Sore Throat While Pregnant: Causes & Treatment

As if all the other discomfort, annoyances and pain you go through during pregnancy weren’t enough on their own, you’re now also down and out with a sore throat.

We’re already in enough pain and discomfort as it is, we don’t need a sore throat to be the “cherry on top”, oh powers that be!

Depending on how lucky you are, you might get a very minor case of sore throat that resolves itself after just one day, or you might get something much more uncomfortable that lasts for several days and has you feeling like you’ve got blisters on the back of your throat whenever you try to swallow anything.

What Is A Sore Throat?

A sore throat (also commonly referred to as pharyngitis) happens when the back of your throat (i.e the pharynx) is inflamed and reddened, which causes difficulty and pain when you try to swallow food and fluids (and sometimes when you just try to breathe).

Symptoms Of A Sore Throat During Pregnancy

The following is a list of some of the most notable symptoms you’ll likely experience when you have a sore throat.

– Difficulty swallowing food or fluid without feeling pain in the throat

– Difficulty breathing without feeling pain in the throat

– Fever

– Itching (sometimes minor, sometimes severe)

– Ear ache

– Swelling in tonsils

What Causes A Sore Throat During Pregnancy?

Being ill is a terrible feeling, so you should know about the most common reasons that cause a sore throat during pregnancy to do whatever it is within your abilities to stay away from them.

Even though it’s practically impossible for you to self diagnose what led to you getting a sore throat in the first place without a doctor’s input, it’s good to be knowledgeable about the different factors that could cause this.

1) Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is a fairly common condition among pregnant women, thanks to a slower digestive system caused by hormonal changes, and is a fairly common culprit for sore throats just as well.

When the content in your stomach (which includes stomach acids) go back up into your esophagus, this causes a burning sensation in the throat which often times leaves you with much soreness in that area.

If acid reflux is the culprit here, ask your doctor about the possibility of you taking Antacids such as TUMS for instant relief.

Your doctor might also prescribe pills for you that work on reducing your stomach acid levels, if they deem doing so as appropriate and/or necessary.

2) Asthma

Asthma caused by allergic reactions or hypersensitivity to environmental irritants such as pollen and dust also tends to cause throat problems, although in this case it’s more of a tight feeling in the throat rather than soreness in that area.

3) Environmental Irritants, Pollutants & Chemicals

Your throat could just be agitated from one of the many irritants in the environment around us.

Whether that’s stuff you’re allergic to (such as dust or pollen), harmful chemicals you get exposed to, etc ..

The best possible method of treatment in this case is prevention by avoiding these environmental irritants as much as possible.

4) Viral Infections

Most cases of sore throats during pregnancy are caused by viral infections such as the cold (which is very common during pregnancy) and the flu.

With a cold or influenza, you’ll likely experience (in addition to a sore throat) a runny nose, coughing, sneezing and a high fever.

This is another reason why it’s important for you to take your flu shots every year on schedule.

Taking antibiotics if you have a viral infection isn’t going to do much to help you get better. A viral infection usually sorts itself out on its own after 5 to 7 days have passed.

5) Bacterial Infections & Fungal Infections

Bacterial infections, on the other hand, can be treated by taking antibiotics. Make sure that any antibiotics you do take are prescribed by a doctor.

One of the most common bacterial infections that comes to mind is a condition called strep throat.

If a bacterial infection is present, your doctor will run a few laboratory tests to determine what kind of bacteria is there and what kind of antibiotics are needed to deal with this bacteria most effectively.

6) Throat Muscle Strain

If your job requires you to do a lot of talking, or if you’ve been yelling a lot lately because someone’s been getting on your nerves, your sore throat may just be caused by throat muscle strain.

Does A Sore Throat Pose Any Risk Or Danger To My Pregnancy?

The short answer to this question is NO, a sore throat in and of itself does not pose any significant danger to your pregnancy.

As a matter of fact, a sore throat during pregnancy is rarely a sign of something serious going on – it’s usually just something very uncomfortable that you’ll have to go through until it sorts itself out on its own after a few days.

This is, of course, only true if no major health problem or medical complication caused your sore throat in the first place.

If your sore throat persists for more than 24 to 48 hours, though, then definitely ask for a medical professional’s opinion for reassurance purposes and to stay on the safe side.

Is A Sore Throat An Early Sign Of Pregnancy?

While a sore throat can surely be an early sign of pregnancy, this is not always the case.

Many women who try to conceive experience a sore throat without actually being pregnant, and other women who try to conceive go on to become successfully pregnant without experiencing a sore throat during the few weeks of wait period between trying to conceive and getting confirmation from a pregnancy test.

So, there’s no scientific correlation between getting a sore throat and pregnancy in women trying to conceive.

The reason people associate the two together is because during pregnancy, levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone increase in the body, and one of the effects an increase in these levels of hormones causes is a sore throat, in addition to other effects such as dry mouth, increased thirst, more frequent urination, nausea and the ever-so-famous morning sickness.

So, if you’re actively trying to conceive, don’t give much importance to getting a sore throat – unless you also notice other early signs of pregnancy happening at the same time.

What Can I Take To Get Rid Of A Sore Throat While Pregnant?

First and foremost, it’s best if you consult with your doctor before taking any sort of medication for sore throat relief purposes.

You might unknowingly take something that’s not pregnancy safe, medication such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen, or might take something that is pregnancy safe but in excessive dosages without actually meaning to.

If you were to lurk around in online forums or ask around in your circle of mommy friends, you’re more than likely to be advised to take Tylenol for relief purposes, especially the Children’s Tylenol version.

Most of the times, you’ll get this recommendation because of the active ingredient in Tylenol called Acetaminophen.

However, and for your own safety and that of the baby you’re pregnant with, this should NOT be done on your own and without your doctor’s permission – even if you’re just taking something like a sore throat spray or lozenges.

With that being said, the following is a list of some of the most common medication taken to treat a sore throat.

  • Cepacol
  • Sucrets
  • Chloraseptic

If your doctor prescribes any antibiotics for you to take to treat your sore throat, it’s extremely important that you stick to the dosages they instruct you to take, and that you finish the course of treatment in its entirety.

Stopping an antibiotic course of treatment too soon or not sticking to the required schedule will put you at risk of recurrent infections – ones that come back much stronger than they were the first time around.

The following is a list of medication you should avoid taking on your own to treat a sore throat during pregnancy. (This is by no means an exhaustive list, though).

  • Aspirin
  • Bactrim
  • Codeine
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
  • Fluconazole

Should I See A Doctor?

Just because you have a sore throat case does not mean you should go into panic mode and seek your doctor’s help right away.

Most cases can be treated using natural remedies (that’s how most pregnant women prefer to solve it anyways), without calling your doctor or dragging yourself to the ER.

However, you should seek help from a medical professional if you notice any of the following:

  • Your throat has been sore for more than 2 consecutive days. (Generally speaking, a case of sore throat during pregnancy usually lasts one or two days before it goes away.)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loose stool
  • Shortness of breath and/or difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness and/or lightheadedness
  • You find it severely difficult to swallow food or water due to throat pain and discomfort
  • Body temperature increases to 100.4 or beyond (This usually indicates that there’s an infection in your body, and can be very harmful to your baby if the fever persists for more than a few days)
  • Chills
  • You’re down with the flue
  • If you notice a skin rash on any part of your body
  • Decrease in fetal movement

In more severe situations, you could have a serious infection such as strep throat, one that puts your pregnancy and your baby’s health in great danger if left untreated and you don’t seek a doctor’s help for.

Natural Remedies To Treat A Sore Throat While Pregnant

You don’t always have to resort to taking medication to relieve a sore throat during pregnancy.

Besides, experts advise against taking medication during pregnancy when you can get by without them, especially during your first trimester.

The first trimester is the most crucial time in the development of your fetus, and you definitely don’t want to do anything that might jeopardize this development and put it at any risks.

There are tons of natural remedies out there that can get the job done just as effectively, simple remedies you can prepare yourself from the comfort of your own home using day to day ingredients you can find in your kitchen, and this list will discuss some of the most notable ones that you should consider giving a try.

1) Gargling 

Gargle with water and salt multiple times through the day as it both soothes a sore throat’s membranes and is a natural germ and bacteria killer.

Experts associate this to a relationship between salt water and the saline content of our own bodies.

For every 8 ounces of warm water you have, mix in one tablespoon of salt.

Gargling with salty water around three times a day is a good starting point, and you can increase the frequency later on if you find there’s a need to do so and that three times a day isn’t really giving you the relief you’re looking for.

Some people find that gargling with salt water once every hour gives them the most relief, so it’s really up to you to “test the waters” and see what works best for your case.

Keep it natural and do NOT try gargling with Listerine or any other mouthwash that isn’t 100% alcohol-free, even if you only plan to gargle with it and make sure you don’t swallow any of it.

You can also try gargling with some apple cider vinegar after mixing some with water.

Because of the antibacterial properties apple cider vinegar contains, it could help kill any infections in your throat causing you soreness and pain.

Some people find that adding a little bit of natural turmeric to salt water also helps with soothing purposes, given the fact that turmeric is rich in anti-inflammatory properties.

When gargling, make sure you properly tilt your head back and allow the salt water to reach the back of your throat as much as possible for maximum effect.

2) Lemon Juice & Honey

Boil between 6 oz to 8 oz of water, pour it in your favorite mug when it’s ready, mix it with 2 tablespoons of natural lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of natural honey, allow it to cool down for a few minutes – and drink away!

You can also make use of an ice cube or two if you want it to cool down, but it’s important that you don’t over-cool it because it’s the warm aspect that will soothe your sore throat.

Natural honey helps soothe and coat a sore throat (make sure that the only honey you put to use is pasteurized honey and avoid unpasteurized forms and any kind of raw honey at all costs), as well as help with your cough (if you have one along with your sore throat).

On the other hand, natural lemon juice helps get rid of any excessive mucus buildup.

3) Green Tea

Speaking of tea, green tea can also do you a world of good and is known to decrease the scratchy feeling associated with a sore throat.

4) Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea is rich in properties that help with sore throat pain relief, and is known to fight harmful bacteria that might be causing this condition in the first place.

Just read the ingredients label first and make sure that the Chamomile tea you’re drinking doesn’t contain any herbs that might not be pregnancy safe.

5) Fresh Mint Leaves

Adding fresh mint leaves to the warm cup of tea you’re drinking makes for a more soothing effect.

Important note: If you experience acid reflux, stay away from peppermint tea because this can lead to worsening your condition.

6) Cloves

You can also try preparing a cup of hot tea with honey and add one or two cloves to it. Cloves are natural disinfectants that could help with sore throat pain relief.

With any cup of warm tea you plan on drinking during pregnancy, going caffeine-free is best. Excessive intake of caffeine during pregnancy may put your baby at risk of developing complications.

7) Chicken Soup

If there’s anything that’s stood the test of time when it comes to helping with a cold, flu, fever or sore throat, it’s a warm bowl of chicken soup.

For further relief, some people like to add a little bit of fresh ginger into a bowl of chicken soup and have it that way.

Ginger is notorious for containing properties that help soothe a sore throat, as well as its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

The key, however, is to boil the ginger first so it becomes soft.

8) Cough Drops & Hard Candy

Pregnancy safe cough drops and hard candy can also do a great job in relieving a sore throat.

Just make sure that any of these items you do take during pregnancy don’t contain any alcohol in them, even if it was a “minimal” amount.

The two most popular options are Halls and Robitussin. Cough drops and hard candy increase saliva levels in your mouth, which in turn helps cleanse your throat.

9) Prenatal Vitamins

This is another opportunity to remind you of just how important it is for you to take your prenatal vitamins throughout pregnancy.

10) No Cold Beverages

The last thing you should be doing when experiencing a sore throat is drinking any cold fluids or beverages.

Whether that be soda, fizzy drinks, ice tea, or whatever else that might come to mind that isn’t warm, these will only aggravate your condition.

11) No Smoking

Smoking, whether that be first hand smoke or second hand smoke, will only aggravate a sore throat.

Besides, this is a very bad habit in general that all smokers should stop, regardless of whether or not they have a sore throat at the time.

This includes smoking tobacco, weed, or anything else that might come to mind.

12) Hydration

This one is not really a “remedy” in and of itself, but keeping yourself properly hydrated through the day is very important.

It’s already very important in normal circumstances when you’re not ill, so you can only imagine how much more important it is when you’re down with a sore throat.

To be able to fight back against a sore throat, your body needs all its functions in top form, and a dehydrated body definitely does not have all its functions in tip top form.

Staying properly hydrated throughout the day will ensure thinning any mucous buildup, keeping your membranes hydrated and getting rid of any harmful toxins that might be making your condition worse.

13) Junk Food Begone

Until you feel better, stay away from any junk food, fast food or processed food.

All of these contain preservatives, additives, colors and chemicals that will only aggravate a sore throat.

Now is a time for you to stick to a diet comprised of natural food that supplies your body with all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs to get better.

14) Inhaling Steam

If you have nasal congestion that’s either causing you a sore throat or is the result of one, inhaling steam is a very popular method people use to relieve nasal congestion.

To do this, you can either fill a large pot with water and boil it on the stove to make use of the steam that comes out that way, or let hot water in your shower run for a while and inhale the steam that way.

Just make sure you do this safely by standing at a distance from the pot of boiling water or the extra hot water running through your shower head, or else you risk burning your skin.

15) Humidifiers

You can also make use of a humidifier in your bedroom or living room that keeps the air moist for you in your room for this purpose.

Many cases of sore throats are caused by breathing in dry air.

If the air around you that you’re taking in is moist, your mucous membranes will be kept moist as well, which helps keep symptoms of a sore throat at bay.

16) Rest Your Body

If there ever was a time for you to get enough proper rest to recover, it’s now.

During pregnancy, you’re immune system is already weaker than usual and not as able to fend off harmful bacteria and viruses as it would be able to outside the context of a pregnancy.

So, giving your body all the rest it needs (without going overboard, of-course) will give your immune system a boost and better equip it to fight off any bacteria or virus that may be responsible for the sore throat you have at the time.

17) Rest Your Vocal Cords

Your vocal cords need resting just as well, so avoid as much talking, yelling or singing as possible until your throat feels better.

18) Throat Spray

When all else fails, trying out a pregnancy-safe throat spray might just get the job done for you and coat your throat.

A lot of the more popular throat spray options on the market today also contain antiseptic which greatly helps suppress any pain you may have in the throat area.

What If None Of These Home Remedies Made Me Feel Better?

Then it would be best for you to check with your doctor, because there might be a more serious health or medical condition going on that needs a physician’s intervention and medication to have you feeling better again.

What Not To Do

1) Excessive Vitamin C Intake

If you’re anything like me, the first thought that comes to mind whenever you feel the least bit of soreness and discomfort in your throat area is “Vitamin C! Where you at?!”.

However, it’s quite easy for anyone to get things wrong and take in an excessive amount of Vitamin C that exceeds the body’s ability of absorbing at any given time, which is especially dangerous during pregnancy.

Studies have shown a correlation between excessive intake of Vitamin C during pregnancy to premature births.

So, always consult with your doctor first and let them guide you on whether or not supplementing with Vitamin C at this time is safe and beneficial for you to do.

Always keep in mind that if you’re taking prenatal vitamins during pregnancy and/or eating a nutritious diet consisting of colorful fruits and vegetables (which you should be doing anyway), your Vitamin C intake will already be high as it stands.

2) Excessive Zinc Intake

The same holds true if you’re thinking of supplementing with Zinc.

You’re probably getting enough as it stands from your prenatal vitamins and nutritious diet, so talk to your doctor about it first to stay on the safe side.

A Quick Note About The Difference Between A Sore Throat And A Strep Throat

Many people confuse a strep throat and a sore throat for being the same condition, but in reality, these are two very different conditions.

Most of the times, your doctor will be able to determine whether you have a sore throat or are suffering from strep throat by running you through a simple culture at their clinic.

If your doctor does end up diagnosing that you have a case of strep throat, they’ll likely run you through a course of prescription antibiotics for treatment.

A case of strep throat during pregnancy that’s left untreated poses great risk on your organs (such as your kidneys) and the baby you’re pregnant with at the time.

A Quick Note About Prevention

If you have a throat infection that’s causing your sore throat, you should put in the effort required to prevent passing it on to any other household members you live with.

The same holds true if any other household members you live with have a throat infection – they should be careful not to pass it on to others.

Nothing too overboard needs to be done here, just cover the basics and you’ll be good to go – ones such as:

  • Don’t share items such as towels or pillows
  • Maintain top hygiene standards. Don’t neglect washing your hands whenever you use the bathroom, come back home from running a few errands or a long day outside the house, shake anybody’s hand, sneeze, cough, etc ..

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