Cold Remedies for Mamas on Bed Rest

December 11th, 2009

I think I’m getting a cold. The other day I was teaching a fitness class, bent over and nearly fell on my face. My head got that “full” feeling and I thought, “Oh no, not now!” I have been feeling tired and have been burning the candle at both ends to get everything done for the holidays before my kids get out of school for winter break. I suppose I may have over done it a bit.

I hated being sick when I was pregnant and with each pregnancy I got at least one cold. Because of the stress of pregnancy on the immune system, pregnant women are at greater risk for contracting various cold and flu viruses. In this era of H1N1 it’s hard to know just what to do if you get sick. Many obstetricians allow pregnant mamas to take a few over the counter cold remedies; Tylenol, Sudafed and Benadryl are commonly regarded by obstetricians as safe to take. But if you are on bed rest, sometimes the recommendations are different-especially if you are taking medications for diabetes, high blood pressure or to halt preterm labor. Because of drug to drug interactions, if you are taking medications for any one of the aforementioned conditions or for some other reason, you need to be especially careful  and consult with your obstetrician or midwife before taking ANY over the counter could products.

When viruses strike during pregnancy, it can be helpful to employ some of the “old timey” remedies that our mothers and grandmothers may have used to relieve the symptoms. Most of these remedies come from items in your pantry and are safe to use in pregnancy. But always check with your obstetrician or midwife to be sure.


Vicks Vapor Rub (For chest):  Apply a warm towel or hot water bottle over your chest after application to help relieve chest congestion and tightness.

Saline Nasal Washes: Saline nasal sprays are an excellent and safe way to clear congested (and runny) nasal passages. If you want to help clear the sinuses, use a Neti pot or other nasal irrigation system in combination with the saline. Saline solutions are easily made with 8 oz of warm water and 1/4 tsp of non-iodized salt.

Vaporizer/Humidifier: Many people recommend cool mist humidifiers, but I found that when I am sick I am typically cold and prefer a warm mist humidifier. I suppose that this is a personal preference but you may want to ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are undecided.

Sore Throat

Tea: Tea is far and away my favorite thing to relieve a sore throat. I like to make tea as hot as I can stand it and sip it. Of course when you are pregnant, you want to avoid caffeinated teas as the caffeine will cross the placenta and babies don’t clear caffeine as easily as we do. Non-herbal teas such as  Green and Black teas contain caffeine. Depending on your situation, your OB or midwife may not want you to have caffeine so you may need to avoid these and other caffeinated teas. If you are unsure, ask before consuming these teas.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, many herbal teas and most commercial herb teas (Celestial seasonings teas for example) are safe during pregnancy. Many herbalists and midwives may disagree so if you have questions, definitely consult with an experienced herbalist. However, the American Pregnancy Association advises caution with the following herbs:

Dandelion-Insufficient, reliable information exists regarding safety in pregnancy

Chamomile-Insufficient, reliable information exists regarding safety in pregnancy

Nettles-Natural Medicines Database gives nettles a rating of Likely Unsafe , even though it is used in countless pregnancy teas and recommended by most midwives and herbalists.

Rosehips-Insufficient, reliable information exists regarding safety during pregnancy

Alfalfa-Possibly unsafe

Yellow Dock-Possibly unsafe

For more information, visit the American Pregnancy Association Website,

Saline Gargles

This ancient remedy is still very effective at relieving a sore throat. Place about one teaspoon of regular table salt in about 2 cups of warm water. Gargle as needed. The good thing about this is that you can do it as often as you like.


Honey-I recently learned from some pediatricians that a teaspoon of honey taken every few hours can alleviate coughs. No one seemed too sure about the mechanism, but I would imagine that the honey coats the throat and may relieve the cough reflex. No proof here, just a thought on my part. When viruses strike during pregnancy, it can be helpful to employ some of the “old timey” remedies that our mothers and grandmothers may have used. Most of these remedies come from items in your pantry and are safe to use in pregnancy. But always check with your obstetrician or midwife to be sure.

Vick Vapor Rub-This is by far the most “out there” remedy that I had heard, but I tried it myself last year and it did allow me to sleep. You apply Vicks Vapor Rub to the soles of your feet and then put on thick socks and climb into bed. Now I don’t know why it’s effective; perhaps the socks help the Vicks to be absorbed into the soles of the feet and then the effects travel all over the body. I really can’t explain this and wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t tried it and had it work. While it may not be effective, it is something you can try that won’t harm you or your baby.

Now remember, these are a combination of “wives tales” and old time home remedies and while some may scoff at them, some are effective. Likewise, since home remedies can be effective and are essentially using products “off label”, you should check with your OB or midwife before using them. But in most cases, they are far less toxic than some of the over the counter and prescription remedies (and often far less potent) and may provide some much needed relief.

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