Cold Medications During Pregnancy - What To Take (2021) (2022)

This article does not replace medical advice given to you by your healthcare provider. Always consult with your physician prior to starting any medications or therapies. This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. If a purchase is made using links on this page, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

It’s not uncommon to get a cold, cough, or respiratory virus during pregnancy. Especially if you happen to be pregnant during flu season. So what can you do about it without causing any pregnancy complications?

Cold medications are not studied on pregnant women, so using cough suppressants and oral decongestants can be a bit nerve wracking. Instead, researchers study the pregnancy outcomes of women that have taken these medications and see if they did any harm to the developing fetus .

Can you take cold medicine when pregnant?

There is a huge variety of cough and cold products available. It can be so hard to know what to take!

Good news is, most cold medications are pregnancy-safe, especially in the second or third trimester. There’s no need to suffer with sinus infections or an upper respiratory tract infection – just find the medication that fits your symptoms best with your doctor’s approval.

Cold Medications During Pregnancy - What To Take (2021) (1)

In general, over the counter medications are safe for pregnancy (source). Short-term use is typically OK, especially after the first trimester of pregnancy. But be careful with liquid cough medications – as they often contain alcohol. Medications like DayQuil and NyQuil may not be safe.

If you are experiencing cold symptoms, call your doctor and see what they recommend you do. As a general rule, you should always ask your provider before starting any medical treatments. Your specific symptoms may be better treated by prescription medications. In most cases, the cold medicines you have in the medicine cabinet are OK, but you should always call your doctor and ask first.

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(Video) Colds and Pregnancy | Shane Reeves, MD, Maternal and Fetal Medicine | UCHealth

Before taking over the counter (OTC) medications, try some natural remedies. During the first trimester of pregnancy, it is safest to start with these natural cold symptom relievers and to switch to medication if your symptoms don’t improve and with doctor’s approval.

If your symptoms do not approve, you can use medication as well as use some of these natural cold relieving methods.

Natural cold remedies

For a sore throat:

Sip on hot water with lemon or a cup of tea with honey. A salt water gargle can also be helpful for soothing a sore throat. Sucking on hard candy or a lozenge can also help a sore throat.

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For a stuffy or runny nose:

Run a cool mist humidifier or step into a steamy shower to relieve nasal congestion.

Gently massaging the sinuses can also help with the drainage. You can also try irrigating your sinuses with saline nose drops or a neti pot. Drinking extra fluids can also help to thin mucus and make you less stuffy.

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For a cough

A tablespoon of honey can be very helpful in reducing cough, especially a very dry cough! Add a few spoonfuls to your tea, too. Drinking extra fluids is also a good idea for a pregnant woman, but especially when you are coughing or having a lot of chest congestion.

Sucking on hard candy, cough drops, or lollipops may also help a cough.

Related: Best Baby Shower Food Ideas For Lunch

(Video) Are over the counter medicines for cold & cough safe during pregnancy? - Dr. H S Chandrika

Common cold and cough medicine ingredients

Be sure to check the ingredients of the medications you are taking to make sure you are not exceeding the daily maximum dosage. Many combination cough and cold medications contain similar ingredients.

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Dextromethorphan is a common cough suppressant found in over the counter drugs. You may notice many medications have “DM” next to them to indicate dextromethorphan has been added (think Robitussin DM and Mucinex DM).Though it is a category C drug, studies show use of dextromethorphan (DM) does not increase risk of major malformations or birth defects (source).It is often advertised as “for severe cough”. Be sure not to exceed the maximum dose, especially if you are taking a combination otc drug.


A common decongestant, pseudoephedrine is found in many cold medications. Some studies point to avoiding the use of pseudoephedrine in the first trimester, though many healthcare providers believe it to be safe. It works by constricting the blood vessels in the nose to help you breathe more easily.


Another decongestant found in many cold medications. Like pseudoephedrine, it may be safest to avoid during the first trimester. However, it has been commonly recommended for use during pregnancy for years.


Also known as Benadryl, diphenhydramine is a common antihistamine. Though it may make you drowsy, it has not shown to affect fetal development (source). Antihistamines are often prescribed to relieve nausea in pregnancy and to help allergy symptoms.

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Can you take Robitussin DM when pregnant?

Robitussin DM is a cough and cold combination medicine with guaifenesin and dextromethorphan as main ingredients. Guaifenesin loosens mucus while dextromethorphan works to suppress cough. Both ingredients are safe to use during pregnancy.

Robitussin products have not shown an increased risk of major malformations in a fetus, but your doctor may recommend waiting until late pregnancy to take strong combination products such as this.

Related: 6 Must-Have Items For Your Third Trimester Of Pregnancy

(Video) can i take cold medicine during pregnancy

Can I take Sudafed/Sudafed PE when pregnant?

Sudafed and Sudafed PE are generally safe OTC medications to take during pregnancy after the first trimester according to the Cleveland Clinic. Regular Sudafed’s main ingredient is pseudoephedrine, a decongestant. Sudafed PE is similar to the plain Sudafed but it contains phenylephrine.

Regular Sudafed has been a go-to for a sinus infection during pregnancy for a long time. This cold medicine works by constricting blood flow to the nasal passages. Common side effects include dry mouth, feeling like your heart is racing, and high blood pressure.

Be careful using this when breastfeeding – Sudafed is known to dry up breast milk supply.

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Can I take Mucinex when pregnant?

The active ingredients in Mucinex, Mucinex D, and Mucinex DM are guaifenesin, dextromethorphan, and pseudoephedrine. Generally these medications are safe for pregnant patients after the first trimester.

Can I use Afrin nasal spray when pregnant?

Afrin nasal spray’s active ingredient is oxymetazoline. It has not been well studied, so experts recommend using nasal sprays like Afrin for short term use during pregnancy (source). A saline nasal spray is another great option.

Can I drink Emergen-c when pregnant?

Emergen-c is considered safe during pregnancy for short term use. It is also considered to be safe when breastfeeding and won’t drastically affect breast milk.

A systematic review done by the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that vitamin C supplementation did not increase risk of preterm birth, preeclampsia, stillbirth, neonatal or perinatal death, or intrauterine growth restriction. However, it is still not recommended for routine supplementation at this time. If you are taking prenatal vitamins, you are probably getting enough vitamin C to help your immune system.

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Is Vicks safe during pregnancy?

Vicks VapoRub is safe during pregnancy. Vapor rubs can help with nasal congestion and the Vicks formula of menthol, camphor and eucalyptus oil is considered to be safe during pregnancy (source).

(Video) How To Treat A Cold During Pregnancy | What I Tried + Natural Remedies

There are other different Vicks products that are also OK during pregnancy. Steam inhalation is a good idea with sinus congestion, and Vicks vaposteam in a steam vaporizer and a safe option for a stuffy nose. It uses steam to help clear the nasal passages better than the Vicks vapor rub alone.

The Vicks Vaposhower is another great option to make the shower steam more effective.

Can you use ibuprofen, like Advil or Motrin, when pregnant?

You may want to reach for the bottle of ibuprofen or Aleve to relieve your body aches, but you should steer clear of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).The FDA does not recommend using any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs during pregnancy.

According to the FDA statement released in October 2020, use of NSAIDs after 20-weeks causes an increased risk of malformations and damage to the kidneys of the fetus. This can result in low amniotic fluid. It’s best to avoid the use of ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofena, celecoxib, or other NSAIDs during pregnancy. This includes the brand name drugs like Motrin, Aleve, Advil and Celebrex.

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Is Tylenol safe during pregnancy?

Tylenol used to be the go-to drug during pregnancy for fever, body aches and pains, or headaches. A NIH-funded study suggests that acetaminophen products, such as Tylenol, may increase the child’s risk of developing attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorder. Other studies have found a potential link to acetaminophen use during pregnancy and asthma (source).

Here’s what we know: it’s all about risk versus benefit. For short term use, acetaminophen or Tylenol is generally safe. Maternal pain can cause changes to blood pressure and maternal fever also poses risk to the fetus. Discuss with your doctor whether using acetaminophen is safe in your stage of pregnancy. Stick to the recommended dose and Tylenol is OK for short-term use as a pain reliever or fever reducer during pregnancy.

To avoid over-using acetaminophen, try using prenatal massage or a warm soak in the tub for back pain. Here are other ways to relieve the discomforts of late pregnancy like back pain.

If you’re feeling unwell, try some of the more natural remedies or give your health care provider a call. They are there to help!

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Is it OK to take NyQuil while pregnant? ›

Safety of NyQuil ingredients in pregnancy

You should not take NyQuil Severe Cold & Flu if you're pregnant. Use of its active ingredient in early pregnancy may be linked with some birth defects. You should also talk to your doctor before using the liquid forms of NyQuil Cold & Flu and NyQuil Cough during pregnancy.

Can you take Tylenol cold and flu if pregnant? ›

Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Acetaminophen is a first-choice medication for pain relief in pregnant people. Some researchers suggest that taking acetaminophen during pregnancy might not be as safe as previously thought. But ACOG still recommends it as one of the only safe pain relievers expectant mothers can take.

What is the fastest way to get rid of a cold while pregnant? ›

What can you do to feel better if you get a cold during pregnancy?
  1. Rest. Taking a cold to bed doesn't necessarily shorten its duration, but if your body is begging for some rest, be sure to listen.
  2. Stay active. ...
  3. Keep eating. ...
  4. Focus on foods with vitamin C. ...
  5. Chow down on more zinc. ...
  6. Drink up. ...
  7. Supplement safely. ...
  8. Sleep easy.
14 Jan 2022

What happens if you get a cold while pregnant? ›

The good news is that even though you probably feel fatigued, the symptoms of a cold or flu are not typically dangerous to your baby. However, it is important to take the necessary measures to avoid contracting a cold or cough during pregnancy and to treat it once you get one.

Do colds last longer when pregnant? ›

Most women will experience at least one cold during their pregnancy. You're more prone to colds—and they can last longer—while you're expecting, because pregnancy suppresses the immune system.

What happens if you get a cold while pregnant? ›

Will having a cold affect the baby? Having a cold during pregnancy will not usually affect the fetus. Colds are mild illnesses that a person's immune system can handle relatively easily. Having a cold during pregnancy will not usually affect the fetus.

Is it OK to have cold and cough while pregnant? ›

The good news is that even though you probably feel fatigued, the symptoms of a cold or flu are not typically dangerous to your baby. However, it is important to take the necessary measures to avoid contracting a cold or cough during pregnancy and to treat it once you get one.

Can I use Vicks when pregnant? ›

Yes, vapor rub is safe to use during pregnancy.

What is the fastest way to cure a cough while pregnant? ›

Some additional tips that can help relieve excess coughing during pregnancy are:
  1. Taking sips of water (preferably water that is at room temperature)
  2. Swallowing 1 spoonful of honey.
  3. Inhaling steam from a basin of hot water. You can also add 2 drops of eucalyptus essential oil to the hot water.


1. Top 5 Best Cold Medicine Review in 2021
(Epic Deals)
2. Pregnancy Discharge | Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy | WHAT TO KNOW
(Pregnancy and Postpartum TV)
3. Simple Home Remedies for Cold and Cough | Dr. Hansaji Yogendra
(The Yoga Institute)
4. 10 Common Mistakes That Every Pregnant Woman Should Avoid |10 Things To be Avoided During Pregnancy
5. Is Itching During Pregnancy Dangerous? | Jeevanarekha Women's Health| 19th April 2021| Full Episode
(ETV Life India)
6. Eating well in your first trimester
(My Doctor - Kaiser Permanente)

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