More precisely, it is a viral infection that usually occurs during the winter months. Generally, colds are a rather simple condition to treat and, in the vast majority of cases, they tend to resolve quickly, sometimes without resorting to the use of any medication. Unfortunately, in some cases, colds during pregnancy can require longer recovery periods, especially when it is not possible to take the medications normally used to combat the symptoms.
What Is A Cold In Pregnancy?
Colds during pregnancy are an acute viral infection , belonging to the group of colds , so defined because they tend to occur during the colder seasons.
Colds during pregnancy do not differ from the common cold that can affect any other individual, except for the fact that – due to the impossibility of taking many types of medicines – when it affects pregnant women it may take longer to resolve.
However, generally, colds during pregnancy are not considered an excessively serious disorder. However, if it should occur, it is still best to contact your doctor in order to avoid the appearance of complications that could lead to more severe disorders.
What Causes Colds During Pregnancy?
As mentioned, colds during pregnancy are caused by a viral infection. There are many viruses that can give rise to this disorder. At the moment, in fact, there are more than 200 known species that can cause it. Among these many types of viruses, we mention some of the most widespread:
- Rhinoviruses (they are considered the main causes of colds, in fact, it is estimated that they are involved in 30-80% of cases);
- Coronavirus (involved in 10-15% of cases);
- Human parainfluenza viruses (affect 1-3% of cases);
- Adenovirus .
Risk Factors For Colds In Pregnancy
During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes many changes, both physical and psychological. This situation can lead to stressful conditions which can lead to a weakening of your immune defenses . Viruses that come into contact with the pregnant woman, therefore, may be able to replicate freely without being hindered by the immune system , thus giving rise to the infection.
Stress , therefore, and the weakening of the immune system caused by it represent the main risk factors for colds during pregnancy .
At the same time, the cold climate of the winter months also represents a further risk factor capable of favoring the development of the disorder.
Unfortunately, the viruses responsible for this cold illness are able to survive in the external environment for a few hours, thus also favoring indirect contagion which occurs, for example, by coming into contact with surfaces and/or objects contaminated by people with a cold.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Cold In Pregnancy?
Colds during pregnancy – as well as colds that can affect any person – cause localized inflammation especially in the nose and pharynx . The symptoms of a cold during pregnancy can be more or less intense and can vary from person to person. In any case, among the different symptoms that can occur, we remember:
- Nasal congestion ( stuffy nose );
- Rhinorrhea ( runny nose );
- Headache ;
- Fever ;
- Sore throat ;
- Hoarseness ;
- Sneezing ;
- Dry cough or chesty cough ;
- Asthenia ;
- Muscle and/or bone pain ;
- General feeling of malaise;
- Feeling of soreness;
- Chills ;
- Poor appetite .
All of these symptoms may occur, or only some may occur. The type and intensity of the symptoms – in addition to varying from patient to patient – could also vary depending on the type of virus that gave rise to the cold during pregnancy.
Complications Of Colds In Pregnancy
More often than not, the viral infection that causes colds during pregnancy is complicated by bacterial superinfections which can lead to a worsening of symptoms and which can favor the onset of other disorders, such as ear infections , bronchitis, sinusitis or bronchopneumonia . In such situations, it is essential to contact your doctor immediately.
Cures And Treatments For Colds During Pregnancy
In some cases, colds during pregnancy tend to resolve spontaneously. In fact, the common cold is generally considered to be a self-limiting illness that should disappear within about a week of the first symptoms appearing.
Unfortunately, this does not always happen and, in some cases, it may be necessary to resort to the use of drugs. In this regard, it is important to point out that there are no specific drugs for the treatment of colds (in fact, there are no specific antiviral drugs that can be used against this disorder), but the treatment of this cold illness is only symptomatic. The situation, however, is complicated by pregnancy, since pregnant women can only take a very limited number of medicines during this stage of their life. For this reason, the doctor’s intervention is fundamental and – in order to guarantee one’s own safety and that of the unborn child – under no circumstances can one rely on “do it yourself”.
In any case, the drug of first choice for the treatment of colds during pregnancy is paracetamol ( Tachipirina ® ). In fact, it is an active ingredient considered safe for both pregnant women and newborns. Paracetamol is used above all in the treatment of fever, as it has a strong antipyretic action . Added to this is a mild pain-relieving action which could provide relief in case of pain (for example, headache, muscle pain, etc.).
The use of other medicines useful for combating the symptoms of colds – such as nasal and oral decongestants , anti-inflammatories and cough medicines (expectorants or antitussives ) – should only occur in cases of actual need and only if the doctor prescribes them . Some active ingredients, in fact, absolutely cannot be used during gestation due to the side effects they can induce in the fetus ; other active ingredients, however, can only be taken in certain periods of pregnancy (for example, after the first trimester); while still others can only be used if the doctor deems it essential. For this reason – even if many of the aforementioned medicines can be purchased without the obligation to present a medical prescription – when a cold occurs during pregnancy, the importance of contacting the doctor before taking any medicine or product is reiterated.
Treatment Of Complications Of Colds In Pregnancy
If colds during pregnancy become complicated due to bacterial superinfections, the doctor may decide to prescribe antibiotic drugs , but only after having carried out a careful assessment of the relationship between the potential risks for the fetus and the expected benefits for the mother.
Antibiotics are NOT drugs indicated for the treatment of colds during pregnancy, nor are they indicated for the treatment of colds that occur in children, men, non-pregnant women and the elderly. In fact, this cold illness is caused by a viral infection and not a bacterial infection . The use of antibiotic drugs in the absence of a bacterial superinfection would not only be useless, but could even encourage the phenomenon of antibiotic resistance.
Therefore, the use of antibiotics against colds should be carried out only if there is absolute certainty that the patient has contracted a bacterial infection.
Useful Tips To Prevent Colds During Pregnancy
Below are some tips that could be useful in trying to prevent the onset of colds during pregnancy.
- Avoid direct contact with cold individuals and avoid the promiscuous use of objects such as glasses, cutlery, etc.
- Maintain thorough hand hygiene by washing them often, especially before meals.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with dirty hands, as these gestures could encourage cold viruses to enter the body.
- Avoid staying outdoors for too long when temperatures are very low.
- Avoid places that are too dry and, if necessary, use special humidifiers. In fact, in very dry environments, it seems that saliva droplets containing cold viruses can remain suspended in the air for longer, favoring contagion. Using a dehumidifier , therefore, could be useful in preventing the onset of the disorder.
- Ventilate the house well, especially if you live with people who already have colds.
- Avoid, as far as possible, stressful conditions that could favor a decline in immune defenses, allowing cold viruses to give rise to infection.
Useful Tips To Help Heal Colds During Pregnancy
To try to promote recovery if the cold during pregnancy has already manifested itself, it may be useful to:
- Avoid sudden changes in temperature, especially when you are not wearing adequate protective clothing (for example, going from the warm environment of the house to the cold outside without using coats, jackets, hats, etc.).
- Try to stay as rested and warm as possible.
- Maintain a good level of hydration, drink plenty of fluids and consume foods rich in vitamins and minerals , such as fruit and vegetables .
- Follow all instructions and any therapies prescribed by your doctor.
If the cold during pregnancy does not resolve despite the above advice and despite any treatments prescribed by the doctor, in order to avoid worsening and complications, it is necessary to request the latter’s advice again.