Combating cold symptoms while pregnant: Safe natural Remedies

About a week ago I came down with a terrible case of bronchitis.  Every pregnant lady I know tells me that you get sicker when you’re pregnant.  I concur.  I haven’t been that miserable in a decade, at least.  What’s worse is all the cold medicines you’ve been saving since your last bout with a cold are useless.  Robitussin?  According to the FDA:  pregnant women should only take it if the benefits outweigh the risks… and by the way we have no idea what the risks are.  Tylenol?  Sure.  In small doses and do not under any circumstances exceed the maximum dose.  Which means if your fever starts coming back around hour 3.5, you are just going to have to suffer until hour six to eight before you can get some relief again.  Nyquil?  No.  Sorry.


As I lay in misery on the couch, wrapped in ten blankets and wheezing, I researched home remedies (and called my mother)–natural ways to combat the cold symptoms that were leaving me in agony.  Here’s what I came up with… what’s your favorite natural remedy?

1)  Drink lots of fluids.  Ice water seemed to calm the urge to cough, but when I needed some flavor I also drank Emergen-C, orange juice, and mint tea with honey (good for the throat and very soothing).  I also made a concoction of lemon juice, honey, a little water, and a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper (heated).  The pepper opened up my stuffed nose, the honey and lemon soothed my throat wonderfully.  If it sounds disgusting, lemon and honey (I put in a couple tablespoons of honey for two cups of drink, but others use less) were surprisingly good together, and I couldn’t even taste the cayenne–even when I put in too much!  Any hot herbal tea on your throat will likely feel very good.

2)  Steamy showers.  No hot baths because I’m pregnant and apparently this gift from the gods is now off limits… but the shower felt just as good.  My voice sounded much better after standing in a steamy shower for awhile, and my cough would go away for a lengthy period of time.  I also tried steam in a pot on the stove, and putting my face over it, with a towel over my head to make a tiny steam room…  the effect wasn’t the same.  I think the hot water on my chest while I was in the shower also helped.

3)  Keep blowing your nose.  Snuffling keeps the nasty stuff inside your body.  Blow it out–gently!  I made my ears sore for half a day by putting too much gusto behind one particular blow.  Same with phlegm from your cough.  Spit it out!

4)  Sleep.  I always felt best after a nap.  This was good and bad as it also gave me the false impression that I was getting better.  If you’re coughing horribly and your belly isn’t too big yet, try sleeping on your tummy.  The cough reflex is in the back of your throat, and if you sleep on your tummy you can get some relief from that incessant need to cough.  I couldn’t sleep on my belly, but I did manage to sleep half way over by using a large body pillow.  This helped with the cough quite a bit.

5)  Gargle with salt water.  I did this just a couple of times, more out of sick-induced laziness than because it wasn’t effective.  It definitely soothes the throat for an extended period of time.  I used a teaspoon of salt for two cups of water.  It was hard to dissolve the salt at first, so I stuck it in the microwave for ten seconds.  Problem solved!

6)  Chicken soup and Ramen noodles.  Okay, the former is healthier, but those ramen noodles were the perfect comfort food for this sick old lady.  Both are warm, mostly brothy foods that feel good going down.  Apparently the chicken soup can even help boost your immune system.  Though it hasn’t been tested, I am convinced that Ramen does the same.

7)  I didn’t have a bad headache with my cold, though I know that many who get sick do.  A great way to relieve the headache is to soak your feet in hot water, as hot as you can stand it… as the water cools or your feet adjust, dump out the cooling water and add more hot.  Repeat for at least ten minutes.  I think the idea is to draw the blood from your head, giving your throbbing veins some relief.  This has worked great for me in the past.

8)  Hot and Cold compresses.  My mother swears by this technique.  While it felt very good on my sore throat, it didn’t provide relief for as long as some of the other remedies I tried.  Get a piece of cloth–a handkerchief or some other light cotton material.  Soak it in cold/ice cold water and wring it out.  Immediately place it on your neck, folded so that the throat area is covered by a couple of layers of cloth, but the back of your neck isn’t.  Wrap your neck, and the cloth with something wool–all the way around your neck.  Wool appears to work best, and I’m guessing this has to do with how much air can get through it.  I used a giant wool sock.  A scarf would be another easy option.  Leave it on until the cloth against your skin is completely warmed.  Repeat if you’d like.  A variation on this is to alternate hot and cold compresses on your chest or throat.  I did this hoping to relieve the congestion in my chest.  It didn’t change my coughing, but it did feel very good.

The good part is, these same techniques are what I’ll be using on my child when she is very young and can’t take medicine.  It’s good to practice up now!

How do you naturally combat cold symptoms while sick?

10 Comments so far

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  1. Susanna Messinger

    Neti pot. Works wonders to clear out your sinuses, even though it is kind of disgusting. And it takes a little practice to get good at it.

    • Susanna: Neti pot… you recommended it to me before and I’d never heard of it! I’m going to have to find one of these for the next bout with a cold, thanks!

  2. Bonnie

    To add to your excellent suggestions… the sock trick and the salt-water gargle work best if started early in the evolution of the cold. If you wait until you think you are coughing up your lung, the benefits will be minimal. Keep this in mind for your little one–the earlier the better! A saline wash also helps clean out stuffy noses. You can get special little teapots for delivering the saline up the nostril. Also, breathing really-really cold air will temporarily shock you airways open. Sometimes multiple trips out the back door are the only thing that helps a kid breathe through the night until you can get to the doctor.

  3. Annit

    For the small kids (not babies under 3 months!) I love the Johnson’s Soothing Vapor baby bath (or much cheaper Target brand knock-off). I have even used this for me when I have a cold. It has eucalyptus, menthol, and rosemary and when mixed with the steam from the shower really helps loosen the gunk in noses and chest congestion. I have heard of people making a shower disk with Vick’s vapor rub and baking soda that melts as you shower and vaporizes the menthol/eucalyptus from the rub.
    I also use the Vick’s vapor rub for the kiddos when they are sick. I have found that it is less offensive to the kids when I rub it on their feet or legs as opposed to their chest. Then they get some of the vapors without being completely overwhelmed.

    • Annita: We knew who you were, no worries! These are excellent suggestions (as always from you…) Thanks for the ideas. I have an idea I’ll be referring back to my own post here fairly soon. ;)

  4. Jen

    I took nice hot baths with four pregnancies. They restored my entire body and mood. I highly recommend them!

    • Jen: Just like everything else with pregnancy, I hear about women that go both ways. They take baths because they’re good, they don’t take baths because they’re bad… they eat the cheeses they want, they don’t eat cheese at all… and on and on. The colder this winter gets, the more appealing a bath sounds to me; perhaps it is time to soak these chilly bones!

  5. Daktari

    Sorry you aren’t feeling well, Liv. I caught a bit of a cold over Christmas break and while I had more of the sneezing, runny nose variety (and cold medicines weren’t off limits), I found that just drinking the fluids, staying in bed and getting plenty of sleep helped tremendously.

    • Thanks Liz!
      Good news is I’m all better now. Fluids were definitely the key, and I’ve tried to keep up with that even now that I’m better! Hope you are fully mended soon…

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    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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