A cold or a cough is as common during pregnancy as it is during other times, but it can make you more miserable because you cannot simply take medicines like you would if you weren’t pregnant.
Colds and coughs are common viral infections of the upper respiratory tract and are not caused by mere exposure to cold weather or not being dressed warm enough.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, the immune system is likely to change during pregnancy, and due to these changes, one may contract a cold or a cough at some point during the nine months (1).
The first sign of cold and cough is a scratchy or sore throat. Other signs include a runny nose that may later turn stuffy, continuous sneezing, feeling of tiredness, a dry cough and a slight fever (less than 100° F).
When you’re pregnant, the symptoms last longer because the immune system functions at a slower pace.
When suffering from a cold during pregnancy, you must bear in mind that the infection will not pass through the placenta and infect your baby.
But if you have flu-like symptoms, it should be treated immediately with prescription antiviral medications. Flu complications increase the risk of premature delivery and birth defects. This is even recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2).
In the meantime, to deal with a common cold and cough, there are many effective and natural remedies that can help soothe the symptoms and accelerate the healing process.
Caution: Do not take any medicine for a cold during the first trimester without the approval of your doctor.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for a cold and cough during pregnancy.
1. Cool Bath
To reduce a fever when suffering from a cold and cough, taking a cool bath or sponge bath is important. It helps regulate body temperature.
Plus, a bath will relax your body and help you sleep better.
- Take a sponge bath 2 or 3 times a day. Soak a washcloth in room temperature tap water, wring out the excess water and then sponge your armpits, feet, hands and groin to reduce your body temperature.
- You can also take a cool bath or shower.
- Another option is to place a cold, damp washcloth on your forehead and change it every few minutes.
Caution: Avoid using very cold water, which may cause the internal body temperature to rise.
2. Salt Water
When it comes to a cold and cough, blocked nasal passages can make your life hell. Salt water is a very effective remedy for this symptom.
Salt water acts as a nasal decongestant and clears out built-up mucus from your nostrils. It also helps make your breathing easy and comfortable.
In fact, it is an extremely safe home remedy you can use to ward off a cold and cough during pregnancy.
- Mix ½ teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm distilled water. Use a dropper to put a few drops of the solution into your nostrils, one at a time with your head tilted back. Then gently blow your nose to remove excess mucus and solution. Use this remedy up to 3 times a day, but not more than that.
- Also, you can gargle with this solution 2 or 3 times a day to get relief from a sore throat.
3. Homemade Chicken Soup
Sipping on a hot bowl of chicken soup is one of the tastiest ways to treat a cold in pregnancy.
Homemade chicken soup is rich in anti-inflammatory properties as well as nutrients and vitamins that help fight the infection. In addition, chicken soup improves the function of protective cilia in the nasal cavity that prevent contagions from entering the body.
It is also light and easy to digest.
A 2000 study published in Chest suggests that chicken soup contains a number of substances with beneficial medicinal activity for upper respiratory tract infections (3).
Get organic chicken and cook the soup at home. Use onion, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, carrots, celery, mushrooms, parsley and sea salt for taste and a mineral boost.
Ginger is another time-tested remedy for colds and coughs during pregnancy.
Ginger has a warming effect on the body and helps clear toxins out of the body, improve blood circulation and efficiently get rid of harmful bacteria and viruses that cause colds and coughs.
A bonus is that ginger also helps relieve heartburn as well as morning sickness during pregnancy.
- Add 1 tablespoon of grated ginger to 1½ cup of water. Boil and then let it simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and add a little honey and lemon juice. Drink this herbal tea up to 3 times daily but not more than that.
- Alternatively, you can chew a small piece of ginger sprinkled with a little sea salt a few times a day.
Caution: Do not use ginger remedies if you have a history of miscarriage or vaginal bleeding during pregnancy.
To deal with a cold and cough during pregnancy, turmeric is another home remedy that you can try.
It acts as an excellent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory herb that helps reduce inflammation and aids quick recovery from viral infections. It is also effective at eliminating a sore throat and nasal inflammation.
Turmeric also boosts your immunity.
- Add 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder and a little crushed black pepper to a glass of warm milk. Drink it twice daily.
- Also, you can add ½ teaspoon each of turmeric powder and salt to a glass of warm water and mix it well. Use this mixture to gargle twice daily to get relief from a sore throat.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is another very effective and remedy for pregnant women.
Apple cider vinegar alkalizes the body and most viruses cannot thrive in alkaline environments. It also contains good bacteria that help fight off infections.
In addition, it helps draw heat out of the body through the skin, thus reducing the fever as well as other symptoms of a cold and cough.
- To reduce a fever, add 1 cup of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to lukewarm bathwater. Enjoy this bath for 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat if your temperature rises again.
- To alleviate a sore throat, make a mixture of 1 tablespoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and a glass of warm water and gargle with it 2 or 3 times.
- To help fight the infection from within, mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar into a glass of water and drink it twice a day.
It is common for your appetite to be affected by a cold. You may not even feel like drinking water, which can lead to dehydration.
As dehydration is not good for your body or your unborn baby, you need to increase your fluid intake.
Staying well-hydrated also helps thin the body’s secretions, making it easier to expel the germs and reduce congestion.
- Drink lukewarm water at regular intervals. You must drink between 8 and 10 glasses of water a day.
- You can also drink decaffeinated tea mixed with raw honey.
- Fruit juices, vegetable soup and clear broths also help a lot.
8. Vitamin C
Eating a healthy diet is important during pregnancy, whether you are suffering from a cold or not.
Vitamin C enhances the body’s immune response to a viral infection. It also provides antioxidants that help fight colds and other viral infections.
A 2014 study published in Nutrients reports that daily intake of vitamin C in men with low vitamin C status improved their physical activity and helped reduce the duration of a cold (4).
You can increase your vitamin C intake by eating foods like Indian gooseberry, cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruit, limes, lemons, kiwis, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, spinach, Brussels sprouts and bell peppers, to name a few.
A humidifier helps add moisture to the air, which may ease nasal congestion, one of the most irritating symptoms of a cold and cough.
Also, nasal congestion can affect your sleep, which is important for your health and your unborn baby. Sleep deprivation can make your pregnancy really difficult.
- Get a commercial humidifier and put it in your bedroom to help you sleep better at night. To make a humidifier more effective, add a few drops of an essential oil to it.
- Alternatively, place a bowl of hot water on your bedroom floor at a safe distance to increase the moisture in the air.
Note: Be sure to clean the humidifier on a regular basis to prevent the growth of microbes and mold.
During pregnancy, especially when suffering from a cold and cough, you need to rest.
Resting is the best way to give your body time and energy to fight the infection. Also, it will help prevent the virus from spreading to other members of your family.
Napping 2 or 3 times a day is a good option to provide your body with a good amount of rest and recuperation.
Also, have your dinner early and go to bed, so that you can sleep a little more. Try to keep your head raised using pillows while sleeping, as it will help you breathe without difficulty and reduce nasal drip.
- Certain medications are safe to take after 12 weeks of pregnancy. Ask your doctor about such medications.
- Medications like ibuprofen, codeine, aspirin and naproxen should be avoided unless recommended by your doctor.
- Even if you cannot stomach larger meals, try eating small portions often.
- Wash your hands often with warm soapy water, especially after you’ve been around someone who has a cold.
- Avoid touching your nose or eyes, especially while out.
- Keep your distance from anyone who has a cold.
- Avoid sharing cutlery, cups or plates with someone who has a cold.
- Consume high quality probiotics, as they support general health and a good immune response.
- Eat a healthy diet by focusing on getting lots of vegetables, fruits, protein and healthy fats. Avoid white sugar and limit grains.
- It’s a good idea to reduce stress while pregnant anyway, but lowering your stress can also help support your immune system.
- You can take a throat lozenge or cough mixture that contains glycerin to ease congestion and soothe your throat. Talk with your doctor first.
- Sometimes a simple vapor rub can do wonders. Rub a little on your chest before going to sleep.
- Cough and Cold During Pregnancy: Treatment and Prevention. American Pregnancy Association. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/cough-cold-during-pregnancy. Published February 01, 2018.
- Influenza (Flu). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/pregnant.htm. Published November 29, 2017.
- Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro. Chest. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11035691. Published October 2000.
- Vitamin C Supplementation Slightly Improves Physical Activity Levels and Reduces Cold Incidence in Men with Marginal Vitamin C Status: A Randomized Controlled Trial. MDPI. http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/6/7/2572. Published July 09, 2014.