Asked by J. Barrows, Virginia
My wife is 13 weeks pregnant. What kind of medication can she take for a common cold?
Living Well Expert
Dr. Jennifer Shu
Children's Medical Group
Thank you for your question. It is important for expectant women to be careful about medications taken during pregnancy that might affect the developing baby. Whenever possible, try to stick with non-medication treatments such as propping the head up on an extra pillow or two at night, eating chicken soup (which has been shown to help relieve cold symptoms), running a vaporizer or humidifier, using adhesive nasal breathing strips, and considering vapor/aromatherapy and saline drops, rinses or sprays. It is also helpful to eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of non-sweetened beverages and get enough rest.
It is recommended that medications be used during pregnancy only if absolutely necessary. First check with your obstetrician to make sure any over-the-counter medication, home remedy or herbal supplement you choose is safe and will not interfere with any prescription drugs being used. It is also a good idea to choose single-ingredient products targeted toward a certain symptom rather than multi-symptom remedies. Examples of such medicines include acetaminophen for pain relief or reducing a fever, diphenhydramine for allergy symptoms, pseudoephedrine to treat nasal congestion, and dextromethorphan as a cough suppressant.
One reference I use in my practice is "Medications and Mothers' Milk" by Thomas Hale, R.Ph., Ph.D. This book includes a comprehensive list of medications and their potential effects on pregnant or lactating women and their babies. There is also a nonprofit organization called the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists, which offers phone counseling regarding exposures to medications and other potential risks during pregnancy and breastfeeding. These resources may be helpful to use in conjunction with advice from your health care provider.
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