The respiratory tract, like other organs also undergoes significant changes during pregnancy. This, along with the weakened immune system makes a pregnant woman more prone to upper respiratory tract infection during pregnancy. Read on to know all about it.
- What Are Upper Respiratory Tract Infections?
- What Are The Common Upper Respiratory Tract Infections During Pregnancy?
- Symptoms and Consequences
- When To Seek Medical Help?
- Preventing Upper Respiratory Tract Infections During Pregnancy
What Are Upper Respiratory Tract Infections?
The upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) are the infections that affect the upper respiratory tract. The upper respiratory tract consists of nose and the nasal passage, paranasal sinuses, the pharynx and that part of the larynx which is above the vocal cords.
What Are The Common Upper Respiratory Tract Infections During Pregnancy?
Common cold, which is a viral infection, is the most common upper respiratory tract infection that happens over the course of pregnancy. You can read more about symptoms and treatment of cold during the pregnancy here.
Symptoms and Consequences
The symptoms of URTIs usually include cough, nasal blockage, sore throat, runny nose, headache, slight fever and sneezing. The symptoms appear 1- 3 days after the exposure. The infection can last up to 7–10 days. Middle ear infection can also accompany the URTI.
Several viral and bacterial infections can affect the upper respiratory tract during pregnancy. Continue reading to know more about three most commonly found URTIs during pregnancy:
Rhinitis refers to the irritation and swelling of the mucous membrane in the nose. The irritation can be induced because of a viral or bacterial attack or may be due to allergens
- Viral infections like cold
- Bacterial infection like bacterial sinusitis
- Cold and chill
- Nasal polyps
- Allergy caused by airborne allergens like pollen
- Low humidity
- Deviated septum
- Release of histamines as a result of some allergic reaction
- Common symptoms
- Runny nose is the major symptom as the inflammation triggers the formation of a large quantity of mucus
- Nasal itching
- Watery, itchy and swollen eyes
- Tinkle in the throat
Chronic inflammation in the nasal cavity is mostly the underlying cause for bronchitis, pneumonia and other diseases which are dangerous not only for the well-being of the mother but also the health of the unborn baby. Therefore, never overlook rhinitis as a simple cold and never go for over the counter medication. Consult your doctor once you notice the symptoms
- Cleaning the nasal passage with saline solution
- Antihistamines are prescribed if the cause of rhinitis is due to release of histamine
- Elevate the position of head while lying down to reduce the nose block
- Use humidifier in the bedroom
- Drink plenty of water
- Try to get good sleep, which helps to maintain the immunity
- Quit smoking and usage of tobacco
Sinusitis refers to a condition in which the cavities (sinus) around the nasal passages become inflamed
- Hormonal reasons: Increased level of pregnancy hormone is a major culprit in causing sinusitis during pregnancy. The pregnancy hormone progesterone is responsible for the swelling in the lining of sinus. The lining of sinus produces mucus. Usually, this mucus drains out through small channels. However, if these linings swell, the small channels will become blocked and the mucus will accumulate inside the sinus creating an infection
- Rhinitis during pregnancy can also develop into sinusitis
- The climatic changes trigger sinusitis
- Pain at back of the eyes
- Runny nose
- Green or dark yellow discharge from the nose
- Headache that increases when you bend down
- Facial pressure and pain
Untreated sinus infections can lead to bronchitis, asthma, chronic cough, ear infections and throat infections that can make the pregnancy period more difficult
Treatment depends on the intensity of the infection. Of course, the intense infection should be treated with medication prescribed by the doctor. However, a mild and moderate infection can be treated by the following methods
- Nasal irrigation is an effective way to treat sinusitis during pregnancy. For performing nasal irrigation, first, prepare a saline solution. Now snort this saline solution up in one nostril and allow it to pass down through the other nostril. If the solution gets into your mouth while performing this method, spit it out. Blow your nose at the end
- If you feel uneasy to perform the above method, you can use saline spray, which is more easier
- Steam inhalation helps to get relief from mild sinusitis
- Take rest
Pharyngitis or a sore throat refers to pain or irritation of the throat that often worsens during swallowing
- The virus or bacteria can cause a sore throat
- You can catch a sore throat after a viral infection like a cold
- A sore throat caused due to bacterial infection is called strep throat that is less common
- Dryness in air
- Muscle strain usually caused as a result of yelling or talking aloud for a long time
- Throat pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Body aches
- A sore throat due to viral infection usually resolves on its own
- Gargling with saline water will help to soothe the pain and recover faster
- Drinking hot water and beverages like ginger tea, green tea will also help to reduce the pain
- Steam inhalation will also work
- Most importantly, have a healthy diet, even if you do not feel like eating. This will help to improve the immunity
- Strep throat caused by a bacterial infection usually needs antibiotic treatment
When To Seek Medical Help?
Most cases of upper respiratory tract infections are time bound and pass without many complications. But sometimes it may be important to see your doctor. Call your doctor if:
- You experience abdominal cramps that don’t go away
- You have diarrhea and vomiting
- You experience vaginal bleeding
- You have very high fever
- You have chest pain and experience shortness of breath
- You don’t feel better even a week
Preventing Upper Respiratory Tract Infections During Pregnancy
Severe cases of upper respiratory tract infections can cause premature birth, lower birth weights, cesarean delivery, etc. If you want to avoid these complications, you can check with your doctor and can opt for the flu vaccine. At the same time you can use these tips to prevent upper respiratory tract infections:
- Wash your hands as often as possible
- Avoid going to crowded places
- Keep your home clean and dust free
- Avoid exposure to smoke and pollen
- Always carry a sanitizer if you are traveling
- Do not rub your eyes as it can spread virus to your nasal cavity through the tear ducts
These simple steps can help to prevent upper respiratory tract infection during pregnancy. Remember, it is rightly said – prevention is always better than cure!