Staying healthy during pregnancy is important- you’re now responsible not just for your health but also for the health of your baby. But you need to take extra care during this time because pregnancy brings about changes to your immune system which not only makes it easier for you to contract minor illnesses like colds but may also make these illnesses last longer.1 So you can usually expect to get a sore throat or stuffy nose during your pregnancy. But if what you’re experiencing feels worse than a common cold it could be bronchitis.
During bronchitis the tubes that carry air to your lungs (bronchi) become infected and inflamed. The lining of your bronchial tubes makes mucus which traps dust particles so that they don’t travel further into the body and cause irritation. When the bronchi are inflamed and irritated they produce more mucus and the body responds by trying to remove the excess mucus by coughing. Now, there are two kinds of bronchitis: acute bronchitis which is a temporary inflammation of your airways that causes mucus production and a cough which can last up to three weeks; and chronic bronchitis where the lining of your bronchial tubes is constantly inflamed and irritated resulting in a long-term cough and mucus production. Acute bronchitis is more common in the winter and can often develop after a sore throat or a bout with the flu or common cold; smoking is the main cause of chronic bronchitis which is usually seen in people over the age of 40. 23
What Are The Signs Of Bronchitis?
The main sign of bronchitis is a hacking cough which may produce greenish, yellow gray, or even clear mucus. You could also experience other symptoms that are similar to a common cold or sinus infection like a headache, sore throat, blocked or runny nose, fatigue, and aches and pains. Some people may also have wheezing or shortness of breath though this is more common when you have chronic bronchitis.4
What Causes It?
Bronchitis can be caused by either bacteria or a virus though 90% cases are due to a virus.5Most commonly, the viruses that cause the flu or common cold also cause bronchitis. Breathing in irritating substances like chemicals in cleaning products, or tobacco smoke can also trigger bronchitis.6
How Do You Treat It?
Bronchitis usually clears up on its own in a few weeks, though you can do some things to stay comfortable and address its symptoms. Since most cases of bronchitis are caused by viruses antibiotics (which work against bacteria) are usually not useful in treating this condition. However, if the condition lasts longer than 3 weeks, your cough is severe, you have a consistently high temperature, your phlegm is bloodstained, you feel disoriented or confused, or experience a sharp pain in your chest you should see a doctor. In these cases, you might have a bacterial infection and your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic that is safe during pregnancy.7 Let’s take a look at what you can do to help your healing process along:
- Getting enough rest can help your body heal itself.
- Make sure you drink plenty of fluids so that you’re not dehydrated. Fluids also thin out your mucus which makes it easier to cough it up.8
- Using a humidifier in your room and keeping your head elevated can help to reduce congestion.9
Try Natural Remedies
You can also go for simple remedies that will help you feel better:
- Salt Water Gargle: Dissolve about one teaspoon of salt into 8 ounces of water and gargle with it. This will soothe your sore throat and also help you bring up mucus. 10
- Turmeric: The anti-inflammatory property of turmeric can come in handy when it comes to treating the cough that you get with bronchitis. Add a teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of milk, boil it, and drink up to soothe your throat and expectorate mucus.11
- Lemon and Honey: A squeeze of lemon juice in a glass of warm water with some honey can work wonders for your throat. Lemon has flavonoids and vitamin C that can help you fight infection while honey is known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties. 12 13
- Ginger: Ginger which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and is traditionally used to treat the common cold can help out here too.14 Try steeping fresh, grated ginger in boiling water to make a tea that can relieve inflamed and irritated bronchial tubes. You can also add a spot of honey to sweeten the deal if you like.
- Yogurt: Yogurt contains beneficial bacteria (known as probiotics ) that can help improve your health. According to research probiotics may reduce both the severity of the symptoms of respiratory tract infections as well as how long they last.15
- Steam Inhalation: Fill a wide rimmed pot with water and bring it to a boil. Then remove the pot from heat and once the water stops bubbling inhale the steam. A towel over your head and the pot will help to capture the steam. Five to ten minutes of steam can help to clear congestion. 16
What Precautions Can You Take?
You know the old saying- “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and it holds true more than ever when you’re pregnant. So let’s see what you can do to keep yourself safe from bronchitis during your pregnancy.
The virus that causes bronchitis travels through the millions of minuscule droplets that come out of the mouth and nose when someone sneezes or coughs. These droplets travel about three feet and then land on surfaces where the virus can live for about 24 hours. So it might make sense to keep your distance from people who’re suffering from a nasty cold. Also, make sure you wash your hands frequently, especially when you’re around someone who’s down with a cough or cold. 17 18
Build Up Your Immunity
A healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, exercise, and sufficient sleep can mean a healthy and strong immune system that can fight off disease-causing germs. 19
Take Care Of Your Diet
Eating healthy during your pregnancy is not only important for your baby’s development but can also strengthen your immunity. Do keep in mind that you’ll need about 300 extra calories per day while you’re pregnant. And make sure you incorporate a variety of foods- fruits and vegetables, grains and breads, proteins, and dairy products are all important. The American Association of Pregnancy recommends 2 to 4 servings of fruit, 4 servings of vegetables, 3 servings of protein, 4 servings of dairy products and 6 to 11 servings of grain daily. 20
It’s recommended that pregnant women get about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week. This means that you should be moving enough that your heart beat is raised and you’re sweating but not so much that you can’t talk normally. But you don’t need a gym to do this – brisk walking and spending some time gardening(weeding, raking, or digging) can help you get there. 21 The important thing is to be physically active.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation can hamper your immune system and make it tougher for you to fight off those viruses which cause bronchitis. According to research people who don’t get sufficient good quality sleep are more likely to become sick when they’re exposed to a virus like one that causes the common cold. Not getting enough sleep can also mean that you’ll take longer to recover if you do get sick.