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Cold and flu during pregnancy

It is likely that at some stage during your pregnancy you will get at least one cold. During the winter months there are a lot more coughs, colds and flu around which can leave you feeling awful. Here is our step-by-step guide on how best to cope and also ways to help prevent catching the virus in the first place.

Difference between a cold and flu

There are some key differences between a cold and flu and it is important to know what you are dealing with. According to the NHS a cold is likely to include some or all of the following symptoms:
- Blocked or runny nose
- Sore throat
- Headache
- Cough
- Sneezing

A cold can leave you feeling absolutely rotten and particularly during pregnancy when your immune system is reduced, a cold can feel like flu but there are some key differences. Flu is likely to come on more quickly and more severe and is likely to have similar symptoms to a cold but is also likely to cause:
- A high temperature or fever
- Muscle aches and pains

How to treat a cold

A cold is unlikely to affect your unborn baby, but it can leave you feeling very sorry for yourself with little energy. The best way to nurse a cold is to rest as much as possible and drink lots of fluid. Although not recommended for babies, honey is considered safe for adults even if expecting and so hot water with lemon and honey may soothe a sore throat and a vapour rub can help unblock your nose, but check which are safe when pregnant with your pharmacist. If you are feeling really poorly then you can take paracetamol but always read the leaflet and limit the amount you take, it is not however recommended that you take cold or flu medicines.

How to treat the flu

If you have flu then it is worth mentioning it to your midwife or GP. Treat flu in a similar way to a cold with plenty of rest and liquid and paracetamol if required. If you have breathing difficulties, then contact your GP and if you haven’t already then, the NHS recommend that you should have a flu vaccination if you are pregnant as you are seen to be a higher risk.

How to avoid catching a cold or flu

It is not always possibly to stop catching a cold or flu but there are a few precautions that you can take which may help:
- Wash your hands regularly, a good habit is to wash your hands every time you enter your home.
- Avoid crowds and those with a cold.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as germs are often spread when you touch a contaminated surface and then you touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

Coping with a cold or the flu while breastfeeding

Like when pregnant, it is not recommended to take certain cold or flu medicines while breastfeeding and it is always worth checking with your midwife or health visitor before taking anything. Try drinking hot water with honey and lemon to help soothe your throat and to help reduce your cough. You could also try using a vapour rub which is suitable for newborns or place some menthol oil under your pillow at bedtime.
Seek medical help if you are having trouble breathing, your symptoms do not improve or get worse after 3-4 days or if once better you start to develop more serious symptoms – if in doubt always contact your midwife, healthcare worker or GP.

How have you coped with a cold or flu while pregnant? Post your comments on our blog here or our Facebook Page.
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Note: whilst we welcome feedback on this blog, we will not tolerate any abuse or misuse. Please respect the views and feelings of others. The content and advice offered is based on general recommendations and health-care professional suggestions and is designed to be used as a guide and discussion piece. It is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis or treatment by a qualified health-care / medical professional. If in doubt, always consult your doctor or health-care professional.

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