Bump-friendly tips for winter bugs

Can’t stop sniffing & sneezing? Bounce back with the help of our expert advice on coping with coughs & colds in pregnancy

Seem to be going down with every germ du jour? It’s not your imagination: you are more prone to catching bugs when you’re pregnant! “Colds are more common because your immunity is slightly reduced, to allow your body to carry your baby,” says Boots Parenting Club midwife Emma Mills.  

And alas, they’re hard to avoid because there are more than 200 strains of the virus. “You’d have to be a hermit to avoid ever catching one,” says Professor Ronald Eccles, leading colds expert at the University of Cardiff. Hmm… thanks, Mother Nature.


How to prevent a bug

Given that most over-the-counter cold remedies aren’t bump-friendly, your new bug-busting mantra has to be prevention. 

“Common cold viruses are usually passed from person to person by hand contact or touching contaminated surfaces,” says Professor Eccles. So make thorough handwashing your new must-do habit – use warm water and two pumps of soap, and lather your hands for at least 20 seconds. And pop some antiviral hand wipes or spray in your bag for when you have no access to soap and water.

As for fending off flu: the Department of Health recommends mums-to-be get a free NHS flu vaccination, as flu can lead to complications when you’re expecting. “Flu vaccinations given by injection do not involve live viruses and are suitable in pregnancy,” says Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers. “In fact, studies show that women who have the vaccination while pregnant pass some protection on to their babies for the first few months after birth.” During flu season, while you’re pregnant, ask your GP surgery about a flu vaccination. Or you may be able to get a free NHS vaccination at a participating pharmacy, including many Boots stores*. See in store for details.


How to soothe a bug

But what if something ducks under your defences? “Every cold’s different,” says Angela, “and there are bump-friendly products that can help ease discomfort. Ask your pharmacist for advice on which are suitable for you to take.” 

Meanwhile, try not to worry about your baby. “Babies are very protected: they aren’t affected by your cold – or even a tummy bug usually,” says Emma. “It’s just you that feels rubbish. Do, however, watch your temperature and see your GP if it goes over 38˚C or you develop flu symptoms.”


How to recover from a bug

The symptoms of a seasonal lurgy can drag on longer than you might expect – a cold may last a week and a half, and coughs for up to three. Allow time and plenty of rest for a full recovery. “Pregnancy has to be the best excuse in the world for a duvet day!” says Emma. 

Make sure you eat a healthy, varied diet, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and if you’re not already, consider a pregnancy supplement containing zinc to help support your immune system**. 

Emma also recommends gentle exercise once you begin to feel well enough. “It can boost energy levels, help relieve tension and aid sleep,” she says. Just what the doctor ordered!

When you've got a baby on board you can find everyone's got a piece of advice to share. Take our pregnancy myths quiz to sort the truth from the old wives' tales. 

*England and Wales only (during the flu season). Subject to specially trained pharmacist and stock availability. Check your local store for opening times. NHS eligibility applies. Ask your pharmacist for details. Scotland and Northern Ireland residents should check with their GP.

**You should seek advice from your pharmacy team if you are pregnant and considering a supplement, to check it is suitable for you.