How To Deal With Upper Respiratory Tract Infection During Pregnancy?

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Pregnancy brings about a lot of changes that you may be unaware of earlier. While managing all minor discomforts and transitions, an upper respiratory tract infection during pregnancy is not easy to cope with. A cold is the result of a viral infection in the upper respiratory tract. Most people find it annoying to deal with a cold in a normal state; it is more difficult to cope with it while pregnant. Moreover, most viral infections do not usually respond to antibiotic medications; hence they take their course to come down eventually. Keep reading to know more about the types, signs, and prevention of upper respiratory tract infections when pregnant.

Kinds Of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

The common cold is not the only infection that can affect your upper respiratory tract. Some other viral upper respiratory infections include:

  • Influenza
  • Chickenpox (varicella)
  • Fifth disease
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Rubella

Fortunately, most women do not have to deal with many of these illnesses during pregnancy. A cold or flu is the most common upper respiratory tract infection encountered during pregnancy.

Most people often think that cold and flu are the same. But that is not true. Though both are upper respiratory tract infections and resemble each other, they have some subtle differences.

Signs And Symptoms of Cold

An acute inflammation of the upper respiratory tract can cause a common cold. The symptoms of a cold may include:

  • Headache
  • Loss of smell
  • Body aches
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion

Signs And Symptoms Of Influenza

Influenza or the flu is also a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract. It is usually a common complaint during the winter months.

The symptoms of flu can set in suddenly and include:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body ache
  • Weakness
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing

Treating Common Upper Respiratory Tract Infection During Pregnancy

When you are pregnant, even simple illnesses may last longer or have a more serious effect than usual, because of your weakened immune system.

In any case, your best bet during a cold or flu is to find as much comfort as you can.

Some things you can do to manage your cold or flu symptoms include:

1. Rest:

An upper respiratory tract infection can leave you weak. So, rest as much as you possibly can.

2. Keep Yourself Hydrated:

It is very easy to become dehydrated when you are down with a cold. So keep taking fluids. Remember, dehydration can slow down the baby’s growth and lead to premature labor and birth!

3. Keep Fever Under Control:

If you develop a fever, try to keep it below 100.4° F. High fever during pregnancy can cause several birth defects in your unborn baby like neural tube defects, microphthalmia, cataract, micrencephaly, functional and behavioral problems (1).

Some steps you can take to manage your fever include:

  • Wearing loose clothes to allow body heat to escape.
  • You should also try taking a bath with lukewarm water.
  • You can use medications to reduce fever after consulting your doctor.

4. Say Goodbye To Congestion:

Congestion can cause acute distress during a cold. To find relief from nasal congestion, try some extra humidity. Use a humidifier in your room. You can also use a neti pot or saline water for some relief.

5. Cough No More:

A persistent cough can cause discomfort to pregnant women. So, try using home remedies like basil leaf, ginger, honey, etc. for relief. You can also consult your doctor about using a cough medicine.

When To Seek Medical Help?

Most cold and flu cases are time bound and pass without many issues. But in some cases, it may be important to call your doctor. See your doctor if:

  • You develop abdominal cramps that refuse to go away.
  • You develop diarrhea and vomiting.
  • You experience vaginal bleeding
  • Your fever shoots up above 100.4°F.
  • You develop chest pain and shortness of breath.
  • Your symptoms persist beyond a week.

Preventing Upper Respiratory Tract Infection In Pregnancy

The H1N1 virus mimics the common cold and flu virus but can prove to be fatal for pregnant women (2). That is why it is important to keep an eye on your upper respiratory tract infections.

Severe cases of upper respiratory tract infections can cause premature birth, lower birth weights, cesarean delivery, etc (3).

If you want to avoid these complications, you can opt for the flu vaccine. You can also try the H1N1 vaccine that provides your body with immunity against Swine flu. Many pregnant women are wary of trying these vaccines in the fear of harming their babies. Don’t worry! Studies show that flu vaccines, including H1N1 vaccine, do not cause any adverse pregnancy fallouts (4).

Some other methods you can use to prevent upper respiratory tract infections can comprise the following (5):

  • Washing your hands often.
  • Avoiding crowded places.
  • Keeping your home clean and dust free.
  • Avoiding exposure to smoke and pollen.
  • If you are traveling, carry a hand sanitizer.
  • Do not rub your eyes as that can transmit virus to your nasal cavity through the tear ducts.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What vitamins are good for upper respiratory tract infection?

Studies have shown that vitamins C and D supplementation could help reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infections. Moreover, vitamin C and zinc might aid in alleviating the symptoms of acute respiratory tract infections (ARIs) (6).

2. What can a pregnant woman take for an upper respiratory tract infection?

Most pregnant women do not acquire serious respiratory tract infections. But if they do, seek medical advice on the right interventions to avoid complications. According to a few studies, erythromycin monotherapy is the initial line of treatment and is considered safe in pregnant women with moderate to severe respiratory infections, such as pneumonia (7).

A cold or flu is the most common upper respiratory tract infection during pregnancy. Rubella, chickenpox, and cytomegalovirus also can affect the upper respiratory tract. However, the availability of vaccines and preventive measures reduces the risk of these infections in pregnant women. Headaches, runny or stuffy nose, cough, mild fever, and body pain are common symptoms of respiratory infections. Adequate rest, hydration, and fever medications can manage these infections. Getting flu vaccination, maintaining hand and respiratory hygiene, and avoiding close contact with sick people may prevent the spread.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Marshall J Edwards; (2006); Review: Hyperthermia and fever during pregnancy.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16933304/
  2. H1N1 Flu.
    https://www.cdc.gov/H1N1flu/in_the_news/pregnancy_qa.htm
  3. Julia Harris and Eyal Sheiner; (2013); Does an upper respiratory tract infection during pregnancy affect perinatal outcomes? A literature review.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23361838/
  4. Björn Pasternak et al.; (2012); Vaccination against pandemic A/H1N1 2009 influenza in pregnancy and risk of fetal death: cohort study in Denmark.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22551713/
  5. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8709-chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-copd
  6. Ajibola Ibraheem Abioye et al., (2021); Effect of micronutrient supplements on influenza and other respiratory tract infections among adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7818810/
  7. Vanessa Laibl and Jeanne Sheffield; (2006); The Management of Respiratory Infections During Pregnancy.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7118874/
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Dr. Neha Singh

(MS OB/GYN)
Dr Neha Singh has over eight years of experience as a gynaecologist and more than four years experience as an IVF specialist and endoscopic surgeon. She won an award for her paper on ‘Maternal & Child Health' in UPCOG 2016. She is a senior consultant and clinical head at NOVA IVF, Gorakhpur, India. She is also an assistant global coordinator... more

shreeja pillai

Shreeja holds a postgraduate degree in Chemistry and diploma in Drug Regulatory Affairs. Before joining MomJunction, she worked as a research analyst with a leading multinational pharmaceutical company. Her interest in the field of medical research has developed her passion for writing research-based articles. As a writer, she aims at providing informative articles on health and pharma, especially related to... more

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