For moms-to-be, the flu is more than just a fact of life; it can be a cause for worry. But armed with the facts and important preventative measures, you too can fight the flu bug this season and possibly even skip getting the virus during your pregnancy!
Influenza is a contagious virus that infects the respiratory tract (the nose, throat, and lungs) and is spread by coughing, sneezing, and/or when a person touches a surface (such as a doorknob) that has traces of the virus.
Commonly referred to as the "flu," the virus causes severe illness, and in some cases, life-threatening complications requiring hospitalization. Although the total health impact of the flu season on the public varies from year to year, the March of Dimes states that an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the general population in the United States will be diagnosed with the flu each year.
Most of us have had the flu, but sometimes recognizing the onset of symptoms can be easier said than done. Often we think we're just beginning a cold, but the flu can quickly escalate to a more serious condition.
Symptoms of the flu may at first resemble those of the common cold: you may begin to feel headachy, have a dry cough or sore throat, and experience a runny/stuffy nose, muscle aches, and fever (which pregnant women will need to carefully monitor).
According to Dr. Riad Homsi, MD, FACOG, staff physician at Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women in Memphis, Tennessee, pregnant women should be sure to track any trace of a fever—even if they think it is just the side effect of a common cold. Be on the lookout for a fever of 101°F or more, which may last from one day to as long as a week, and in rare cases, may reach as high as 106°F. Symptoms of the flu usually arise within one to four days after a person is exposed to the virus.