The first hints of a sore throat last week left me thinking, "No, not again!" I added a few stronger words to that phrase as I thought about the runny nose and cough that would soon follow and the fact that I could do very little to deal with those symptoms. Colds are annoying enough to a normal person, but when you are pregnant and can't resort to over-the-counter medications to help ease the symptoms, well, they are more than just annoying.
Because I've been either pregnant or breastfeeding for the better part of the last five years, I've spent a lot of time looking for ways to fight colds without turning to drugs. Here's what I've learned about treating cold symptoms...
Sleep Away a Cold
One of the best and simplest remedies for a cold is rest (my dad swore by this remedy). Pregnancy can be tiring enough on its own, and this added exhaustion may hinder the body’s ability to fight a cold. Heidi Murkoff and her co-authors, in What to Expect When You're Expecting, say, “Taking a cold to bed doesn’t necessarily shorten its duration, but if your body is begging for some rest, be sure to listen.” While sleeping or laying down, use extra pillows to elevate your head; this may ease a stuffy nose and prevent coughing fits.
Breastfeeding moms should be drinking more fluids to begin with; to treat a cold, increase fluids even more. Murkoff explains, “Fever, sneezes and a runny nose will cause your body to lose fluids that you and your body need.” Try hot teas and chicken soup (see below), hot diluted grapefruit or orange juice, or just keep a cup of water close and sip regularly.
Treating Sore Throats
Make a cup of tea with lots of honey, or add a teaspoon of honey and lemon juice to a cup of boiling water. Gargling warm salt water may also help a sore throat and get rid of any bacteria. Cough drops such as Halls or Vicks Vitamin C drops may soothe a sore throat.
Easing Nasal Congestion
Vicks Vaporub, or similar products, help with congestion. Simply rub on the chest or under the nose to clear sinuses (the latter also helps prevent your nose from turning red and irritated from frequent Kleenex use). A hot shower or a humidifier may also help. In It Worked For Me: 1001 Real-Life Pregnancy Tips, Michelle Kennedy recommends “eucalyptus, lavender, lemon and tee tree . . . for congestion: put two drops of each essential oil into a bowl of hot water, then place a towel over your head and inhale the steam for 10 minutes." Dr. Sears suggests flushing nasal passages with saltwater nose drops.
Kennedy recommends a tea made from 4 cloves, 1 tsp coriander seeds, a few slices of fresh ginger, 1 pt water, a slice of honey, and lemon. Boil the herbs and water together for twenty minutes, then add the lemon and boil for another 5 minutes before straining and sweetening the tea with honey. She says “cloves have antiseptic and stimulant qualities, coriander seeds aid digestion, honey is soothing to the throat, and ginger is soothing to the stomach.”
Traditional Cold Remedies
Garlic also boosts the immune system. Add more garlic while cooking meals, though garlic is best (and worst!) taken raw. Mix crushed or finely chopped garlic with butter or margarine and spread it on a slice of toast for a quick snack. Or mince a clove of garlic, add some olive oil and parmesan cheese, and serve it on salad or use it as a dip for bread. If nursing a very young baby, or one who is a picky eater, be aware that garlic may affect the taste of breast milk. I also make hummus using a few extra cloves of garlic (bonus: my girls love hummus, so if I think they are coming down with a cold, this is a good way to boost their immune systems too!).
Chicken noodle soup also works; make homemade soup with some chicken broth, noodles or rice, and a few teaspoons of lemon juice.
More Vitamin C
Kennedy notes that “any food rich in Vitamin C may help prevent colds... and ease them once you’ve got them.” Try citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit), broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage, blackberries or raspberries, mango or papaya, or cantaloupe. Vitamin C supplements are available, but large doses of vitamin C should be avoided when pregnant. Kennedy also warns that too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea.
This is probably one of the hardest "remedies" for me to follow, but sugar weakens your body's immune system. Dr. Sears explains, "Eating or drinking 100 grams (8 tbsp.) of sugar, the equivalent of about
two cans of soda, can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill
germs by forty percent. The immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts
less than thirty minutes after ingestion and may last for five hours." Reducing your sugar intake when you feel cold symptoms starting will help your immune system fight off the cold.
What cold-fighting remedies work for you?