Is cold medicine safe during pregnancy?

With all of the other changes going on in your body, you’d think that maybe nature would lay off with the colds and stuffy noses during pregnancy. But in fact, changes to your immune system mean that colds and flus could even end up hitting you a little harder than usual.

At the same time, your usual ways of dealing with colds might be no-gos, as a number of over-the-counter-medications aren’t safe during pregnancy. The best way to avoid having to get rid of a cold or flu without your usual arsenal of medication is, of course, not to get sick at all, which is why all pregnant women are recommended to get their yearly flu vaccine. Unfortunately, nobody has come up with a vaccine for the common cold yet, so if you come down with a particularly aggressive case of the sniffles, you’re kind of on your own.

Over-the-counter cold medicine

Many cold medicines are not safe to take during pregnancy, for a variety of reasons.

In general, it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication during your pregnancy. However, there are over-the-counter medications your healthcare provider is more likely to recommend, as they’re generally thought to be reasonably safe during pregnancy. Cold medications are often combination drugs, so it’s important to read labels and be extra cautious to confirm you have the correct version of a medication.

Acetaminophen: Unlike aspirin and ibuprofen, acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, may be safe for you to consider in pregnancy. Talking to your provider can help you understand risks and benefits.

  • Mucinex: Various forms of Mucinex are popular for colds. All versions of Mucinex contain Guafenesin, which is generally not recommended in the first trimester. Your provider may recommend certain types of Mucinex in other trimesters based on your symptoms.
  • Sudafed: Many colds cause congestion and sinus pain, and much like Mucinex, Sudafed may be safe to consider after the first trimester for people with normal blood pressure.
  • Benadryl: For allergies and colds, Benadryl is generally considered safe in pregnancy – although it does cause significant drowsiness.
  • Codeine and dextromethorphan: Codeine and dextromethorphan are both cough suppressants that can be recommended by your healthcare provider depending on the trimester.
  • Natural remedies: Just like with drugs, it’s not a great idea to start herbal remedies and supplements without checking in with your healthcare provider. However, there are non-drug, non-herbal methods for getting a little relief from cold symptoms that are worth a shot. Using a humidifier, especially in your bedroom at night, can help relieve chest congestion, and gargling with hot salt water can help with a sore throat. Cough lozenges that do not contain medication can be soothing for a cough or throat pain. Honey is another remedy for cough and throat pain that’s easy and effective.

If your cold symptoms last longer than a few days, or get in the way of eating or sleeping, your healthcare provider will probably want to know. It’s always smart to speak with your healthcare provider before taking any medications during pregnancy.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team

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