It's cold and flu season in Utah, and new and pregnant moms are at risk like anyone else. But unlike the rest of us, they can have different treatment needs. Staff of the Pregnancy Risk Line, a joint service of the Utah Department of Health and University of Utah Health Care, are standing by their phones, ready to help.
"Every year around this time, we get a significant number of calls from pregnant and breastfeeding women in Utah who are battling colds and are worried about which medications they can and cannot take," said Al Romeo, PhD, nurse for the hotline. "Callers have valid concerns because there are certain ingredients in over-the-counter medications that could be harmful to their babies," explains Romeo.
The following are the Top Five Tips for moms and moms-to-be coping with winter ailments:
1.Less is better. Take only those medications needed for your symptoms. Many cold remedies have 3-6 ingredients, some of which you and your baby do not necessarily need. If your major complaint is a cough, avoid combination drugs that include an antihistamine. Cold medications have not been known to cause birth defects, but they can reduce breast milk production.
2.Oral decongestant alternatives. Women with high blood pressure should avoid oral decongestants in pregnancy. These women should consider saline nose drops or a short-term nasal spray decongestant instead. All can benefit from a humidifier.
3.Herbal ingredient warning. Watch out for herbal ingredients in many over-the-counter medications. Chances are they have not been studied for safety in pregnancy.
4.Throat Lozenges & Vitamin Overload. While most throat lozenges contain mainly sugar, some may include other ingredients such as zinc or vitamin C. When taking vitamin C, the recommended daily allowance for a pregnant or breastfeeding mom is 80-100 mg per day and zinc is 11 mg per day. The dose indicated on the lozenges package is usually too high for pregnant or breastfeeding moms. Drinking a daily glass of 100% fruit juice that contains vitamin C will provide the same benefit.
5.Cough Syrups & Alcohol. Some medications for colds and coughs contain alcohol. Although the amount is small and not harmful, consider alcohol-free formulations if you're still concerned. Don't hesitate to ask your pharmacist to help you choose the proper medication to help with your cold and cough symptoms.
For more information about the safety of medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding, contact the Pregnancy Risk Line at 800-822-2229 (BABY).
The PRL is a free service for Utah families and health care providers and has been answering questions about the effects of medicines, chemicals and other maternal exposures on a developing fetus or breastfed baby for nearly 30 years.