Prevention of Influenza and Common Cold
Preventing a common cold may be difficult as it can strike at any time. Keeping away from others suffering with a cold and avoiding crowded places may reduce the chances of catching the cold but these are not always practical measures.
In terms of the seasonal flu (influenza) and swine flu (H1N1), the same measures may be useful in addition to the appropriate vaccine just prior to the flu season.
List of Preventative Measures
- Wash your hands regularly with an antiseptic soap or hand wash.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Eat well, get enough rest and avoid stress. A healthy immune system is the best way to prevent an infection.
- Spot the early signs and symptoms and see your doctor immediately. Commencing with antiviral drugs like oseltamivir or zanamivir at the earliest possible stage will reduce the length and severity of the infection.
- Avoid health care facilities like hospitals and clinics unless necessary. Prenatal visits should not be missed.
- Stay away from those who are ill even if it is not an infectious disease. Immunocompromised patients are more likely to contract infections and may not be aware of it.
- Children attending day care and school are likely to be carriers for many infections. Insist on good hygiene among family members who are in close contact with you.
- Vaccinations are recommended for pregnant women. The inactivated influenza vaccine is safe in pregnancy. The 2010-2011 flu vaccine also contains the swine flu (H1N1) vaccine. This should be clarified with your doctor who should be made aware of your pregnant state if he/she is not your regular physician. Avoid live attenuated vaccines.
- Folic acid taken in early pregnancy may guard against possible adverse effects of hyperthermia caused by influenza such as neural tube defects in the fetus.
Treatment of Influenza and Common Cold in Pregnancy
- Bed rest is necessary. Avoid any form of exercise during this period.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Eat a healthy meals, including foods rich in vitamin C.
- Antiseptic mouth gargles or even a warm salt water gargle may help ease a sore throat. Throat lozenges may also be used.
- Avoiding smoking. This should have been discontinued prior to pregnancy. Secondary smoke is just as harmful.
- Antihistamines, decongestants and cough medicines are best avoided during pregnancy unless recommended by a doctor.
In addition to the above, a pregnant woman with a cold or influenza should be seen by a doctor and medication prescribed as necessary.
- Aggressive treatment with antipyretics is necessary to control a fever. Acetaminophen may be given safely in pregnancy but ibuprofen is to be avoided. However, no medication should be taken during pregnancy without first consulting a doctor.
- Early treatment with antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir (orally) or zanamivir (by inhalation) is recommended in pregnant women so as to reduce the duration and severity of the illness and prevent complications. Antiviral drugs have been used in pregnant women without seeming to cause harm to mother or baby. The potential risks to the fetus cannot be assessed thoroughly yet since these are relatively new drugs, although animal studies have shown no adverse effects. However, keeping in mind the risks associated with influenza during pregnancy, especially in a pandemic situation, the benefits of using these drugs possibly outweigh any adverse effects.
- Antibiotics may be necessary for complications such as bacterial pneumonia.
Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on September 9, 2010