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Pregnancy and flu

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Frequently asked questions

Getting sick is never fun, but can be especially hard when you're pregnant. Your immune system is weakened during pregnancy, making it easier for you to develop problems from flu viruses.

Q. Why should I get vaccinated if I'm pregnant?

A. The best thing you can do to stay healthy during flu season is to get a flu shot as early as possible:

  • Pregnant women who get a flu shot get sick less often with the flu than do those who didn't get one.
  • Babies whose mothers had a flu shot in pregnancy get sick with the flu less often than babies whose mothers didn't get one.

Q. What else should I do to stay healthy?

A. Frequent and thorough hand washing is your best bet to ward off germs. Also, avoid contact with people who are sick. Find other ways to prevent the flu.

Q. When should I contact my doctor's office?

A. If you're pregnant, contact your doctor's office right away if you suspect you have the flu or if you have close contact with someone who has the flu.

Also be sure to let your doctor know if your symptoms do not improve with the medication he or she recommended for you.

Q. Why is it important to contact my doctor's office right away?

A. Pregnant women who get sick with the flu can have serious health problems. Your doctor will make a recommendation about whether antiviral medication is right for you. Treatment with antiviral drugs (such as Tamiflu or Relenza) should start as soon as possible for the best benefit.

You should also contact your doctor's office right away if you have a cough that is getting worse, as this could be a sign of pneumonia or whooping cough (also called pertussis).

Q. What else should I do if I don't feel well?

A. If you have any cold or flu symptoms, stay home (except to get medical care) and rest, even if your symptoms are mild. Also, drink plenty of fluids.

If you have a fever, treat it right away to avoid risk to the fetus. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is your best option for treating fever during pregnancy.

Q. Which medications should I avoid during pregnancy?

A. Doctors usually tell women to avoid taking medicines during pregnancy. This means you may not be able to take the same cold- or flu-relief medication you relied on before you became pregnant.

Definitely avoid the following medications:

  • aspirin
  • ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • all other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen (Aleve)

Q. Which medications are safe during pregnancy?

A. The following medications are usually safe:

  • acetaminophen (Tylenol) for aches and fever
  • dextromethorphan (Robitussin-DM or Delsym), guaifenesin, or cough drops for a cough
  • pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) or saline nasal rinses for stuffy or runny nose

However, talk to your practitioner before taking any other over-the-counter medicine. Also, be sure to let your doctor know if your symptoms do not improve with medication.

Q. What home remedies are safe while I'm pregnant?

A. If you get sick while you're pregnant, try to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Try drug-free home remedies for relieving cold and flu symptoms during pregnancy.

Q. Is it safe to breastfeed if I have the flu?

A. Yes. If you are nursing a new baby, it is safe to breastfeed if you've had the vaccine or the flu. You cannot give the flu to your baby through your breast milk.

Breastfeeding and breast milk protect your baby's health in many ways. Babies who are not breastfed get sick more often and more severely than babies who are breastfed. Mothers pass on antibodies (a type of protein made by your immune system that fight off infection) in their breast milk.

If possible, only adults who are not sick should care for infants. Remember to wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before feeding or handling your baby. And be sure not to cough or sneeze in your baby's face.

Q. How can I protect my other children from getting the flu?

A. Children 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine. Infants younger than 6 months old can't be vaccinated. If you are caring for a very young infant, you should get vaccinated to help protect the infant.

Immunizing parents, especially mothers, is good for both mothers and infants. Other family members who live with or care for your newborn or you should get vaccinated too.

In addition, you and your baby's caregivers should:

  • Wash with soap and water any items that have been in your baby's mouth.
  • Avoid sharing toys and other items that have been in your baby's mouth.
  • Keep your infant out of crowded areas and away from people who are sick.

Q. Where can I learn more about pregnancy and the flu?

A. Read about what pregnant women should know about the flu from the CDCKaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites..

Reviewed by: Sally Berga, MD, and Randy Bergen, MD, August 2013

Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2011 Kaiser Permanente

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