Maybe you have allergies and can’t stop coughing, or perhaps you have a sore throat from a cold. You may normally reach for cough drops for relief, but now there’s a catch: You’re pregnant. And are cough drops safe to take during pregnancy?
Effects of cough drops on pregnancy
Cough drops are sold over-the-counter without a prescription from your doctor. They’re used for short-term relief of cough and sore throat. Most of the ingredients are likely safe to use during pregnancy, but their effects on pregnancy are not fully known.
The active ingredient in most cough drops is menthol. Menthol helps treat a cough and sore throat by cooling your throat and reducing throat irritation.
There are no studies that assess the safety of menthol during pregnancy. And unlike prescription drugs, OTC medications don’t have a pregnancy category rating from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Therefore, the risks of menthol cough drops on pregnancy are not fully known.
That said, there have not been any reports of negative effects on a pregnancy due to menthol use. To be safe, you should talk to your doctor before taking menthol cough drops during pregnancy.
In addition to an active ingredient, some cough drop brands also contain natural herbs, such as:
- wild thyme
- lemon balm
- linden flowers
These herbs have no specific warnings for use during pregnancy. Still, it’s not known how they may affect a pregnancy. Be sure to ask your doctor before taking a cough drop that contains these herbs.
Many cough drops also contain corn syrup or other sweeteners. Talk to your doctor before taking these drops if you have type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes, or if you’re at risk for gestational diabetes. Corn syrup and other sweeteners can cause your blood sugar to rise, making your diabetes harder to manage.
Alternatives to cough drops
Before you turn to cough drops, your doctor may suggest other ways to relieve your cough while you’re pregnant, such as the following.
Tips to relieve cough or sore throat
- Gargle with salt water.
- Drink honey, ginger, and lemon in your tea.
- Get enough sleep.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Eat nutritious foods.
Healthy habits can help keep you from catching a cold or other virus that would give you a cough or sore throat. For more tips, read about cold and flu home remedies.
When to call a doctor
In some cases, it may be better to skip the home remedies and see if you need medical treatment. For cough, call your doctor if it lasts more than a week, or if you also have:
- a headache that won’t go away
For sore throat, call your doctor if it's very painful or lasts longer than two days, or if you also have:
Talk with your doctor
Before you take any drug during pregnancy, including cough drops, ask your doctor whether it’s safe for you. Your doctor may want to know more about your symptoms before approving a medication. To help keep you and your pregnancy as safe and happy as possible, try these tips:
- Ask your doctor how long and how often you can take cough drops.
- Tell your doctor if your symptoms are severe or last longer than a few days. You may have a more serious health condition.
- Talk to your doctor before using cough drops if you have a lot of mucus with your cough. In this case, it may be better to avoid cough drops and let your cough do its job, which is clearing your body of whatever germs are in the mucus.