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Is cold medication safe to take while pregnant?
Q: I am 33 weeks pregnant and have just contracted a cold—maybe even the flu. Is there any medication I can take, or do I just have to ride it out?
Mella Albany
A: Nobody likes a cold, especially during pregnancy. Most winter colds are caused by viruses and will eventually resolve after several unpleasant days. I recommend trying natural remedies before resorting to cold medication. Drink lots of fluids, get plenty of rest and don’t underestimate the power of chicken soup.

For aches and pains, a combination of acetaminophen (Tylenol®), rest, massage and heating packs could provide relief. For a sore throat, try lozenges and gargling with salt water. And for a stuffy nose, try saline nose drops or use a humidifier, vaporizer or steam to loosen secretions.

If you’re not getting relief from the above measures and find your symptoms prevent you from sleeping, there are several over-the-counter pharmaceutical products available. For nasal congestion, pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®) should be used with caution. A recent study suggested an association between using vasoconstrictive drugs like pseudoephedrine, smoking and an increased incidence of a birth defect called petroltroschisis. I recommend asking your doctor for his/her opinion before taking this; it may be safer to wait until the second or third trimester to use pseudoephedrine. If you have a cough, detromethrophan (Robitussin® DM) is considered safe during pregnancy. And for a runny nose and itchy watery eyes, chlorpheniramine (Chlortrimeton®) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) can be used. Be aware that these last products may cause drowsiness. Never exceed recommended dosages. Even acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful in excessive doses. If you develop a high fever, a sinus infection or a productive cough, contact your doctor.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist