Can You Take Nyquil While Pregnant?

Battling the Cold or Flu with NyQuil During Pregnancy

Battling the cold or flu while pregnant is no fun. Who wants to deal with coughs, pain and sneezing on top of morning sickness and fatigue? But, before you reach for that NyQuil sitting in your cabinet, you should be aware that it may not be safe for you take it. Here’s what you need to know about taking NyQuil while pregnant, taking cold and flu medicines in general during your pregnancy, and ways to battle the cold or flu naturally.

What Is NyQuil?

Pregnant woman having cold

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NyQuil is an over-the-counter medication that relieves cold and flu symptoms, including sneezing, minor aches and pains, cough, sore throat, headache, fever and runny nose. It is meant to be taken at nighttime, so you can fall asleep and stay asleep.

The three active ingredients in NyQuil are acetaminophen, dextromethorphan HBr and doxylamine succinate. Acetaminophen is a pain reliever/fever reducer. Dextromethorphan HBr suppresses coughs. Doxylamine succinate is an antihistamine, which helps relieve common cold and flu symptoms, such as congestion, runny nose and eyes, and sneezing.

The NyQuil company states that pregnant or breastfeeding women should check with their doctor before taking NyQuil.

Alcohol Content in NyQuil

The Cleveland Clinic states that pregnant women should not take NyQuil because of its high alcohol content, and NyQuil Liquid contains 10 percent alcohol. According to the American Pregnancy Association, too much alcohol intake during pregnancy may cause birth defects. However, according to NyQuil, two other NyQuil medications don’t contain alcohol: NyQuil LiquiCaps and Alcohol-Free NyQuil Cold & Flu Nighttime Relief Liquid.

Taking Cold and Flu Medicines During Pregnancy

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The American Pregnancy Association advises that pregnant women reduce their overall intake of over-the-counter medicines because they may not be safe. On its website, the association lists cold and flu medicines that have been found to pose less risk to fetuses during pregnancy, including acetaminophen, anesthetic sore throat lozenges, codeine and dextromethorphan. Acetaminophen and dextromethorphan are two of the main ingredients in NyQuil.

The Mayo Clinic states that while the effects of acetaminophen during a pregnancy have not been studied, no research shows that it has a negative effect on human fetuses. This is also true for the antihistamine doxylamine, the third main ingredient of NyQuil. According to the Mayo Clinic, the effects of doxylamine on pregnant women have not been studied, nor have studies been performed that show that doxylamine causes birth defects or other problems in humans.

Yet, even for the medications considered safe, the American Pregnancy Association adds that it’s best for pregnant women to consult with their doctor before taking any type of medication. The Mayo Clinic cautions that while the occasional use of combination cough and cold medicines is not likely to cause harm to your unborn child, the chances may increase with larger doses and more frequency. It’s important to note that just because a particular medicine hasn’t been medically proven to cause harm during pregnancy, it’s no guarantee that it won’t cause harm to you or your unborn child.

What does all of this mean for you? Since several types of NyQuil medicines are available, read each label carefully, especially the ingredients’ lists and warning messages, since they may vary. If, after consulting with your doctor and receiving your doctor’s go-ahead, you decide to take NyQuil to alleviate your flu or cold symptoms, take one that doesn’t contain alcohol, follow the directions on the label and try to minimize your use of it.

Other Ways to Alleviate Cold and Flu Symptoms

To avoid taking NyQuil or other cold and flu medicines during pregnancy, use other methods to help alleviate cold and flu symptoms. To reduce congestion, try using a humidifier, particularly in your bedroom and the areas where you spend the most time. To reduce nasal congestion, try sleeping with your head elevated and using nasal strips. Sucking ice chips, drinking warm tea or gargling with warm saltwater may help your sore throat.

When you have a cold or flu, take care of yourself. Getting plenty of rest and sleep, drinking fluids, eating a healthy diet that includes prenatal vitamins and probiotics, and, when you’re able, exercising, help give your body the nutrients and energy it needs to combat illness and restore health. After you feel better, maintain your healthy lifestyle and diet. Doing so helps strengthen and maintain your immune system, which may reduce the chances of your getting a cold or flu or lessen the duration and severity of illness.

Washing your hands frequently, especially during cold and flu season and upon close contact with sick people, can also help reduce the chances of getting sick.

The Flu Vaccine During Pregnancy

Consider getting the flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that women get the flu vaccine during any trimester of their pregnancy to reduce the chances of contracting flu. Getting the flu vaccine during pregnancy also can help protect your baby from the flu for several months after birth. Your doctor can provide more information about the flu shot.

When to See Your Doctor

See your doctor if your cold or flu symptoms last longer than a few days and aren’t improving, or if you have a fever higher than 102 degrees F. A high temperature may raise the risk of your baby developing a birth defect. Also contact your doctor if you have excessive, violent coughing followed by breathing with a whooping sound. These symptoms may mean that you have whooping cough, a highly contagious disease that’s especially dangerous for babies.