Pregnant woman with a cold

With the arrival of Fall comes the arrival of cold and flu season. Here are a few tips to help you prevent colds and the flu during pregnancy.

As the leaves start turning from green to gold and the air is crisp and cool, many of us will cuddle up with a hot drink and enjoy the season’s change. But with the arrival of Fall comes the arrival of cold and flu season.  

The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that each year between 10 and 20 per cent of Canadians get influenza. Women who are pregnant and catch influenza (the flu) have risk for developing serious consequences for herself or her baby. Here are steps you can take to prevent colds and the flu:

Handwashing

Handwashing is the first defense against catching germs and the best way to limit the spread to other people.  

Good hand hygiene is still possible even when soap and water are not available. Use a hand sanitizer or alcohol-based hand wipe that contains at least 60% ethyl alcohol or isopropanol. These products can help reduce the number of germs on your hands, but they do not get rid of all types of germs.

Visit the HealthLink BC website on handwashing for more information.

Flu Shots

Flu season begins in October through to April each year. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that all pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy, get the influenza (flu) vaccine to protect themselves and their newborns during influenza season. The flu shot is safe for pregnant women since it is ‘inactivated’ and made out of killed virus so that it can’t cause illness for the person receiving it. The most common side effect of the flu shot is a sore arm where the injection was given. For best protection, get immunized early in the season. 

The flu shot is provided for free to all pregnant women and those living with them. Contact your local pharmacist, doctor or go to Flu Clinic Finder to locate a clinic near you. 

 If you are sick with a cold or the flu:

  • Get extra rest. Slow down just a little from your usual routine. You don't need to stay home in bed, but try not to expose others to your cold.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. This can help soothe a sore throat and thin the mucus in your nose and lungs. Hot fluids, such as hot water, tea, or soup with a lot of broth, help relieve a stuffy nose and head.

  • Use a humidifier in your bedroom and take warm showers to relieve a stuffy nose and head.

  • Saline drops may also help thick or dried mucus to drain.

  • If you feel mucus in the back of your throat gargle with warm water. This will help make your throat feel better.

  • Use paper tissues, not cloth handkerchiefs. This will help keep your cold from spreading.

  • If your nose gets red and raw, put a dab of petroleum jelly on the sore area.

What about cold medicines?

For many pregnant women, Tylenol (acetaminophen) alone is a safe medication to take to control the aches and pains of influenza. Over the counter medications to help manage cold symptoms may be safe for short term use, however it is always recommended to check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist for advice before taking a medication while you are pregnant. If you are unsure, and it is after office hours, you can call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 to speak with a pharmacist between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. daily.

Although some herbal remedies are considered ‘natural’, use caution when choosing a herbal product and consult with a health care professional first. Many herbal products in the form of capsules, tablets, teas and extracts are often not regulated (the exact amount of ingredient is unknown) and there is very little information regarding their safety in pregnancy.


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