Flu season tips for expecting mothers in the Mid-Atlantic States
If you’re pregnant, it’s important to take steps to avoid getting the flu this season. Not only is the flu a serious illness, but babies can’t get vaccinated against the flu in their first 6 months. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help prevent the flu, plus safe treatments available if you do get sick.
Everyday actions make a big difference
You can do a lot to protect your health and your baby’s, both before and after giving birth:
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water.
- If you can’t get to a sink to wash your hands, use alcohol-based hand gel (with more than 60% ethyl alcohol).
- Avoid contact with people suffering from flu symptoms.
All that said, the best defense against the flu is to get a flu shot each year.
Flu shot facts for expectant mothers
- Expectant mothers who get the vaccine are less likely to get sick from the flu than those who don’t get vaccinated.
- Getting a flu shot while you’re pregnant means your unborn baby will also be protected.
- This protection will stay in your baby’s system for months after you give birth.
- Pregnancy weakens your immune system, which makes it easier for you to catch the flu. This makes the flu shot an important precaution for pregnant women.
Straight talk on flu shot safety*
If you’re undecided about getting a flu shot while pregnant, consider these facts:
- The flu shot has been safely given to millions of pregnant women over many years.
- Getting the flu while pregnant can increase the likelihood of complications (like premature birth).
- The vaccine may cause mild side effects, such as:
- Redness or soreness at the site of the shot (usually your upper arm)
- Mild fever
- Minor rash
These side effects are mild (especially compared to the flu itself), and typically pass within a couple of days.
How to tell if you might have the flu
If you haven’t had many cases of the flu, it can be tough to tell whether you have the flu or just a bad cold. To be clear, symptoms of the flu can include:
- Fever (100.4 degrees or higher)
- A bad cough
- Sore throat
- Body aches (especially in the back, arms, or legs)
- Fatigue (feeling extremely tired)
- Sometimes vomiting and diarrhea (though this is more common in children)
What to do if you get the flu
If you get sick with flu symptoms:
- Call the Kaiser Permanente medical advice line at 703-359-7878 or 800-777-7904 (TTY 711). Pregnant women with confirmed or probable flu can receive antiviral treatment like Oseltamivir (Tamiflu). Treatment should begin within 2 days of your symptoms starting.
- If your temperature rises over 100 degrees, take acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol) right away.
- Drink plenty of fluids — at least 8 cups each day.
- Stay home and rest until your fever has broken for at least until 24 hours.
- Try to limit your contact with others. You can be contagious to others the day before symptoms even appear. Once you get sick, you’ll be contagious for another 7 days.
- If you develop flu-like symptoms, or if you’ve had contact with someone who has the flu, call your Ob-Gyn’s office for timely advice.
If you want to take cold or flu medicine
If you’re pregnant, it’s important to talk with your doctor before taking any medicines. If over-the-counter medication is a must during your pregnancy, avoid any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as:
- Naproxen sodium (Aleve)
- Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
And remember, cold and flu medicines are meant to relieve symptoms. They won’t cure your illness.
Your flu shot protects others, too
The elderly, small children, and people with compromised immune systems (such as newborns and pregnant women) face a greater risk of severe complications from the flu. By getting vaccinated, you’ll not only protect yourself and your baby, but other vulnerable people in your life from a serious, contagious illness.
Learn more about the importance of getting a flu vaccine.
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