Is It Safe To Take Cold Medicine While Breastfeeding?

Cold Medicine While Breastfeeding

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While you are nursing your little one, even the most innocuous cold medicine can trigger nasty side effects for your breastfed baby. So, you need to know what kind of cold medicine while breastfeeding is the safest for you. And, if you are suffering from a cold or a cough, you should consult your doctor before taking any OTC during this special time.

In the meanwhile, here is some more information about cold medicines and how they affect breastfeeding moms. Read our post here to learn more.

Different Types Of Cold Medicines:

There are various medicines available to treat cold, depending on your symptoms. Viral infections are the usual cause of cold. A sore throat, a cough, a muscle ache, fever, a stuffy or a runny nose include some common symptoms of a cold and flu. However, the symptoms of flu are severe than a common cold. Seasonal allergies (hay fever) can also produce similar symptoms [1]. So, you may need to use different medicines to treat each of these conditions.

  • Analgesics – reduces pain
  • Antipyretics – reduces fever
  • Antihistamines – provides relief from allergies
  • Cough suppressants – provides temporary relief from a cough
  • Expectorants – reduces chest congestion
  • Cold treatments are also available as combination drugs that combine two or more of the above medicines [2].

[ Read: Antibiotics While Breastfeeding ]

Is It Safe To Take Cold Medicine While Breastfeeding?

Can I take cold medicine while breastfeeding, is a question that most mommies have. Not all medicines to treat cold are safe to use while you are nursing. If you contract a cold or allergy, ask your doctor for some medicine recommendations. Most cold medicines are available as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. However, you need to refrain from using them to relieve your cold/flu or allergy symptoms. If your symptoms don’t cause too much trouble, avoid taking any medicines while breastfeeding.

Not using medicines during breastfeeding is a good practice as most drugs pass into breast milk. However, not all medicines are harmful to your nursing baby. Remember to be careful about the medicines you use while breastfeeding. Use medicines while breastfeeding only when necessary for your health and only after your doctor’s approval [3].

[ Read: Loratadine While Breastfeeding ]

Medicines Safe During Breastfeeding:

Now, that you know the relation between cold medicine and breastfeeding, you’re probably thinking, “what cold medicine can I take while breastfeeding”. So let us look at some safe cold medications while breastfeeding here [4].

1. Analgesics:

Analgesics are painkillers. There are three types of analgesics; simple non-opioid analgesics, compound analgesics and opioid analgesics [5].

  • Simple Non-Opioid Analgesics:

Simple non-opioid analgesics are one of the most common OTCs. These medications are effective for mild pain. Some examples include Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Paracetamol. It is safe to use Paracetamol and Ibuprofen while breastfeeding as only a minuscule amount of these drugs passes into the breast milk. But, Ibuprofen can be harmful to your baby if he has a genetic condition or if he was born prematurely. So, consult your doctor before you use Paracetamol and Ibuprofen while nursing [6]. Avoid Ibuprofen if you have asthma or a stomach ulcer [7]. Some research indicates that use of Aspirin while breastfeeding can cause Reye’s syndrome in kids. It is a condition that affects liver and brain [8]. Aspirin also passes into breast milk. So, it is best to avoid its use while you are still nursing your child. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) also fall into this category. These pain relievers have anti-inflammatory properties. Both Aspirin and Ibuprofen are NSAIDs. However, the latter triggers fewer side effects than the former.

  • Compound Analgesics:

Compound analgesics are combination drugs. For instance, Aspirin, Paracetamol, and Codeine are available as one pill. Examples are Co-codamol (Codeine and Paracetamol) and Co-codaprin (Aspirin and Codeine). It is best to avoid these drugs during breastfeeding unless your doctor prescribes them [9].

  • Opioid Analgesics:

Avoid opioid analgesics while breastfeeding as they produce many side effects such as constipation, dizziness, and drowsiness.

2. Other Medicines:

  • Antipyretics reduce fever. Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Paracetamol are also antipyretics [10].
  • Acetaminophen falls under the medicine classification of analgesics and antipyretics. It is used to treat cold and its symptoms like muscle aches, sore throat, and headaches [11]. Acetaminophen secretes into breast milk. So, avoid its use without first consulting your doctor [12].
  • Antihistamines help treat allergy symptoms. The older class of antihistamines causes drowsiness whereas the new class of antihistamine drugs is non-sedative. Some antihistamines such as Cetirizine and Loratadine are safe to use while breastfeeding [13]. There is not much data available on using newer antihistamines like Fexofenadine for lactating women. So, it is best to ask your doctor for a recommendation before you decide to use an antihistamine to reduce your allergy symptoms. But use antihistamines in a limited way only while breastfeeding [14].
  • Decongestants help reduce swollen nasal passage and help ease up breathing. These are available as nasal sprays and pills. Some nasal sprays may contain ingredients that may be harmful to nursing mothers [15]. Ask your doctor if you can use nasal sprays with Oxymetazoline and Xylometazoline as ingredients. These are safe to use while breastfeeding [16].
  • Avoid any cold medicine with Pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine can make your nursing baby irritable. It can also adversely affect the quantity of your breast milk [17].
  • Cough suppressants with ingredients such as Dextromethorphan, Pholcodine and Dihydrocodeine are safe to use while breastfeeding. Also, cough medicines with Guaifenesin or Bromhexine are safe to use.
  • But do note that there is not enough research on using these ingredients while breastfeeding. So, it is better to use these after consulting with your doctor [18].
  • Guaifenesin is an expectorant, which is considered safe to use while breastfeeding [19]. However, there is insufficient data about its use or effects on nursing mothers [20].

[ Read: Safe Drugs During Breastfeeding ]

Drug Use While Breastfeeding:

Here are some steps you can follow to minimize your kid’s exposure to drugs through your breast milk.

  • If the infection reduces by itself, then don’t take medicines. But there are now many safe drugs available that you can use while breastfeeding, so you don’t need to withhold treatment.
  • Take any medicine after you feed your baby. You can express some milk for his next feed.
  • If you notice any behavioral changes in your kid after your use of medicines, talk to your doctor about it. For instance, Codeine can lead to drowsiness. Some medicines can make your infant irritable or alter his feeding habits.
  • Increase your fluid intake when battling a cold. Also, ensure that you rest well [21].

[ Read: Painkillers While Breastfeeding ]

You can’t always avoid a cold. But when you are a nursing mother, you may want to take all measures and precautions to keep your child safe from side effects of medicines. Did you take any cold medicine while breastfeeding? Tell us here.


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