Experts in pregnancy and breast-feeding health at the California Teratogen Information Service Pregnancy Health Information Line have issued an alert to expectant moms about the potential dangers of common cold medicines during pregnancy.
With the cold and flu season well underway, CTIS, a California nonprofit housed at the University of California, San Diego that educates the public about exposures during pregnancy and breast-feeding, sent out its top five cold remedy tips for pregnant women:
1. Less is more. Pregnant women should take only those medications needed for specific symptoms. Many cold remedies have three to six ingredients, some of which a pregnant woman and her developing baby do not need. If dealing with a cough, for example, a pregnant woman should avoid a combination drug that includes a nasal decongestant.
2. Oral decongestion alternatives. Although the majority of studies of oral decongestants during pregnancy are reassuring regarding first-trimester use, avoiding them in the first trimester still is advisable because of a possible risk albeit very low for vascular issues in the fetus. Pregnant women could consider saline drops or a short-term nasal spray decongestant alternative.
3. Herbal ingredient warning. Herbal ingredients may be in many over-the-counter medications, and chances are they have not been studied in pregnancy.
4. Throat lozenges and vitamin overload. Throat lozenges contain mostly sugar, but some may contain other ingredients such as zinc or vitamin C. When taking vitamin C, the recommended daily allowance during pregnancy is 80 to 100 milligrams per day; the recommended amount of zinc is only 11 mg per day.
5. Cough syrups and alcohol. Some cough syrups contain up to 10% alcohol. Pregnant women should look for alcohol-free cough syrup because developing babies do not need the alcohol exposure in addition to the other medications.
Women or healthcare providers with specific cold medications and other exposures during pregnancy or breast-feeding can call CTIS’ national affiliate, the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists at 866-626-6847. Those in California can call the CTIS Pregnancy Health Information Line at 800-532-3749 or receive instant message counseling at CTISPregnancy.org.