When you become pregnant, your immune system is likely to change. As a result of these changes, you may contract a cold or a cough at some point during your pregnancy. In addition, your illness may last longer. The good news is that even though you probably feel fatigued, the symptoms of a cold or flu are not typically dangerous to your baby. However, it is important to take the necessary measures to avoid contracting a cold or a cough while pregnant and to treat it once you get one.
How to Prevent Getting a Cough or Cold During Pregnancy
In order to avoid getting a cold or cough, the most important step to take is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Make sure you are eating nutritiously, getting the necessary amount of sleep, and exercising on a regular basis. In addition to this, it is important that you take your prenatal vitamins, as well as probiotics.
Wash your hands regularly. If you know you are around someone who is struggling with a cold, avoid touching their hands or eating after them. Take extra effort to wash your hands more frequently when you are around those who have a cold or cough.
How to Treat a Cold or Cough During Pregnancy
If you get a cold or a cough, try treating it by doing the following:
- Get ample rest – Take naps, sleep through the night, and sit down to relax. These are great ways to give your body much needed down time. Learn more about the importance of bed rest during pregnancy.
- Drink plenty of fluids – Drink water, juice, or broth to add necessary fluids back into your body.
- Eat well – Even if you cannot stomach larger meals, try eating small portions often.
For your own comfort, it is important that you treat the symptoms associated with your cold or a cough.
Natural remedies to some of your most bothersome symptoms include:
- Reduce congestion – Place a humidifier in your room, keep your head elevated on your pillow while resting, or use nasal strips.
- Alleviate your sore throat – Suck on ice chips, drink warm tea, or gargle with warm salt water.
It is best to reduce the number of over-the-counter medications you take. Many medications you normally would use to treat the symptoms of your cold are not safe to take during your pregnancy. The following is a list of medications that pose little risk to your baby during pregnancy; however, it is best to consult with your doctor before taking any medications to relieve your symptoms.
- Acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) can be used to alleviate fevers, headaches, and body aches.
- Anesthetic sore throat lozenges can ease the pain in your throat.
- Codeine and dextromethorphan can often be used as cough suppressants.
When to See Your Doctor
It is important to call your doctor if your symptoms are causing you to stop eating or sleeping, or if they last for more than a couple of days without improving. It is also important to consult your physician if you develop a fever that is 102° Fahrenheit or greater.
Lastly, if you begin to cough up discolored mucus or if your cough is accompanied by chest pain and/or wheezing, make sure to call your doctor. They may need to prescribe an antibiotic to kill the infection.
A Special Consideration: Whooping Cough
Whooping cough is a contagious infection that is characterized by excessive, violent coughing followed by an intake of breath that makes a whooping sound. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that all pregnant women receive the Tdap vaccine during each of their pregnancies, preferably between the 27th-36th weeks of pregnancy.
This will ensure that protection against whooping cough is passed down to your baby for the first couple of months after birth. Since your child will not receive their first whooping cough vaccine until they are 2 months old, getting this vaccine while you are pregnant will ensure your infant is protected until then. Learn more about taking vaccinations during your pregnancy.
Last updated: February 1, 2018 at 14:54 pm
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. Yankowitz, Jerome. (2008). Drugs in Pregnancy in Gibbs, Ronald S., Karlan, Beth Y., & Haney, Arthur F., & Nygaard, Ingrid E. (Eds.), Danforth’s Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th edition (126). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
2. The First Trimester: First 12 weeks in Johnson, Robert V. (Ed.), Mayo Clinic Complete Book of Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year (136). New York, NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc.
3. Common concerns and questions of pregnancy in Harms, Roger W. (Ed.), Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy (432-3). New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
4. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013, Mar. 19). Whooping Cough.
Underlying Health Ailments
Maintaining awareness of other symptoms that may affect the respiratory tract is key to identifying the cause of your chronic cough. Ask yourself if you have any other symptoms such as:
- Heartburn or acid reflux: Often accompanied with a chronic cough may be symptomatic of GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease);
- Burping: Digestive disturbance; or
- Loud snoring, repetitive awakenings or gasping at night: May be associated with obstructive sleep apnea.
A common reason may be either the cold or flu and in general an overwhelmed immune system. The average adult is stricken with a cold about 3 times a year while kids are more susceptible to viruses and can battle a cold 10 times annually (1).
Unlike a cold which affects the nose and throat, the flu virus can make you more ill because it also affects the lungs (2). If your cough worsens and is accompanied with fever and chills, there is no time hesitate building up your immunity.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is not only common but it may be a serious problem that is contributing to your chronic cough and weakening your overall health. Individuals with vitamin B12 deficiency have been shown susceptible to having constricted airflow, inflammation of the larynx, and nerve damage that can contribute to coughing (18).
One early sign of B12 deficiency is elevated homocysteine levels associated with a high concentration of histamine in the body. Exceeding this threshold of histamine in the respiratory tract results in a chronic cough unexplainable by the individual. It is a consequence of sensory neuropathy and can become toxic condition. Vitamin B12 deficiency induces this increased stimulation of nerve impulses. (18, 19)
If you believe vitamin B-12 deficiency may be contributing to your cough and you are experiencing other related symptoms, speak with your physician before the deficiency increases and inflammatory diseases develop.
Foods to Avoid:
When recovering from a cough that is wearing you down, it is best to avoid certain foods that trigger inflammation and can cause further obstruction to your respiratory system. It may seem counterintuitive to avoid some of these foods.
We have assumed throughout our childhood that many marketed cough suppressants and immune boosters are good for fighting a cough and cold. In fact many of these “treatments” like lozenges contain key ingredients we should be avoiding or they simply do not contain enough of the nutrients our body demands.
Here is a list of 5 foods you should eliminate:
- Conventional Dairy: Conventional dairy is pasteurized, can thicken mucus and increase inflammation.
- Chocolate: Can stimulate the production of mucus.
- Processed Foods: Additives in processed foods begin a cascade of inflammatory responses that weakens the immune system taking away from the body’s ability to heal pre-existing concerns. Many processed foods also contain GMOs that contribute to the same harmful inflammatory response and may also increase mucus production.
- Sugar: Sugar drains the body of its natural defenses to aid against inflammation and infection. One way it does this is by depleting the white blood cells that attack pathogens weakening your natural immune response.
- Fruit Juice: Not only do fruit juices contain high amounts of sugar, but they also do not contain enough vitamin C that your body needs for recovery. Instead of sipping on orange juice, consider eating vitamin C rich whole fruits and vegetables including bell peppers, kale, papaya, strawberries, kiwi and Brussel sprouts. Eating the fibrous pulp of fruits will prevent your insulin levels from spiking which again contributes to weakened immunity.
7 Natural Cough Remedies:
1) Bone Broth
Bone broth is an easy and effective remedy you can incorporate into your daily routine to find symptom relief. Bone broth soothes sore and tired muscles, hydrates the respiratory tract and contains powerful immune system healing nutrients.
Broths from either grass-fed beef bones or pastured chickens release amino acids glycine and proline. These nutrients help repair tissue damage and fight infection. The magnesium and potassium bone broths contain can also ease pain in the chest resulting from a constant cough. (23, 24)
Some of the best vegetables you can add to bone broths include dark leafy greens, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, cruciferous vegetables, bell peppers and onions. These veggies are rich in vitamin C, chlorophyll, sulfur, zinc and other nutrients that encourage a strong immune system. Use bone broth to prepare soups, stews and add a variety of herbs for healing.
2) Eat Light & Hydrate Well
Receiving much needed rest and relaxation that comes with boosting your immune system and fighting off a chronic cough is not the optimal time to be snacking on the couch. Your body uses energy for digestion that is much better redirected to healing when ill.
Consuming easy to digest foods that promote immunity is best for recovery. Eat foods rich in probiotics such as grass-fed dairy like kefir and yogurt. Supplement your hunger with light and nutritious foods like citrus fruits and almonds.
Drinking adequate amounts of water should go without saying but is often something many of us need a reminder to do. Drinking purified water frequently hydrates the respiratory system that can have accumulating substances like mucus making breathing difficult. Water loosens phlegm making it less of an irritant to your airways.
Stimulates Detoxification: Hydration to the body is also essential to boosting detoxification processes responsible for flushing toxins and biological pathogens from tissue. Infusing lemon juice and adding apple cider vinegar to your water is an excellent way to rebuild the supply of antioxidants your damaged lungs and throat need to repair swollen tissue (3).
When you consider that the majority of your body is made up of water, you should strive to drink at least 2 glasses of water within 30 minutes of waking up and actively drink water throughout the day.
3) Immune Strengthening Herbs
Herbs seem to aid in treating almost any ailment when it comes to immune health. Some of the best are garlic, ginger, and oregano. These herbs are anti-inflammatory, stimulate a healthy immune response because of their potent antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties.
Garlic: Contains a sulfur containing compound called allicin that enhances the antioxidant defense system aiding in effective detoxification (4).
Ginger: By increasing the antioxidant powerhouse glutathione, ginger is loaded with antioxidants that reduce inflammation. More than 400 unique compounds are concentrated in ginger which encourage healing. Some of the most abundant are vitamins A, polyphenols gingerol and shogaeol, amino acids and phytosterols (6).
Oregano: The oils found in oregano destroy E. coli and bacteria that cause pneumonia. Oregano has even been shown to be an alternative remedy in the treatment of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. (5)
4) Herbal Teas
Herbal teas may be some of the best ancient remedies used to relieve a cough and cold. A variety of hot herbal teas provide soothing relief from coughing and provide immune protection.
Herbal teas have been traditionally used in Chinese medicine to reduce inflammation and improve immune health (7). They provide a potent source of vitamins and antioxidants from the herb, peel or citrus extract.
Today, herbs remain an important part of medicine despite medical advancements. Their strong anti-inflammatory properties they contribute to health and healing are unparalleled with synthetic drugs. Common herbal teas used to treat symptoms of cough include purple Echinacea, lemon, ginger, and chamomile. (8, 9)
5) Chiropractic Care
Spinal manipulation can help remove interferences and spinal imbalances that can weaken the immune system. Chiropractic care can be beneficial at applying pressure below the collarbone to remove obstructions that may be contributing to difficulty breathing and chest congestion and consequently your chronic cough (10).
Receiving regular chiropractic care improves your health by keeping your immune system running optimally. Studies reveal that patients who receive chiropractic care have an increase in circulating leukocytes to combat infectious agents and protect against inflammation (11).
6) Diffuse Essential Oils
Whether your cough is triggered by a weakened immune response exacerbated by stress or caused by infection, aromatherapy can provide you tremendous relief. The volatile compounds diffused into the air from essential oils destroys infectious agents like viruses and other pathogens.
Clinical evidence abundantly supports that essential oils have countless health benefits on the mind and body. Some of these benefits include: (15, 16, 17)
- Decreases cortisol levels for stress relief
- Reduces anxiety
- Improved cognitive function
- Relieves muscle aches
- Boost mood
Eucalyptus oil is commonly used as a decongestant while peppermint oil can provide relaxing relief to sore and tight muscles in and around the chest. A mixture of eucalyptus and peppermint oil can help you find cough relief at night so that you can sleep.
Add a few drops of each oil to a diffuser or mix with vitamin E or grapeseed oil to prepare a homemade chest rub. You can also add these oils to a bath before bedtime to help break up mucus congestion in your chest and open up your breathing passageway.