Mother and Baby

How to treat a cold during pregnancy

Section: Symptoms
Cold during pregnancy

Catching a cold is never pleasant, especially when you’re pregnant and unable to take your go-to medication. But there are other ways to give yourself some relief.

Here's our definitive guide on how to get rid of the pregnancy sniffles, with all your questions answered! 

Does my cough or cold affect my baby? 

Having a normal head cold, whilst making you feel miserable, should not affect your baby. 

Am I more likely to catch a cold during pregnancy? 

During pregnancy, your immune system is lower than usual, making you slightly more likely to catch a cold. But it doesn’t have to be any worse than usual just because you’re pregnant.

It’s true that you can’t take certain medication (outlined below) but you can try lots of other ways to lessen the symptoms. Take your temperature twice a day when you have a cold, to make sure it isn’t too high. If it’s over 38 degrees Celsius, then you are showing signs of having a fever. 

How can I tell if it's a cold or flu? 

With a cold, you will have:

  • a sore throat
  • a blocked or runny nose,
  • sneezing and a cough.
  • You might also experience a mild fever or a headache, although these symptoms are not as common. 

As a general rule, flu comes on faster. It causes:

  • a higher fever
  • a headache
  • muscle aches
  • sweating
  • leaves you feeling exhausted. 

If you're not sure, contact your GP quickly, as flu can be harmful for you and your baby during prengnacy. What cold medication is safe to take?

What cold medication is safe to take?

It’s best to avoid all medications in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. After that, here's what you can and can't take.


  • A low dose of paracetamol, only for as long as needed
  • Natural remedies (as outlined below)

To avoid:

  • Antihistamines
  • Ibuprofen
  • Aspirin
  • Cold cure tablets/drink sachets

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1) Paracetamol

Paracetamol has been used by pregnant women for many years without harmful effects on the developing baby. For this reason, paracetamol is usually recommended as the first choice of painkiller for pregnant women.
Try to take the lowest effective dose, for the shortest period possible. 
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2) Vicks Vaporub

Vicks Vaporub is safe for mums-to-be and helps relieve the symptoms of a blocked nose, sore throat and cough. It is available as an ointment for rubbing on the chest, throat or back, and can also be added to hot water and the vapours inhaled.
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3) Breathe Right Nasal Strips

Breathe Right Nasal Strips are safe for pregnant women and will open your nasal passages so you can breathe easier. They are flexible spring-like bands to gently lift and open nasal passages, allowing better airflow. They can be used day or night. 
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4) Ricola Cough Suppresant Drops

You can trust Ricola cough suppressant drops to relieve your sore throat during pregnancy. These Honey/Lemon flavoured drops combine a blend of natural Swiss alpine herbs, natural menthol and soothing honey lemon syrup. 
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5) Saline Nasal Sprays

Saline (or salt water) nasal sprays are great for relieving nasal congestion during pregnancy. This all-natural spray contains ingredients such as niaouli, basil and peppermint and will both cleanse and clear your sinuses when you have a cold. 
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6) Steam Inhalation

Steam inhalation is a brilliant way to help you decongest when you have a cold. Sit with your head over a bowl of hot water, place a towel over your head, close your eyes and breathe deeply. This should loosen the mucus and make it easier for you to breathe.
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7) Vicks Inhaler Nasal Stick

This handy nasal stick provides fast relief from stuffy noses and nasal catarrh. It's not only a comforting smell, it really can make a difference to your blocked sinuses.
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8) Gargling Salt Water

Never underestimate the power of simply gargling salt water. If you do it several times a day with warm water, it can reduce swelling in the throat and loosen mucus, helping to flush out irritants or bacteria. Doctors generally recommend dissolving half a teaspoon of salt in one cup of water.

‘If you do have a temperature, you can take paracetemol,’ says Gill Adgie, regional head of Royal College of Midwives. ‘This is safe for pregnant women to take and will help reduce your fever.' The NHS advises using paracetamol at the lowest effective dose, for the shortest possible time.

‘You should avoid antihistamines, ibuprofen and aspirin during pregnancy,’ says Boots flu pharmacist Deepa Songara.

Watch out for cold cure tablets or drinks sachets. As well as containing paracetamol (which is safe), they also contain phenylephrine, a decongestant which has blood vessel constricting properties that could restrict blood supply to your placenta.

‘For sore throats and coughs try lemon juice and honey mixed with warm water, or a throat lozenge or cough mixture containing glycerine, while some nasal sprays can help to defend against winter germs and reduce the severity of a cold or the flu, but always check first with your pharmacist for what is suitable,’ says Deepa.

If your problems do persist, give your GP a ring to see if you should book an appointment to get checked over. 

What natural remedies can I try? 

Instead of medicine, you can try soothing the effects of your cold with at-home natural remedies.

  • Vapour rubs
  • Menthol sweets
  • Vitamin C tablets
  • Steam inhalation
  • Gargle with salt water

‘Try vapour rubs and menthol sweets to clear congestion,’ says Gill. ‘Taking vitamin C can also be beneficial as it’s full of antioxidants and helps protect cells and keep them healthy.’

Steam inhalation is another brilliant way to help feel better. Sit with your head over a bowl of hot water, place a towel over your head, close your eyes and breathe deeply. This should loosen the mucus and make it easier for you to breathe.

How much water should I drink when I have a cold? 

  • 12/13 glasses of water a day
  • Orange juice

Get guzzling those glasses of water and orange juice – as well as being good for you, your body needs lots of hydration when you’ve got a cold.

‘Drinking plenty of fluids will help replace those lost due to sweating and a runny nose,’ Gill explains.

It’s recommended that a pregnant woman drinks about 10 glasses of water a day, so try to up this number to at least 12 or 13 glasses to make up to the fluids you’re losing.

What can I do to avoid catching a cold? 

Eat brightly coloured foods:

  • Red tomatoes
  • Green spinach
  • Yellow peppers
  • Purple aubergines

Try including a wide range of brightly coloured fruit and veg as they’ll boost your intake of plant antioxidants such as carotenoids and flavonoids.

Maintain good hygiene

Take care with personal hygiene, as that’s the quickest way that the cold virus spreads. ‘Viruses are spread 50-50 – that’s 50% via a sneeze and 50% via hand contact,’ says Professor Alyn Morice, head of cardiorespiratory studies at Hull York Medical School. 'Wash hands frequently, especially before eating, during office hours and before you touch your face.’ The NHS advises that, even when pregnant, you keep up to date with the flu vaccination to prevent any problems.

Get plenty of rest

Rest up – the best way to beat a cold is by getting as much sleep as possible to allow your body to solely concentrate on getting better. So put your feet up and instruct your partner to wait on you hand and foot – it tends to do the trick and you should be cold-free before you know it!

Read next:

Pregnancy week by week 

The definitive list - what not to eat and drink during pregnancy


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