cold and flu during pregnancy
Healthy Living

Advice from a Doctor: Avoiding Cold and Flu During Pregnancy

Feb 15 2019

Dr. Abigail Holbrook, Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Mercy Health East Obstetrics and Gynecology, an all-female practice, spoke with WLW’s Mike McConnell about cold and flu during pregnancy.

Mike McConnell: We’re going to talk about the cold and flu’s impact on someone who is pregnant. So, question number one, is there a problem with getting a flu shot if you’re pregnant?

Dr. Holbrook: Excellent question, and absolutely not, is the answer. We recommend that all women get their flu shot in pregnancy regardless of the trimester. Flu and pregnancy can actually be a really serious thing. It can make you end up in the hospital or you can get pneumonia, so we recommend that all pregnant women get the flu shot.

Mike McConnell: If I’m pregnant and I get the flu, does the baby have the flu?

Dr. Holbrook: No, the baby does not have the flu. However, the fever that you can get along with the flu can be dangerous to the baby.

Mike McConnell: Are you more susceptible because you’re pregnant?

Dr. Holbrook: Yes, absolutely. Because you are growing this tiny baby, your immune system is a little bit compromised.  Its defenses are down, which can make you more susceptible to getting the flu.

Mike McConnell: Can we get a definition of cold versus flu? One is worse than the other, but officially what is the difference?

Dr. Holbrook: The flu is abrupt, and  it’s going to last three or four days with severe aches, pains, chills, and fever. You can get some cold symptoms like sneezing, stuffy nose, sore throat and things like that. A cold, on the other hand, is going to be more gradual. Fever is rare, chills are uncommon, but you will have the sneezing, stuffy nose and sore throat.  If it’s a really severe illness, you’re more likely to have the flu.

Mike McConnell: there are the standard ways to avoid the flu such as washing your hands or avoiding people who are sick. Is there anything you should do above and beyond those things if you’re pregnant?

Dr. Holbrook: You should just stick to the usual practices of hand hygiene, staying inside while sick, getting your flu shot, and limiting your contact with other sick people.

Mike McConnell: If somebody thinks they’re coming down with the flu, and they are a patient of yours but also have a primary physician. ..Should they call you or the primary physician?

Dr. Holbrook: You can call either one of us and we will likely handle it the same way. If you call your obstetrician, we will probably do a flu swab and then give you treatment if it’s positive.

Mike McConnell: So, there are standard medications most of us take if we have the flu. Are there any medications you should avoid if you’re pregnant?

Dr. Holbrook: Of course, there are always things to avoid. Really, the shorter list is what you should take when you’re pregnant. For flu-like symptoms, we give you an anti-viral medication. Otherwise you can do a saline nasal spray, most antihistamines like Benadryl, Tylenol Cold and Sinus, Vicks VapoRub, cough drops, Mucinex, and Sudafed. Of course, if you have any questions about medication, please feel free to call us or your primary care doctor.

Mike McConnell: If you already have a couple of kids, would they be the main source of your colds?

Dr. Holbrook: Yes, tiny people are infectious.

Mike McConnell: I know, I’ve got a granddaughter who goes to give me a Cheerio and sticks her hand in my mouth after that hand has been everywhere.

Dr. Holbrook: How old is your granddaughter?

Mike McConnell: She’s a year and a half.

Dr. Holbrook: Oh yeah, she’s a little incubator.

Mike McConnell: Is there anything your partner can do to help keep you comfortable and happy?

Dr. Holbrook: Doing the laundry and the dishes is really helpful. But, more seriously, your partner needs to get their flu shot so that you’re not at an increased risk of getting sick if they get sick. If they’re smokers, they need to smoke outside or preferably quit while you’re pregnant. The smoke can make you more susceptible to infection.

To make and appointment with Dr. Holbrook, or any physician near you, use our Find a Doctor feature today.

Check out more interviews from WLW’s Medical Minute here: learn more about opioids, sleep, colonoscopies, and alcohol.

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