Month six Beat colds and flu

Struck down by the dreaded lurgy while preg­nant? Here’s what you need to know about preven­tion and treat­ment of colds and flu, writes Tracey Hawthorne

Your Pregnancy - - Contents -

IF YOU GET a cold or the flu while you’re preg­nant, the good news is that even though you probably feel grim, the symp­toms are typ­i­cally not dan­ger­ous to your baby. And there are steps you can take to ease the symp­toms and help you re­cover more quickly.

WHAT OVER-THE-COUNTER MED­I­CA­TION IS SAFE TO TAKE?

Don’t take any med­i­ca­tion at all in the first 12 weeks of preg­nancy, as this is the cru­cial time when the baby’s or­gans are de­vel­op­ing, says Cape Town ob­ste­tri­cian and gy­nae­col­o­gist Dr Hetta van Zyl. “Af­ter 12 weeks, things get a bit eas­ier, and there are sev­eral things you can take to re­lieve the symp­toms of colds and flu, in­clud­ing Panado, Iliadin nasal spray (for short pe­ri­ods), plain cough syrups such as Ex­pi­gen, steroid nasal sprays and zinc lozenges.” Try to tar­get spe­cific symp­toms in­stead of opt­ing for a one-size-fits-all ap­proach, be­cause, if you take a mul­ti­symp­tom med­i­ca­tion, it will probably con­tain ex­tra medicines that you don’t need. As im­por­tant, adds Dr van Zyl, is know­ing what to avoid. Do not take ibupro­fen, as­pirin, codeine or naproxen at any stage dur­ing your preg­nancy for any ail­ment. Best yet, check in with your doc­tor and ask what you can take.

WHAT ABOUT AN­TIBI­OTICS?

Colds and flu are caused by viruses, not bac­te­ria, so an­tibi­otics won’t have any ef­fect. In fact, says Dr Van Zyl, “Pre­scrib­ing un­nec­es­sary an­tibi­otics just adds to the re­sis­tance prob­lem that we’re faced with in medicine to­day.” How­ever, some­times sec­ondary bac­te­rial in­fec­tions set in, the most com­mon be­ing pneu­mo­nia (lung in­fec­tion), si­nusi­tis (si­nus in­fec­tion) or oti­tis (ear in­fec­tion). “If the flu doesn’t sub­side or gets worse, or symp­toms like chest pain, short­ness of breath, ear­ache or high fever un­re­spon­sive to Panado oc­cur, it’s ex­tremely im­por­tant to see a GP or your ob­ste­tri­cian to es­tab­lish if there’s any sec­ondary in­fec­tion,” says Dr van Zyl. She adds that the list of an­tibi­otics con­traindi­cated (not per­mit­ted) in preg­nancy is long, so al­ways re­mem­ber to tell your doc­tor that you’re preg­nant.

IS THE FLU VAC­CINE SAFE IN PREG­NANCY?

“It’s com­pletely safe af­ter 14 weeks, and highly rec­om­mended,” says Dr van Zyl.

WHAT HOME REME­DIES FOR COLDS AND FLU ARE SAFE IN PREG­NANCY?

“Safe home reme­dies that will help in­clude adding honey, lemon juice or ginger to warm wa­ter or tea, tak­ing lots of vi­ta­min C and, of course, get­ting lots of rest and stay­ing hy­drated,” says Dr van Zyl. “Many peo­ple also be­lieve in hot chicken soup.” Salt wa­ter used as a gar­gle or nasal rinse al­le­vi­ates pain, kills germs, dries out mu­cus and flushes out the nasal pas­sages. To re­duce con­ges­tion, put a hu­mid­i­fier in your bed­room, and keep your head el­e­vated on your pil­low while rest­ing or sleep­ing. To ease a sore throat, try suck­ing on ice chips.

PREVEN­TION IS BET­TER THAN CURE

The most im­por­tant way to keep the bugs at bay dur­ing preg­nancy is to main­tain a healthy life­style. Eat nu­tri­en­trich meals, get plenty of sleep if you can, ex­er­cise reg­u­larly and take your rec­om­mended pre­na­tal vi­ta­mins. Also, be­cause you can catch a virus from an in­fec­tious per­son by touch­ing an object or sur­face con­tam­i­nated by in­fected droplets, then touch­ing your mouth, nose or eyes, it’s vi­tally im­por­tant to wash your hands thor­oughly and reg­u­larly, es­pe­cially if you have been around some­one who has a cold or cough.

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