Having a cold during pregnancy will not harm the fetus, and a person can still use various medications to help ease symptoms. However, they should check first with a doctor, as some remedies may not be suitable at this time.

Colds are very common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that adults have an average of 2–3 colds per year.

The chances of catching a cold while pregnant are higher because the immune system is less robust during pregnancy.

According to March of Dimes, catching a cold will not harm a developing fetus, and the pregnant person will typically recover in a week or so.

People are also more likely to catch potentially more serious infections, such as the flu, during pregnancy. This means that taking steps to prevent illness is important during pregnancy.

This article looks at what to consider when treating the symptoms of a cold during pregnancy, how to prevent a cold, and when to see a doctor.

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Treating a cold usually means using over-the-counter (OTC) medications. However, many pregnant people worry about whether drugs will affect the fetus.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend always talking to a doctor before using any pain medication during pregnancy.

Most OTC drugs contain the same few ingredients to treat cold symptoms. The following sections look at the safety of different types of cold treatments.

Pain relievers

Pain relievers are a group of drugs that reduce pain. Some types also reduce inflammation and fever.

OTC pain medications include:

Research suggests that acetaminophen is the safest pain relief drug to use during pregnancy, with recommendations to use the lowest effective dosage for the shortest time.

An article published in American Family Physician (AFP) reports acetaminophen to be safe to use during all trimesters on its own, but not necessarily in combination with other cold remedies that contain a range of other ingredients.

However, the article states that NSAIDs may carry risks. They recommend avoiding aspirin during pregnancy except for specific uses and avoiding naproxen and ibuprofen during the third trimester.

Prescription drugs tend to be stronger than OTC drugs and are more likely to carry risks.

The FDA note that prescription NSAIDs may increase the risk of pregnancy loss during the first half of pregnancy and that prescription opioids may increase the risk of birth abnormalities when taken in the first trimester.

Severe and persistent pain can lead to serious effects, such as high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety. It is important to weigh the benefits of taking pain relief drugs during pregnancy against the potential risks.

Always talk to a healthcare professional before deciding to take any medication that relieves pain during pregnancy.

Cough suppressants

OTC cough suppressants often contain medications such as dextromethorphan and guaifenesin.

According to the AFP, these medications appear to be safe during pregnancy in the correct doses. However, it may be best to consider drug-free options as the first line of defense.

For example, before using a cough suppressant medication, people can try using herbal or mentholated throat lozenges to ease a cough or sore throat.

Read more about natural cough remedies here.


Antihistamines are a popular allergy medication that may relieve a runny nose, watery eyes, or sneezing caused by a cold.

Up to 15% of people use antihistamines during pregnancy, and experts generally consider them safe.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACCAI), people can use the following during pregnancy:

  • diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • chlorpheniramine (ChlorTrimeton)
  • loratadine (Claritin)
  • cetirizine (Zyrtec)

Most OTC antihistamines are safe to take in pregnancy as long as a doctor approves them.

Read about some natural antihistamines here.


According to one source, it is safe to take decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine, when directed by a healthcare provider.

However, research has not yet established that decongestants are safe during pregnancy. Some studies suggest that some decongestants, including pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, may increase the risk of birth abnormalities.

The overall evidence suggests that people use decongestants sparingly during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester.

Saline nasal sprays and nasal strips are safe alternatives for nasal congestion.

Natural remedies

Resting while sick is important to give the body time to focus on recovery. Lying down with the head elevated may help with breathing and stuffiness.

Drinking plenty of water can help people recover from a cold. Juices and smoothies can also provide nutritional intake when people have no appetite.

Many people also use room humidifiers to help clear a stuffy nose and promote a productive cough.

Applying warm compresses to the head, sinuses, and shoulders may help reduce pain and congestion.

Read more about natural remedies for a cold or flu here.

People are also more likely to catch colds and the flu during pregnancy, so it is important to take steps to prevent illness.

To prevent the common cold, the CDC recommend:

  • washing the hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when this is not possible
  • avoiding touching the face with unwashed hands because viruses that cause colds can enter the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth
  • staying away from people who are sick as close contact with others can spread cold viruses.

Light to moderate pregnancy-safe exercises, such as swimming and indoor cycling, can boost the immune system and increase metabolism.

Healthful eating is another important factor in preventing a cold. Focusing on eating a variety of fresh foods can help ensure the body gets the nutrients it needs.

Taking a prenatal vitamin that includes zinc and vitamin C may also help support the immune system and prevent colds.

Many people experience pregnancy rhinitis, which has symptoms similar to a cold.

This occurs due to inflammation and swelling of the mucous membranes in the nose, extra fluid in the body, and changing hormone levels.

Pregnancy rhinitis occurs in around 20% of people. Some people may find it difficult to distinguish rhinitis from a common cold.

The symptoms of pregnancy rhinitis include:

  • a runny nose
  • congestion
  • sneezing
  • difficulty breathing
  • snoring

A cold during pregnancy is the same as any other cold. The common cold is not likely to not harm the mother or fetus.

People may catch a cold or flu from being around others who are sick. The CDC provide guidance on how to avoid catching the flu.

It is important to know the difference between a cold and the flu. The two have similar symptoms, but the flu tends to be more severe, and a person will usually have a fever.

Read more about pregnancy and the flu here.

If someone experiences a fever during pregnancy, they should contact their doctor to see what steps they can take to reduce the fever to safe levels as quickly as possible.

Having a cold during pregnancy will not usually affect the fetus. Colds are mild illnesses that a person’s immune system can handle relatively easily.

However, the person’s temperature and infections can affect the fetus. If a person is experiencing a fever or other signs of infection, it is essential to speak with a doctor immediately to find the best way to reduce these symptoms.

When a person is pregnant, their body deals with a cold in much the same way as it does at any other time. The symptoms are temporary, and in most cases, the cold will be gone in 7–10 days.

If someone experiences the following symptoms during pregnancy, they should talk to a doctor right away:

  • a fever of over 100.4° F
  • severe or unusual symptoms
  • symptoms that last more than 10 days
  • symptoms of the flu
  • violent coughing that makes it hard to breathe

Colds are very common during pregnancy, and they are unlikely to harm the pregnant person or fetus.

While there are some uncertainties over the safety of OTC cold remedies during pregnancy, most people can relieve their symptoms using gentle home remedies. Most people will feel better in around a week.