When you are pregnant, the need to watch your health is significantly higher. It is not just a question of your health, but of the developing baby also. This makes it extremely significant as different bacteria and viruses could affect the baby’s development and even lead to complications with pregnancy and childbirth.
The flu, short for influenza, is a mild viral infection that affects the upper airways, including the nose, throat, and sinuses. The usual symptoms include nose blockage, runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, cough, heavy headed feeling. It is caused by a virus and therefore there is no remedy for it. It has to run its course which usually takes about 7 days, and the body will fight off the infection on its own.
Symptomatic treatment including paracetamol and adequate hydration can help live through the flu. Though it is common in any weather, the winters increase the risk.
Another increased risk factor is the reduced immune levels in a pregnant woman, making them more prone to catching the flu. This could lead to complications like pneumonia which might require hospitalisation and prolonged treatment with antibiotics. The baby could also be at risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, and premature birth.
Symptoms: If you do catch the flu during your pregnancy, you will notice the following symptoms a headache, runny nose, fatigue, sore throat, shortness of breath, coughing, sudden chills or fever, diarrhoea or vomiting, and body aches, and loss of appetite.
Management: If you suspect that you could have the flu, contact the doctor immediately. Taking safe antiviral medications can help reduce the duration of the illness and reduce pain and suffering. In addition, getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids can help recovery. Acetaminophen can help manage the fever, while Robitussin and guaifenesin can help manage the cough.
Prevention: If you are planning for pregnancy or are already pregnant, it makes great sense to get vaccinated for the flu. This can help prevent a flu attack and sail through pregnancy smoothly. In addition to protecting the mother, the flu vaccine also transmits the virus to the newborn, which gets immunity for up to 6 months of life. The vaccine also has a beneficial effect on the newborn.
It is safe to get the flu vaccine during pregnancy, though taking it in the early months is advisable. It is also safe during breastfeeding with no harmful effects documented. In addition, some healthy habits like regularly washing hands, eating healthy, getting adequate sleep, and keeping a safe distance from people with flu can help prevent flu attack.
While prevention is the best solution, if contracted, the flu can be managed well by seeking immediate medical attention.