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OTC Meds & Pregnancy

The cold and flu season is in full swing and while over the counter (OTC) medications are a great relief for some folks, mothers-to-be and breastfeeding moms might want to reconsider using them.

The cold and flu season is in full swing and while over the counter (OTC) medications are a great relief for some folks, mothers-to-be and breastfeeding moms might want to reconsider using them.

Experts in pregnancy and breastfeeding health at the Texas Teratogen Information Service (TTIS) Pregnancy Risk Line say that OTCs can pose a danger to both of these groups.

The TTIS is a non-profit organization located at the University of North Texas, Denton. They educate the public on exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

"Every year around this time, we get a significant number of calls from pregnant and breastfeeding women in Texas who are battling colds and are worried about which over-the-counter medications they can and can't take," said Lori Wolfe, TTIS' program director.

"The callers I've personally spoken to have valid concerns because there are certain ingredients in over-the-counter medications they need to watch out for that could be harmful to their developing babies," explained Angela Wynn, TTIS' counselor who takes calls through the service's toll-free line. As a result of the potential for harm, TTIS counselors have compiled a list of helpful tips for moms and moms-to-be battling colds this holiday season.

Top 5 Cold Remedy Tips During Pregnancy:

1. Less is More- Remember that "less is more," or, rather, less is more recommendable when it comes to treating colds during pregnancy. Take only those medications that are needed for your specific symptoms. Many cold remedies have 3-6 ingredients, some of which you (and your developing baby) do not need. If your major complaint is a cough, for example, then avoid a combination drug that includes a nasal decongestant, an extra medication you can do without.
2. Oral Decongestion Alternatives- While the majority of studies looking at oral decongestants during pregnancy is reassuring with first trimester use, it's still best to avoid them in the first trimester due to a possible very low risk for vascular issues in the fetus. Pregnant women could consider saline drops or a short-term nasal spray decongestant alternative.
3. Herbal Ingredient Warning- Watch out for herbal ingredients in many over-the-counter medications. Chances are they have not been studied in pregnancy.
4. Throat Lozenges & Vitamin Overload- Throat lozenges contain mostly sugar. However, some may contain other ingredients such as zinc or vitamin C. When taking vitamin C, the recommended daily allowance in pregnancy is 80-100 mg per day and zinc is only 11 mg per day.
5. Cough Syrups & Alcohol- Some cough syrups contain up to 10% alcohol. Get alcohol-free cough syrup. Your developing baby doesn't need the alcohol exposure in addition to the other medications.

If you have questions about specific cold medications or other exposure concerns you can contact the TTIS Pregnancy Risk Line at 800-733-4727. 

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