Getting the Common Cold When You're Pregnant

Why you might get sick more often and what treatments are safe

Having the common cold when you're pregnant is tough. It may be a challenge to eat well and get enough sleep. You also have to avoid some of the treatments that you'd otherwise be able to reach for.

In this article, you'll learn why you may get sick more when you're pregnant, what symptoms may affect your baby, what treatments are safe, how to take care of yourself, and how to prevent the cold.

pregnant woman having a headache and morning sickness
DusanManic / Getty Images

Pregnancy and Your Immune System

Pregnancy temporarily changes some aspects of your immune system function. These changes protect your growing baby.

But they don't protect you from certain infections, including the common cold. Also, it's not just one change. Immune function evolves over the course of your pregnancy.

Your susceptibility to certain illnesses may change during the course of your pregnancy. Studies suggest that you may be most likely to get sick during the first trimester and least likely during the second.

The Common Cold and Your Baby

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says having a cold while pregnancy typically won't harm you or your baby. When you're sick, your baby is protected by:

  • Your immune system
  • Their own immune system
  • The placenta

The one symptom to watch out for is fever. Early in pregnancy, a fever may increase the risk of certain birth defects. Contact your healthcare provider if you have a fever while you're pregnant.

The common cold doesn't typically cause a fever. So a high temperature may be a sign that you have a different illness, such as the flu or COVID-19.

Safe Cold Treatments

Many medications aren't safe while pregnant or breastfeeding. Don't take over-the-counter (OTC) cold or cough medications without an okay from your healthcare provider.

Drugs to avoid include:

Check all labels for the product's ingredients. Only use products specifically approved by your provider.

Acetaminophen, which is in Tylenol and many combination drugs, is considered the best pain reliever and fever reducer to use while pregnant.

Pregnancy-safe cough and cold treatment options include:

If you're using a Neti pot, be sure to use sterile water and a clean container. With a humidifier, change the water frequently and clean it thoroughly. This can keep the devices free of contaminants.

Always talk to your healthcare provider before taking any medication during pregnancy.

Taking Care of Yourself

Self-care is important when you have a cold. Do your best to:

  • Get enough rest
  • Drink plenty of clear fluids
  • Eat a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables

To soothe a sore throat, you can:

  • Drink hot water or herbal tea with honey and lemon
  • Gargle saltwater
  • Suck ice chips

Tell your healthcare provider about any severe or persistent symptoms.

Cold Prevention

It's hard to avoid the cold. But your best defense is to:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Wash and sanitize your hands often.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Consider a mask and social distancing in public or around sick people.
  • Take prenatal vitamins as recommended.

If you're a smoker, quitting is imperative. It boosts your immune system and protects your baby.

Summary

Your immune system is changing to protect your baby. That can leave you open to illnesses like the common cold. The cold doesn't pose a threat to your baby.

Don't take any medications not approved by your healthcare provider. Opt for natural and home remedies like honey, saline spray, and a Neti pot.

Getting enough sleep, eating right, and simple prevention measures (hand washing, masks) can help keep you healthy during your pregnancy.

A Word From Verywell

Pregnancy is a scary time. It's normal to worry if you get sick. Don't feel bad about calls to your healthcare provider—you won't be the first expectant parent to be concerned.

It can help to have a conversation about what medications are and aren't okay before you get sick. That way, you can have the right things on hand if you suddenly need them.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can having a cold when pregnant hurt the baby?

    No, it won't harm your baby. They're protected by the placenta, your immune system, and their own immune system. 

  • Does a cold last longer when you are pregnant?

    It might. Pregnancy changes your immune system, so it may take longer to fight off a cold. Typically, colds last for less than two weeks.

  • What cold medicine is safe to take during pregnancy?

    Safe medications include: 

    • Tylenol (acetaminophen)
    • Antihistamines like Claritin (loratadine) or Zyrtec (cetirizine) 
    • Steroid nasal sprays like Flonase (fluticasone propionate)
  • What cold medicines should you avoid if pregnant?

    Don't take: 

    • Advil/Motrin (ibuprofen)
    • Aleve (naproxen)
    • Aspirin
    • Sudafed (pseudoephedrine)
    • Sudafed PE (phenylephrine) 

    Read labels carefully. Most combination cold medicines include one or more of these ingredients. 

  • How can I ease cold symptoms naturally during pregnancy?

    Natural treatments for sinus pressure include a humidifier, saline nasal spray, or a Neti pot. For a cough, try tea with lemon and honey, a menthol chest rub, or natural lozenges.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mor G, Cardenas I. The immune system in pregnancy: A unique complexityAm J Reprod Immunol. 2010;63(6):425-433. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0897.2010.00836.x

  2. Waller DK, Hashmi SS, Hoyt AT, et al. Maternal report of fever from cold or flu during early pregnancy and the risk for noncardiac birth defects, National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1997-2011Birth Defects Res. 2018;110(4):342-351. doi:10.1002/bdr2.1147

  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. What medicine can I take for allergies while I'm pregnant?

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Pregnant with allergies? 5 treatments that are safe for baby.

By Kristina Duda, RN
Kristina Duda, BSN, RN, CPN, has been working in healthcare since 2002. She specializes in pediatrics and disease and infection prevention.