Getting the Common Cold When You're Pregnant

Why you might be getting sick more often and what treatments are safe

Pregnancy temporarily changes some aspects of your immune system function. These changes don't protect you from certain infections, including the common cold. Getting sick when you're pregnant is tough, and the effects of being sick can make it a challenge to eat well and get enough sleep. When you're pregnant, you also have to avoid some of the medical treatments that are normally used to treat illnesses. Learn how to manage the common cold while you are pregnant.

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

Pregnancy and Your Immune System

When you're pregnant, your immune system is modified in ways that protect your growing baby. And the changes in your immune system evolve throughout 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

According to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), having a cold while during pregnancy typically doesn't harm the mother or the baby. When you get sick, your baby is protected by your immune system, their own immune system, and the placenta.

The one symptom to watch out for, though, is fever. Having a fever early in pregnancy may increase the risk of certain birth defects. Make sure to contact your healthcare provider if you develop a fever while you are pregnant.

The common cold doesn't typically cause a fever, and a fever might be a sign that you have a different illness, such as the flu.

Safe Cold Treatments

If you're pregnant and get a cold, it's best to consult your obstetrician or another health professional before taking any over-the-counter (OTC) cold or cough medications.

Many medications are not safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Some of the medications you need to avoid include:

  • Common decongestants pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. Taking these medications during the first three months of pregnancy slightly increases the baby's risk of developing an abdominal wall birth defect.
  • Combination cough and cold medications often contain pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, including cold, cough, and allergy formulations of Advil, Aleve, Sudafed, and Mucinex.
  • Analgesics like aspirin and Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen), are not recommended during pregnancy unless instructed by your healthcare provider.

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

Pregnancy-safe cough and cold treatment options include:

  • OTC steroid nasal sprays like Flonase (fluticasone propionate)
  • Neti pot
  • Saline nasal spray
  • Humidifier
  • Honey (for cough)
  • Natural throat lozenges
  • Menthol rub
  • The antihistamines Claritin (loratadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine)

Make sure you clean the container and change the water if you are using a neti pot or humidifier to avoid contamination.

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

Taking Care of Yourself

If you come down with a cold, self-care will be an important part of your treatment plan.

Do your best to:

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

Drinking hot water or tea with honey and lemon, gargling salt water, or sucking on ice chips are all safe ways to help soothe a sore or irritated throat.

Notify your healthcare provider if your symptoms seem especially severe or persistent.

Cold Prevention

Since the common cold is contagious and widespread, it's difficult to avoid exposure completely.

But you can set yourself up to have the best defense by following these strategies:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Washing your hands after touching people or public items
  • Getting regular exercise

If you are going to be in a crowded place where you are likely to be exposed to infections, consider wearing a mask and maintaining distance from others.

Most health care providers will also prescribe a prenatal vitamin during pregnancy. Be sure to take it as recommended.

If you're a smoker, quitting is imperative to boost your immune system and support the health of your baby.

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 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? February 2020.

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Pregnant with allergies? 5 treatments that are safe for baby. December 23, 2020.