Achoo! What to do when you’re sick
Some medications are not safe during pregnancy. There are natural alternatives that can bring relief. Natalie Nelson tells us what remedies help snotty noses, sore throats, headaches and sinus issues.
Pregnancy is a time of joy, excitement, anticipation and… runny noses, allergies, and a host of other unexpected maladies. Even though we try our best to be healthy during this time, it’s not always possible to avoid bugs and illnesses. Medication can have many side effects – not only for mom, but for baby too. Because it is unethical to test medication on pregnant women in order to ascertain these side effects, and we’re not sure what any medication will do to your growing baby, healthcare providers caution pregnant women not us anything stronger than a paracetamol. So, what happens when we get ill and aren’t able to use medication that we would usually take? There are alternatives available that can help you feel better when you have a cold, flu, sinusitis or seasonal allergies.
It is thought that a woman’s immune system’s defences actually lower during pregnancy, and particularly in the first trimester. This is because one of the primary objectives of the immune system is to eliminate foreign cells that could pose a threat to the body as a whole. Ironically, the growing foetus is seen as a foreign mass of cells, and in turn perceived as “the enemy” by your body. Thankfully, Mother Nature steps in and subtly alters the immune system’s defences during pregnancy, keeping your baby safe from its protective shields. This same process, however, also leaves you open to more bugs than before pregnancy.
First line of defence
The first step is keeping the bugs at bay. To do this, we need keep our immune systems as strong as possible.Don’t give it any reason to compromise itself any further. Preventative measures include:
- Washing hands regularly, thus preventing germs from being transmitted.
- Taking good quality prenatal vitamins.
- Getting enough sleep.
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Regular exercise.
- Taking additional immune boosting supplements if necessary.
- Reducing stress.
- Staying away from sick people wherever possible.
The steps above are unfortunately not always enough to ward the lurgies. Thankfully there are many wonderful alternative remedies that can help you get through being sick:
Apple Cider Vinegar alkalinises the body. Most illnesses are not able to survive, or at least flourish, in an alkaline environment. If you feel a sore throat developing, gargle with apple cider vinegar. You can also drink one to two tablespoons of it in warm water or tea, three times a day to help reduce the length of a cold or flu.
Honey is antibacterial, antiseptic and antimicrobial. A teaspoon of honey works fabulously to soothe a tickly throat and an irritating cough. Honey mixed with rooibos tea is also a soothing drink for a cough and this is also an excellent way to stay hydrated. Thyme (a very good expectorant) can be added to the tea mix.
Coconut Oil is antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal. Coconut oil is a fantastic medium for a process called oil pulling. Oil pulling is a way to eliminate toxins from your system, and it’s safe and gentle enough to do throughout your pregnancy. By eliminating toxins, you will help your body stay less susceptible to creating conducive breeding grounds for bugs. Oil pulling is also an excellent way to maintain oral hygiene during pregnancy.
Salt water, also called saline, is very good as a nasal rinse. It will help to loosen thick mucus and clean out your sinuses. This makes it an effective allergy remedy. You can use ready-made saline nasal rinses from pharmacies, or make your own.
Blueberries are high in natural aspirin, and can help lower fevers and reduce aches and pains. These yummy little berries are also great little pick-me-ups that contain high quantities of vitamin C, perfect for boosting your immune system.
Hot lemon water helps to relieve headaches and hydrate the lymphatic system, and in so doing, flush out harmful toxins that could cause sickness. In addition to this, keeping hydrated (and not just with hot lemon water) is very helpful at preventing headaches, a common ailment in pregnancy.
Hot and cold compresses are fabulous for relieving stress and sinus pressure, and relaxing tense muscles – all of which are common causes of headaches.
Aromatherapy, essential oils, acupressure and acupuncture all have their benefits for various ailments throughout pregnancy. However, please be advised that these should only be administered by professionals in their respective fields and with specific knowledge of how these treatments can be used during pregnancy. Do not self-medicate with these options.
As with all things during pregnancy, always clear any treatments, both over the counter and natural, with your primary caregiver first. Also, if you are ill and just not getting better, do not stay away from your doctor in fear of being given medication. There is a fine balance between pushing through an ailment, and allowing the ailment to become a bigger problem than necessary. Always see your doctor if you experience a fever, become dehydrated, feel dizzy or have a persistently bad headache. This is quite important, as these could signal pre-eclampsia.
Above all, take care of yourself during this special time. Rest well. Eat well, exercise, and indulge in some pampering. It is good for the soul and the body!