Since Punxsutawney Phil recently emerged to gaze upon his shadow we have been promised an additional six weeks of winter weather. For those of us who are pregnant it may be a welcome reprieve from the promise of hot weather to come but it also unfortunately extends our cold and flu season.
During my first pregnancy I was sick with the flu about six weeks into the pregnancy and I was miserable. This time I got pregnant in May and came down with a head cold in July and another cold in November. Being pregnant and sick is absolute torture. Avoidance can be especially difficult for pregnant women so here are a few tips for pregnant women to help avoid and treat a cold or flu.
Avoiding a cold or flu:
- Get a flu shot. Be sure to tell the doctor giving you the shot that you are pregnant if it is not obvious (there is a different shot for pregnant women that doesn’t contain the preservatives that are mixed with the standard shot). It is safe and, as a bonus, studies have shown that it will provide your baby with added immunity to the flu during his or her first months of life.
- Wash your hands often. We hear this a lot but it bears repeating for pregnant women. I almost always get sick just from visiting the grocery store. Wash your hands before eating and anytime you come back from a public place.
- Set up a spy network. I only go into my office to work a few times a week but during both my pregnancies I enlisted a network of spies to let me know if anyone in the office happened to come in with a cold. If you can stay home then do so. Otherwise it is still good to know who to avoid when you have to go to work.
Treating colds and flu during pregnancy:
- Drink lots of water. Yes, I’m repeating this even though you probably know it already. Juice is okay but the sugar in juice, sodas, or ginger ale can all potentially aggravate dehydration so if possible stick with water.
- Eat if you can. Disregard the “feed a cold, starve a fever” rule and eat whatever you can keep down in any circumstances.
- Get as much rest as possible. If you have other kids see if someone can watch them for you.
- Call your doctor. Anytime you are sick, especially if you have the flu, it doesn’t hurt to let your doctor’s office know. I have called every time so they can note it in my charts and tell me what medications are safe to take.
- Try traditional treatments. Gargle with warm salt water for a sore throat, drink broth if you have a cold or flu, or use a hot shower to help clear a head cold. Try those things your mom always told you to do to treat your colds that don’t involve medication.
- Stay away from herbs and supplements (including herbal teas) unless you clear it with your doctor. Some of these aren’t safe for pregnant women and it’s not worth taking a chance so be wary of even taking extra vitamins without being sure you know it is safe.
It is unlikely that you can completely avoid becoming sick through an entire pregnancy but it never hurts to try! If you do come down with something it is extremely important that you stay hydrated and rest as much as possible for your health and your baby.