Causes & Symptoms of Flu During Pregnancy
Influenza, more commonly referred to as the flu, can be described as a common illness caused by a virus. This viral infection attacks your respiratory system, which comprises your throat, lungs and nose. Almost all of us have suffered from the flu at one time or the other. However, young children and elderly people are more prone to catching the flu. Women also become more vulnerable to the flu during pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimester. For most people, the flu is nothing more than a mere inconvenience, since they recover within a couple of days and go about their normal activities.
Pregnancy And Baby Care Questions
However, getting infected by the flu during pregnancy can be a major cause for concern (for the mother).
What are the Symptoms of Flu in Pregnancy?
Many people mistake the flu for a common cold initially, as the symptoms are quite similar. Some of the earlier symptoms of flu are:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
However, bear in mind that the development of a cold is gradual, whereas the flu comes on suddenly. Moreover, the symptoms of the flu are a lot more severe and generally also include:
- Fever (more than 100 degrees F)
- Muscle ache, especially in the legs, back and arms
- Sweats and chills
- Severe headache
- Dry cough
- Weakness and fatigue
- Nasal congestion
You could also experience increased nausea or vomiting during pregnancy, because of the flu. It is important that you notify your doctor immediately in case you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above.
What are the Causes?
Flu-causing viruses travel in droplets through the air. They are released into the environment when an infected person talks, sneezes or coughs. You could catch the infection directly from the surrounding, when you inhale. You may even pick up the germs when you touch objects on which virus-laden droplets have landed.
Normally, your body fights off the viruses that cause the flu or other illnesses, without you being aware of it. However, when you are pregnant, the functioning of you immune system decreases by a great extent. Because of the suppressed immunity, your body cannot fight off the flu-causing germs as it normally would.
Some of the factors that could increase your risks of contracting the flu during pregnancy include:
- Personal contact with an infected person
- Sharing utensils with a person who already has the flu
- Lack of adequate hygiene
Not getting enough sleep or rest could also make your body more prone to catching the flu during pregnancy.
What is the Treatment?
It is important to control the flu during pregnancy, as it increases your risk of developing a serious condition like pneumonia. The flu rarely causes birth defects in unborn babies but the same can’t be said about the treatment for this condition.
During pregnancy, there are several medicines that your doctor will advise you against, as they can have an adverse effect on your baby’s development. Therefore, you need to be very careful while treating flu in pregnancy.
- Medicines containing acetaminophen are considered safe during pregnancy, but do consult your doctor about the recommended dosage before taking them.
- Medicines containing ibuprofen or naproxen are generally a no-no, for pregnant women.
- The effects of decongestants on a growing fetus are also still not clear, which is why they are best avoided during pregnancy.
Luckily, there are several home and natural remedies that you can use to alleviate the symptoms of flu, some of which include:
- Getting a lot of rest and sleep during the day
- Drinking at least 2 liters of water, or other healthy liquids like freshly squeezed orange juice, tea and broth
- Placing a humidifier in the room, to keep the air moist
- Using a warm salt-water gargle to relieve a sore throat
- Inhaling steam for a short period of time, to clear up nasal congestion
It also helps if you follow a diet that is high in Vitamin C, as it boosts immunity and helps your body fight off the virus. This vitamin is present in foods like:
- Oranges and orange juice
- Bell pepper
- Red cabbage
Never take a vitamin supplement, unless your doctor asks you to do so.
Preventing the flu is a lot easier than treating it andyou can avoid this condition by getting vaccinated. Since the flu vaccine does not contain the live virus, it is considered safe for pregnancy women. However, you need to consult your doctor before you get vaccinated against the flu.