Getting Sick When You're Pregnant

If you're pregnant, you're probably already mindful of eating a balanced diet, getting appropriate exercise, and doing everything you can to ensure you and your baby are healthy. This also means taking the right precautions if you happen to get sick with the cold or flu when pregnant.

While many of the pointers for avoiding sickness are the same whether you're carrying a baby or not—stay hydrated, wash your hands frequently—there are specific things to keep in mind if you're pregnant.

Can You Take Over-the-Counter Medications When Pregnant?

If you're pregnant and get a cold, it's best to consult with your OB/GYN or health practitioner before taking any over-the-counter (OTC) cold or cough medications. That said, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ranked the safety of certain medications, from Category A (no risk during any trimester) to Category X (potential for fetal risk, with the risk outweighing any potential benefit).

For example, acetaminophen, which is commonly found in Tylenol, is considered the best pain reliever to use while pregnant, while other analgesics like aspirin and ibuprofen are not recommended unless instructed by your practitioner.

Studies have shown the OTC antihistamines loratadine (found in Claratin) and cetirizine (found in Zyrtec) are safe for pregnant women, as are certain antacids, though some versions carry a risk of neurotoxicity in high doses. On the other hand, most decongestants and cough medicines haven't been tested in pregnant women and may have dangerous side effects for the baby. It's recommended that these shouldn't be taken during pregnancy unless your doctor has told you to take them.

Antibiotics During Pregnancy

Many antibiotics are safe to take during pregnancy, but some are not. If you're not sure, check with your health practitioner. The most important thing to do is to follow the instructions for taking the medicine and finish it all. You should never take leftover antibiotics from a past illness or from someone else.

Cold and Flu Prevention

The advice for avoiding colds and the flu when you're pregnant isn't all that different than when you're not. Eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and washing your hands frequently are the best ways to minimize your chances of catching a cold or the flu. Most practitioners will also prescribe or recommend a prenatal vitamin for pregnant women to supplement their normal diet. If you're a smoker, quitting is imperative to boost your immune system and support the health of your baby.

Flu shots are very important for pregnant women. When you're pregnant, you're at high risk for complications from the flu, which can affect both you and your unborn baby. Getting a flu shot during pregnancy can protect you from the flu and can protect your child for up to six months after he or she is born.

What to Do If You Get a Cold or the Flu

Since the cold and flu is so common, they're difficult to avoid completely. If you do come down with one of these illnesses, here are some tips to help:

  • Get extra rest.
  • Drink plenty of clear fluids. This is even more important when you're pregnant.
  • Try saline nasal sprays or steam inhalation for congestion.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink hot water or tea with honey and lemon, gargle saltwater, or suck on ice chips to help soothe a sore or irritated throat.
  • Notify your doctor if your symptoms seem especially severe or if they last for more than a week. This could mean that you've developed a secondary infection, like pneumonia.
Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Servey J, Chang J. Over-the-counter medications in pregnancyAm Fam Physician. 2014;90(8):548-555.

  2. Norwitz ER, Greenberg JA. Antibiotics in pregnancy: are they safe?. Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2009;2(3):135-6.

  3. Qiu F, Liang CL, Liu H, et al. Impacts of cigarette smoking on immune responsiveness: Up and down or upside down?. Oncotarget. 2017;8(1):268-284. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.13613

  4. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The flu vaccine and pregnancy. 2015.

  5. Cleveland Clinic. Pregnant? 5 killer allergy-busters that are safe for baby. 2017.

  6. Carlson A, Thung SF, Norwitz ER. H1N1 influenza in pregnancy: what all obstetric care providers ought to know. Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2009;2(3):139-45.