How to Treat the Flu During Pregnancy

Note 1: Flu is different from a cold. While more than 100 different viruses can cause a cold, only influenza virus types A, B, and C cause the flu.

Note 2: The Pregistry website includes expert reports on more than 2000 medications, 300 diseases, and 150 common exposures during pregnancy and lactation. For the topic Influenza, go here. For the topic Common Cold, go here. These expert reports are free of charge and can be saved and shared.


Almost synonymous with the words fall, winter, and snow is the dreaded influenza, also known as “flu”.

Vitamin C and hand sanitizer won’t always be enough to protect you from this dreaded enemy.

If there’s one thing experts can all agree on- it’s that if pregnant you must seek immediate attention if contracting the flu.

The American Pregnancy Association says that due to changes in your immune system, heart, and lungs while being pregnant you are more susceptible to the flu. Additional stress is put on the heart and lungs as the lung capacity decreases and heart rate increases during pregnancy. During this time the immune system is also naturally suppressed making you more likely to catch the flu during pregnancy.

The symptoms of the flu include:

  1. Headache
  2. Runny nose
  3. Sore throat
  4. Fatigue
  5. Shortness of breath/Cough
  6. Loss of appetite
  7. Diarrhea or vomiting
  8. Sudden chills or fever
  9. Body aches

Even if you are not experiencing all symptoms at once it is important to let your physician know.

Getting the flu while pregnant can have serious consequences like catching pneumonia and hospitalization. Studies have found that mothers who had the flu while pregnant were more likely to have miscarriages, premature babies, and underweight babies. In the past, if you got a cold or became sick with the flu, you may have taken an over-the-counter (OTC) decongestant. However, with modern-day education about drug safety and pregnancy, although medications can relieve your symptoms, you don’t want the drug causing problems for the baby.

If you begin to feel any of the symptoms mentioned before or feel you may have it, contact your doctor immediately.

Your doctor can prescribe you safe antiviral medications to treat the flu, taking antiviral medications as soon as you find out you are sick can reduce the amount of time you are sick in addition to reminding you to get plenty of rest and drinking plenty of fluids.

According to the Office of Teratology Services, a safe medication to take to lower fever and treat aches and pains is acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). Other possibly safe medications include dextromethorphan (Robitussin-DM or Delsym), guaifenesin, or cough drops. However, according to the University of Michigan Health System, it’s best to ask your provider about any medications in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. That’s a critical time for the development of your baby’s vital organs. Many doctors also recommend caution after 28 weeks. In any case, speak with your doctor before taking any medication if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant. While many medicines are safe, it is best to err on the side of caution when your baby is involved!

However, it is important to note that if you feel any of the following symptoms you must seek emergency care right away:

  1. Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  2. Pain or pressure in the chest or belly
  3. Sudden dizziness or confusion
  4. Vomiting that is severe or constant
  5. Decreased or no movement of your unborn baby
  6. High fever (above 102 degrees Fahrenheit) or a lower one that does not go down in 24 hours with Tylenol.

These symptoms are indicative of a more serious illness or the flu that has the ability to ravage your system and hurt your baby.

Shoshi S.
Shoshi is a graduate from Stern College for Women in New York City. Her areas of interest include policy, non-profit organizations, and administration. During winter 2018, she was a White House intern. Shoshi has also interned at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and at Save the Children in New York. As a millennial, Shoshi brings a young and fresh perspective to the worlds of pregnancy and lactation.

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