Do they require the same treatment? Can they affect the fetus? Everything you need to know about these conditions.
During pregnancy the immune system is more weakened, so in these months you are more exposed to the spread of diseases, almost always viral, such as colds or the flu. In addition, the increase in estrogen causes an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose (also of the larynx and pharynx), causing what is known as gestational rhinitis, another factor that makes you more prone to infection.
Both common colds and the flu are conditions that do not require antibiotic treatment, because they disappear on their own. What happens is that in the case of influenza the secondary complications that may appear are more serious (such as pneumonia). Hence it is important to recognize the symptoms to carry out the appropriate treatment.
For example, the first signs of a cold are usually gradual: it begins with some nasal congestion, sneezing, malaise and sometimes a little fever (less than 38 ° C). Then a soft, dry cough may appear, sometimes accompanied by discomfort in the throat and a lot of nasal mucus. The picture usually disappears more or less in a week.
On the contrary, with the flu the symptoms appear in a faster way and in just a few hours the discomfort is evident : headache and muscle (aggravated by the increase in pregnancy weight) and fever of more than 38 ºC that can last four or five days. It is not usual to have a sore throat, but chest discomfort can occur , with a strong expectorant cough and a generalized lack of appetite. As for its duration, it varies from one woman to another, but keep in mind that once the acute phase has passed, the tiredness can lengthen two or three weeks.
Can a cold and the flu affect the fetus?
If you have to suffer a cold or flu during pregnancy, be calm, because the disease itself will not affect your little one. “The flu is not transmitted to the fetus, it is a virus that stays in the respiratory epithelium of the mother,” says Dr. Francisco Javier Plaza, head of the Gynecology and Obstetrics Service of the Jiménez Díaz Foundation in Madrid. And the same goes for the viruses responsible for colds.
Beware of some discomfort: However, what happens is that some of the symptoms that accompany these conditions could affect the fetus to some extent, even if it is indirectly. “For example, as we don’t know exactly from what temperature fetal well-being can be compromised, we recommend that the fever does not exceed 38 ° C or 38.5 ° C,” says Dr. Plaza. For this reason, if the fever goes over, go to your doctor to take the necessary measures.
Something similar happens with dehydration: if you have stomach discomfort and you have trouble drinking enough you can suffer it and, although thanks to good fetal homeostasis it will not have repercussions for the baby, it can cause you palpitations, dizziness and increase the risk of falls.
It is best to prevent
During pregnancy the best medicine is undoubtedly prevention. To avoid contagion during these months, try not to go to very crowded places, since these viruses are spread by the small particles of saliva that are projected when talking or coughing or by contact with an infected area (for example, if someone you cover your mouth when you cough, then you shake your hand and then you touch your face, you have enough chances of getting it).
Maximize hygiene standards: wash your hands regularly, wear gloves when you go on public transport and a foulard to cover your mouth, extreme care when you use common objects, such as a telephone handset, and if someone nearby shows any symptoms of a cold or flu, try to avoid it.
Other good allies to prevent are a diet rich in antioxidants (whole grains, olive oil, vegetables and fruits of green, orange and yellow color), being rested and staying hydrated (the more liquid you drink the more fluid you will keep the mucous membranes and a greater effect protector will have).
Remedies that help the pregnant woman
If despite all the precautions you have caught a good cold or the flu, in addition to taking what the doctor has told you, you can do several things to combat the symptoms and take the disorder as best as possible.
Decongestants: Use spray physiological serum or nebulized seawater. Fogging will also relieve you, while vasoconstrictor decongestants sold in pharmacies are contraindicated in your case.
To lower the fever: You can take showers of warm water (about a degree less than the body temperature you have at that time). You can also put fresh pads on the wrists, neck and ankles. Remember also that you should not wear a lot of clothes.
Cough: The cough syrups are contraindicated in pregnancy. It is best to prepare a homemade one by mixing water with honey (be very careful if you are diabetic). You can also opt for soothing candies, but in moderation, because its sorbitol content can have a laxative effect.
To accelerate the recovery: Opt for foods rich in vitamin C, since its antioxidant effect will help you in convalescence. In addition, since it is a water-soluble vitamin, it is totally safe during pregnancy. You know, say yes to orange and grapefruit juices!
Should I get a flu shot?
If you are waiting for a baby, at this time you will surely wonder if the flu vaccine is indicated in your state.
According to the Spanish Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics, the message is:
- The flu has more serious effects on pregnant women than non-pregnant women.
- Vaccination of the pregnant woman reduces the risk of influenza and its complications, protects her and her newborn until 6 months of age.
- The inactivated flu vaccine is safe in any trimester.
In addition, this same Society and the Spanish Society of Pediatrics warn that the intranasal vaccine is contraindicated in pregnancy and lactation.
Does the flu vaccine in pregnancy have risks?
Unlike the flu vaccine that is inhaled, the one given to pregnant women is punctured and is made from inactive viruses and does not include adjuvants, chemicals that enhance the immune system’s response. Therefore, you will not be at risk of developing the disease after it has been immunized and if the vaccine causes you any adverse reaction it will be minimal.
But there is something you should keep in mind: if you are allergic to egg proteins it is necessary that you consult your tocologist if you can get vaccinated or not before doing it at your own risk. Most likely, you will be referred to an allergist to be the one who values it.
Other respiratory conditions
They are less common than a cold or the flu, but they can also appear in pregnancy. If they need to take drugs, they must be prescribed by the doctor.
Asthma: If you suffer it you should know that it usually gets worse at the end of the second trimester, at the beginning of the third or after an infectious process of the upper respiratory tract. It can be treated without risk to the fetus and your doctor will tell you what to take.
Pharyngitis: If after a cold the sore throat does not go away by itself it is necessary to make a rapid culture to find out if it is due to a bacterial infection (usually group A streptococci) that would require antibiotics that the doctor will prescribe. If so, calm down, because some can be taken safely in your state.
Pneumonia: Normally caused by a bacterium (although sometimes they are also viral) this infection affects the lung tissue and its symptoms are high fever, sweating and expectoration, as well as a great tiredness. It is necessary to use antibiotics to treat it that your doctor will prescribe.
Bronchitis: The symptoms are similar to those of pneumonia, but the infection is usually of viral origin. In case there is a secondary bacterial infection (green sputum), antibiotics would also be necessary.