Pregnancy guide > Your baby in pregnancy > Pregnancy health > Coughs & colds during pregnancy

Coughs & colds during pregnancy

As winter approaches we share the remedies which are safe for treating symptoms of coughs and colds in pregnancy.
It's that time of year again, the cold season's started and everyone and their dog seems to have gone down with something. If you manage to get through the winter without the sniffles you should consider yourself incredibly lucky (and healthy!) as your immune system isn't at full force while you're expecting, leaving you more open to infections such as coughs and colds.

Causes and symptoms

The 'common cold' is a viral infection spread by contact with an infected person and while it can make you feel pretty awful for a couple of weeks you can rest assured it won't do any long term harm to you or your baby. There are actually over 200 different cold viruses which is why it's possible to go down with one cold after another in quick succession and as you're slightly more susceptible to cold infections while you're pregnant it's important to take as good a care of yourself as possible to avoid this cycle.

Colds cause the lining of your nose and throat to become irritated and inflamed and this in turn produces typical cold symptoms including a blocked or runny nose, a sore throat, mild earache, sneezing and coughing, headaches, tiredness and a high temperature (between 98.6 and 101 deg F). They can last up to a fortnight but are usually at their worst during the first few days. However, if you experience a very high temperature (over 101 deg F), or severe, persistent symptoms you should take a visit to your doctor to make sure that your cold hasn't developed into a more serious infection.

Treating coughs and colds

It's best to avoid 'over the counter' cold treatments during pregnancy as many contain substances such as alcohol, decongestants and antihistamines that either aren't safe, or haven't been approved for use by expectant or breastfeeding mothers. This isn't as bad as it sounds as most cold medicines aren't actually able to clear the cold virus and instead just help to aleviate the symptoms - something that can be achieved with a range of alternative remedies.
  • The best thing you can do for your body (and your baby) when you catch a cold is to get plenty of rest. Your body can fight infections better when you're not rushing about so taking some time out to look after yourself and recover properly definately pays.
  • Eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables will not only help stave off any infections but will also help you to recover full fitness when you do catch a bug. If you don't feel much like eating try to consume five or six small meals throughout the day starting with plain food such as wholemeal toast; freshly squeezed juices and homemade soups are also packed with vitamins and make great nutrient rich snacks.

  • It's more important than ever to stay hydrated when you catch a cold so aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water, sugar free squash or herbal tea a day; hot honey and lemon is also great for calming a sore throat.
  • If a blocked nose is stopping you sleeping you could try using an extra pillow to raise your head or, if you find this uncomfortable, raising the top end of your mattress by putting a pillow underneath to create a gentler incline.
  • To help aleviate congested sinuses you could try creating a mini-steamer by placing a few drops of tea tree, peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil in a bowl with very hot water, placing a towel over your head and spending a few minutes breathing in the refreshing steam. You could also try drapeing a warm flannel over your sinus area (adding a couple of drops of essential oil if you wish) to help relieve the feeling of pressure here
  • If you have a sore throat gargling salt water can help. Disolve a teaspoon of salt in some warm water and swill this mixture around your mouth and throat for a few minutes taking care not to swallow!
  • Avoid smoking or smoky environments as these irritate the respiritory tract further, exacerbating any cold symptoms

  • It's safe to take paracetamol during pregnancy (making sure you follow instructions on the pack) and this can help to relieve cold symptoms however you should take care to avoid asprin, codeine, ibruprofein and other mixed pain killers. Most vapour rubs and cough sweets are fine to take but its always best to check with your pharmecist first.
Do you have any fail-safe cold remedies you could share with other AskBaby members or do you just need a bit of cheering up from the winter blues?

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I'm just getting over my cold now, but I was having soothers & halls & tunes and also hot lemonade with brown sugar boiled with slices of fresh lemon. The drink was very good for my sore throat as it was better within 2 days :) hope this helps other people x
by Raych1994 19th Jan 2011, 9:22am
I'm 16 and a half weeks pregnant but got a cold with a bad cough, i was havin smoothers and halls, but got told your not meant to have them when pregnant is that true?
by leah10 17th Sep 2010, 4:09pm
HI im 5 months pregnant and getting this terrible coughs, its really bad that when i cough i throw up and this is making me really stressed and feel like my whole body is in pain because of it. its going on for so long and wish sometimes doctors understand your pain and feelings, so what im pregnant their something needs to be done, im not trying to make big deal out of this but hello im in pain and no one desrves to be like this. my throat is burning cos of couching i cant eat, sleep etc... does and mums or anyone know please what i can do... your help is needed please and any comments is welcomed. thanks
by dukan 27th Aug 2010, 5:04pm
Ive got a cold at the moment which is getting me down, but the things that have really helped me are to take hot honey and lemon, eat garlic in foods which is good for shifting and drying up colds, also I have an air filter in my bedroom which I run at night. It was a relatively cheapy argos one but it does help me breathe when I am chesty, esp. as I am asthmatic and don't want to take inhalers unless I have to.
by Bambino88 18th May 2010, 5:33pm
I was having cold in pregnancy'. Even after 1 year of childbirth, I still have sever cold (only blockage, no running nose / sneezing). Can someone. suggest reason & solution?
by abhiramd 6th Dec 2009, 6:11pm
I am 10wks and 4 days pregnant now I have a terrible cold I have lost my voice very sore head ache all over sneezes, runny nose, cough so bad that it hurts. So this if for all you expecting mums out there that feel terrified. It is normal as the baby is taking all the goodness that it needs from you to stay healthy so it makes your body a little more run down. Best solution is to keep eating even if small amounts and drinking lots of healthy things because although you feel ill your baby is bouncing around as healthy as can be as it has your goodness helping it to grown and develop.
by tinkerbell2667 16th Nov 2009, 10:03am
i am 15weeks 4days and ive just had a very bad cold i thort the worst SWINE FLU but i rang my midwife and turned out it was a common cold
by xmeandthebumpx 3rd Nov 2009, 1:42pm
Hello I am 6 weeks pregnant and have the worst cold, I am dizzy and very faint anyway but sadly I have had 3 miscarriages before so I am very on edge with having a bad cold and feeling so ill and feel like i'm dying. I cannot talk to anyone as I really do not want friends and family knowing that i'm pregnant but i anyone can just help me if they are going through the same or is quite ill too!!! This is the longest I have been pregnant and I am so excited and happy but terrified that something bad will happen again! Thank you x
by dad2be123 12th May 2009, 9:57am
dineo, i had similar symptoms to you and it turned out to be simple indigestion!!! i found this odd but it is one of the most common symptoms of a cough etc. you should ask you doctor if it could be this. hope this helps
by jenpez 10th Mar 2009, 8:50am
I am 28 weeks pregnant & i've been coughing for so long now, over a month, i went to the doctors twice regarding this, they gave me cough syrup & antibiotics, i get better during treatment but after medication is finished, is back to coughing, sneezing & nose blocks. at first i thot its TB because i used to stay with my friend who was diagnised with TB, I went for TB test but they came out negative, i have done HIV tests as well & im negative, i have ran out of ideas now, is this normal? if not what can i use to stop the cough? from DINEO JOHANNESBURG SOUTH
by Dineo 9th Mar 2009, 9:32am