Home remedies for cold during pregnancy can help you manage most of the annoying symptoms that kick in with flu and cold. The remedies are handy when you can no longer reach for the most convenient over-the-counter drugs of your choice. Though not harmful to the baby, a pregnancy cold can be pretty uncomfortable when it is combined with the regular fare of hormonal and physical changes. It is often said that pregnant women are more susceptible to cold and flu. Read on to understand why that is, what the common symptoms of cold are, and what home remedies and medications you can use to tackle cold symptoms.
In This Article
Understanding Cold And Its Symptoms
The common cold is an upper respiratory tract infection caused by certain viruses that do not leave a long-lasting immunity (1). As a result, people may get infected by those viruses repeatedly. According to the CDC, the common cold affects millions of individuals in the USA each year (2).
There are over 200 different kinds of viruses that may cause a cold, including the following:
- Human rhinoviruses
- Human parainfluenza virus (HPV)
- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
Symptoms of the common cold may include the following (1):
- Scratchy or sore throat
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Mild fever that is lower than 100℉
On average, adults catch a cold twice or thrice a year and children even more frequently (2). Cold is also common in pregnancy. Let us understand why.
Why Do You Catch A Cold During Pregnancy?
You are more prone to catch a cold during pregnancy as your immune system is suppressed. When you are pregnant, your body’s natural immune system cannot distinguish a growing fetus from a virus or any other foreign entity and may target the fetus through antibodies. So that the fetus is safe against such an attack, the immune system lowers its defense mechanism and prevents that from happening (3).
However, though this immunosuppression protects the fetus from attack from within, it leaves you more susceptible to viral infections such as the cold and the flu. And while the virus cannot reach the womb, you may feel all the symptoms and discomfort associated with a cold. So let’s see how you can get some relief with simple home remedies for cold during pregnancy.
7 Most Effective Home Remedies For Cold During Pregnancy
Staying hydrated is important in pregnancy and even more important if you have a cold during this period. Hydration may help to thin out mucus and reduce congestion. In addition, a study showed that drinking warm liquids may bring relief from runny nose, sore throat, chilliness, fatigue, sneezing, and cough. By contrast, drinks at room temperature can provide relief only from a runny nose, cough, and sneezing (4). You can stay adequately hydrated and get relief from a stuffy nose by drinking 8-12 cups of lukewarm/ hot water and other warm beverages.
2. Immune-boosting Micronutrients
Micronutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, iron, selenium, and zinc provide you with antioxidants and a boost to the immune system that may help with your recovery. For instance, research suggests vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc are most effective at shortening the duration of a cold and reducing the severity of its symptoms (5). You can opt for a prenatal vitamin that includes all the essential micronutrients after consulting your ob-gyn. You can also get them by eating nutrient-rich foods like carrots, bell peppers, pumpkin seeds, strawberries, mangoes, collard greens, cantaloupes, Brussel sprouts, and asparagus.
3. Chicken Soup
Chicken soup has been traditionally used as a popular home remedy to treat cold. In one study, it has been found that chicken soup inhibits certain immune responses, which helps minimize the symptoms of the common cold (6). Another study that compared the effects of hot fluids on cold symptoms found that hot chicken soup was the most effective at relieving nasal congestion (7).
4. Pineapple Juice
Bromelain, an active ingredient present in pineapple, has been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory and mucolytic action (8). This means that it may help to relieve a sore throat and congestion in the airway. The traditional pineapple juice cough recipe includes a few other ingredients like salt, pepper, and honey. To make it, add a pinch of salt and black pepper to a cup of pineapple juice and stir in one tablespoon of honey.
With active compounds like gingerols and shogaols, ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant ingredient (9). While more studies are needed to establish how ginger relieves cold symptoms, it is widely used in traditional medicine as a cough and cold remedy (10). You can chew on a piece of ginger with a sprinkle of salt or a drizzle of honey. You may also make ginger tea by boiling sliced or grated ginger with a cup of water.
Turmeric, like ginger, has been used traditionally as a remedy for cough, cold, and inflammation. Curcumin, a potent antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant, is the main active ingredient in turmeric that may help boost your immune system (11). A stronger immune function can help fight off the infection, whereas its anti-inflammatory effect can soothe an irritated throat as well as reduce nasal congestion.
You can add a teaspoon of turmeric powder and a pinch of black pepper to a warm glass of milk for a soothing drink. Alternatively, make a turmeric salt-water gargle using a warm glass of water and half a teaspoon each of salt and turmeric powder.
Research has established that poor sleep negatively impacts the immune system and makes one more susceptible to infections, including upper respiratory tract infections. Adequate rest, i.e., between 7 and 9 hours of sleep, may help to boost immunity and fight off an existing infection (12). Elevate your head with one or two pillows to help make sleeping with a cold easier. If you find yourself waking up more frequently through the night, try to go to bed early to get more hours of sleep.
The common cold is a self-limiting viral infection (subsidies by itself), and these home remedies may help you with symptomatic relief. However, there may be instances where you need to seek medical attention. Let’s take a look at what they are.
When To See A Doctor
If you find that your symptoms are not getting better even after 10 days or getting worse, you may want to speak to your OB-GYN. However, if you experience flu-like symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately. Some of the worrying symptoms include:
- High fever (temperature above 100.4℉)
- Difficulty breathing
Upon diagnosis, your doctor will prescribe appropriate and pregnancy-safe medications. On that note, only a handful of medications available over-the-counter are deemed safe for use as remedies for a cold during pregnancy.
Other Treatment Options
Over-the-counter drugs are commonly used to combat symptoms of a cold. However, women in their first trimester of pregnancy should refrain from taking any medicine unless instructed by their healthcare provider and OB-GYN.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before you choose to self-medicate for a cold during pregnancy (13):
- Acetaminophen (commonly available as Tylenol) is a pain reliever and helps with fever. It is considered to be safe during pregnancy. Aspirin, another pain reliever, should be avoided when carrying a child.
- Cough suppressants that contain medications such as dextromethorphan and guaifenesin may be safe during pregnancy. Even then, you should only use them as the last resort as other ingredients in these cough medicines may not be so.
- Saline nasal sprays and nasal strips can be safely used to get relief from nasal congestion. They are a safer alternative to decongestants which have not been studied well in pregnancy.
- Sneezing and runny nose from a cold may be alleviated using antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl), loratadine (Claritin), chlorpheniramine (ChlorTrimeton), and cetirizine (Zyrtec).
As medicating during pregnancy is risky, and a cold can be extremely uncomfortable, it is in your best interest to try and avoid it altogether.
How To Prevent Cold During Pregnancy
To minimize your risk of getting the common cold while you are pregnant, follow these tips:
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching the face with unwashed hands.
- Stay away from people who are sick.
- Stay active as light to moderate pregnancy-safe exercises can boost the immune system (14).
- Eat healthily and rest well.
In conclusion, a common cold is quite common in pregnancy and not generally concerning as it is self-limiting and manageable. However, it can be annoying, so you can use home remedies for cold during pregnancy like ginger, turmeric, and chicken soup to ease the symptoms. While many over-the-counter medications are unsafe during pregnancy, you may take acetaminophen to help with pain and fever. It is still highly recommended that you consult your OB-GYN before taking any medicine. However, a high or sudden fever may be indicative of flu or other medical complications, so you should seek immediate medical attention. It is best to avoid catching a cold altogether, so sleep and eat well, practice a hand wash routine and keep your distance from those who may have a cold.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I take steam during pregnancy?
Steam may increase your body’s temperature, which is not a desirable outcome during pregnancy. However, if you want to find relief from congestion through steam inhalation, discuss it with your ob-gyn.
Can I take basil water for treating a cold during pregnancy?
Basil water is considered to be a safe remedy for clearing phlegm and mucus during pregnancy. However, it is important to avoid excess consumption and ensure that the basil leaves are clean before making the concoction.
Can flaxseeds with honey be used to treat colds during pregnancy?
Flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and contain anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, flaxseeds with honey may help relieve some cold symptoms. However, this remedy has not been scientifically studied in trials.
Is gargle with saltwater safe during pregnancy?
Yes, a saltwater gargle is considered to be a safe and effective remedy for loosening up mucus and clearing up a sore throat due to cold during pregnancy.
- Pregnant women are at an increased risk of getting viral infections like the common cold due to their naturally suppressed immune systems.
- Home remedies like ginger, chicken soup, pineapple juice, and dietary micronutrients combined with adequate sleep and hydration can relieve symptoms of a cold.
- Most over-the-counter medications should be avoided during pregnancy, with a few exceptions like acetaminophen, certain antihistamines, and saline sprays.
- Generally, a common cold doesn’t affect the fetus, but if fever, chills, and dizziness accompany a cold, it must be reported to your OB-GYN at the earliest.
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- The Common Cold
- Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others
- How immune mechanisms are affected by pregnancy
- The effects of a hot drink on nasal airflow and symptoms of common cold and flu
- Self-Care for Common Colds: The Pivotal Role of Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zinc, and Echinacea in Three Main Immune Interactive Clusters (Physical Barriers, Innate and Adaptive Immunity) Involved during an Episode of Common Colds—Practical Advice on Dosages and on the Time to Take These Nutrients/Botanicals in order to Prevent or Treat Common Colds
- Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro
- Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance
- Use of honey associated with Ananas comosus (Bromelin) in the treatment of acute irritative cough
- Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ginger in Health and Physical Activity: Review of Current Evidence
- Ginger and Its Constituents: Role in Prevention and Treatment of Gastrointestinal Cancer
- A Review on Antibacterial, Antiviral, and Antifungal Activity of Curcumin
- The relationship between duration and quality of sleep and upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review
- Treating the common cold during pregnancy
- Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy