You’ve come down with a runny nose, sore throat, cough, chills, headache, sore muscles, you’re short of breath and you don’t have any energy. You do a COVID-19 test, and it is negative. With recent loosening of mask-wearing requirements, people have begun to gather more and that has resulted in an uptick in cases of contagious respiratory illnesses, such as influenza. “Flu” and COVID-19 symptoms can be very similar, ranging from mild to severe. You may have these questions or concerns about managing your symptoms:
If it’s not COVID-19, why should I be concerned if I am pregnant and get the flu? We know that pregnant (or just delivered women) with any respiratory illness, when compared to the general population, have an increased chance of hospitalization or death. This is due to normal physical and metabolic changes which occur during pregnancy.
I ‘m worried about taking medications. Influenza in pregnancy should be treated as early as possible, regardless of vaccination status, to decrease the risks above and to lessen the chance of pre-term labor and low birth weight of baby. Two of the most common antiviral medications for influenza include Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and Zanamivir (Relenza.) If you have asthma, ask your health care provider before using Zanamivir. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) should be used if you have fever, chills or pain. Rest and hydration are important for recovery. Antibiotics are not effective against viral influenza, unless you have a secondary bacterial infection, for example sinusitis, ear infection or bacterial pneumonia.
What can be done to reduce my chance of getting the flu? Seasonal influenza vaccine in (any trimester of) pregnancy is effective and endorsed by the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Influenza vaccination during pregnancy produces antibodies which cross the placenta and protect the infant for several months after birth. Protective antibodies from being vaccinated during pregnancy also pass to the infant during breastfeeding, reducing illness and death from flu in newborns. Family members in close contact of the pregnant woman or who will be caring for the newborn should all be up to date on vaccines. In addition to sneezing into your elbow, or into a tissue and throwing it away, precautions such as frequent handwashing, avoiding others who are ill or gathering close together in small spaces without good ventilation are all important measures to prevent respiratory illness. Stay well!
Michelle Felix, CNM – May 2022