feel that your illness is serious enough to warrant an appointment, PLEASE call your primary care provider ESPECIALLY if you have a fever greater than 100.3, are unable to drink fluids or are having difficulty breathing.

Hopefully, these tips will help you get well soon!


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