Cold and flu season is upon us. As the weather turns colder, we’re more likely to catch a cold or get the flu virus. Unfortunately, nearly no one escapes the viruses going around, including women who are pregnant and nursing moms.
Many people take over-the-counter medications or herbal remedies to treat a cold. The best defense against the flu virus is getting a flu shot (the C.D.C. recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get the influenza vaccine annually), but a doctor might prescribe certain medications to ease someone’s flu symptoms.
Pregnant women and nursing moms should be careful about what types of medications taken for a cold or the flu virus.
While pregnant and/or nursing, some cold and flu medications are safe, while others are not
To treat a cold, cough, allergies or sore throat, these following medications are generally safe for pregnant women:
- Tylenol Cold & Flu medicines
- Vicks VapoRub Cough, Cold & Flu products
- Triaminic (children’s cold and cough medicine)
- Ocean nasal spray
- Chloraseptic spray
Cold and Flu medications pregnant women should NOT take include: Advil, Ibuprofen, Motrin, Pepto-Bismol, Actifed, Aleve and aspirin (unless instructed by your doctor).
Pregnant women and nursing moms should also avoid certain herbal remedies, such as arbor vitae, beth root, cascara, chaste tree berry, cinchona, ginseng, Chinese angelica, cotton root bark, juniper, licorice, meadow saffron, pennyroyal, St. John’s Wort, white peony, wormwood, yarrow and vitamins in large doses.
Some essential oils are also not safe for pregnant women. These include: calamus, mugwort, pennyroyal, sage, wintergreen, myrrh, marjoram and thyme.
Natural cold and flu remedies that can work for pregnant and breastfeeding moms
For pregnant and nursing mothers with an upper respiratory tract infection (like a cold or sore throat), it’s important to drink lots of fluids, get extra rest and eat foods rich in zinc and vitamin C.
If you have an irritated throat or dry cough, one herbal remedy pregnant women can take is marshmallow leaf. Additionally, echinacea can also help treat colds and chronic upper and lower respiratory infections. Echinacea is safe for women to use during pregnancy and lactation.
The importance of staying healthy while pregnant or nursing
If you are pregnant or nursing, it’s not uncommon for your immune system to change. As a result, you may get sick more often. While the symptoms of a cold and flu viruses are usually not dangerous to your baby, it’s essential to stay healthy during pregnancy and when you are nursing.
It’s best to talk to your doctor or healthcare provider if you’re unsure about which medicines and herbal remedies are safe to take while pregnant or nursing. During cold and flu season, it’s crucial for pregnant women and breastfeeding moms to stay healthy and take care of themselves this time of year.
Dr. Kimberly Larson-Ohlsen is a board-certified OB/GYN at Colorado Complete Health for Women. Dr. Larson-Ohlsen specializes in alternative approaches to gynecological care with diet, herbs, supplements and acupuncture.