How to manage a cold during pregnancy

How to manage a cold during pregnancy

It is that time of the year again where just about everyone you bump into has a runny nose, cough and is sneezing madly.

During pregnancy your immune system is compromised so your body does not ward off viruses as well as it usually does. You are therefore more vulnerable to a blocked nose, cough and sore throat that comes along with the cold virus or rhinovirus as it is most commonly known as. This virus is easily transmitted from person to person and there are over 200 known variants of the cold virus.

Symptoms typically last for between 10 – 14 days, but in the cooler months it is not uncommon to get one cold virus after the other.

The difference between a cold and the flu are the differing symptoms:

  • A cold – even a bad cold is milder than the flu. Symptoms usually come on gradually and there is usually no fever. The sore throat that usually starts off the cold goes away with a few days and you are left with a runny nose and a dry cough as the main symptoms.
  • Influenza – this is more severe and comes on more suddenly than a cold. Symptoms of the flu include a high fever, headaches, chills, a sore throat that worsens, intense muscle soreness, general weakness and fatigue. Many of these symptoms linger for a further week or so once you begin to feel better.


Commonly used cold medications such as paracetamol with or without codeine are safe medications in pregnancy. There were reports in the last couple of years that these medications may have been associated with the developmental disorders especially hyperactivity disorders, but these studies have been shown to be inadequate and basically incorrect.

NSAIDS such as Neurofen are contraindicated after 24 weeks gestation because of their effects on the fetal heart. Prior to this gestation they are considered safe to use.

Nasal sprays such as Nasonex and Rhinocort are particularly safe. Pseudoephedrine containing nasal sprays such as Otrivin and Drixine are safe because of minimal absorption but they can have a problem with rebound which means that your nasal congestion rebounds after ceasing treatment.

Cough mixtures such as Benadryl, Robitussin and Pholcodeine are all safe to use in pregnancy.

Throat lozenges such as Cepacol are also safe to use to ease throat soreness.

Antihistamines such as Clarantyne, Polaramine, Phenergan and Zyrtec are also safe to use.

Other useful tips

  • Rest – important especially if you are feeling tired and unwell.
  • Stay active if you are not too congested and are not coughing but do not over do it. Listen to your body.
  • Maintain an adequate diet and drink plenty of fluids. Warm beverages can be very soothing. It is important to drink enough to stay well hydrated.
  • Sleep – you will be able to breathe easier by elevating your head with a few pillows.
  • Moisturize the air – if dry conditions in your home aggravate your sensitive nasal passages and throat, misting the room with a cold or warm air humidifier at night can help.
  • Saline drops, sprays or rinses – these can help by moistening your nasal passages. As they are not medicated, you can use them as often as you require.
  • Saltwater gargles – gargling with warm salt water (1/4 teaspoon of salt with a 250ml glass of warm water) can ease a scratchy or sore throat and wash away post nasal drip.

When to seek medical advice

Contact Dr Kliman or one of our midwives at anytime for more advice or reassurance.

You should definitely let us know if:

  • You have a fever over 37.5C
  • Your cold is severe enough to interfere with your diet and fluid intake
  • You are coughing up green or yellow mucous
  • You have a cough with chest pain or wheezing
  • Yours sinuses are throbbing and causing severe pain and headaches
  • If your symptoms have gone beyond 7 – 10 days and you are not feeling any better. This may mean that you require a check with your GP and prescription medication such as antibiotics may be require.

Dr Len Kliman is one of Melbourne’s most experienced and respected obstetricians and gynaecologists in Melbourne.

With over three decades of experience, Dr Kliman has delivered over 20,000 babies and still counting!

In 2017, Dr Kliman was awarded an Order of Australia for his services to obstetrics and gynaecology.