The best prevention against both cold and flu bugs is frequent and thorough hand washing. (The most common way to catch a bug is by touching a surface an infected person has touched, then touching your face.)
So, if you touch a doorknob, handrail, bank machine button (anything at all someone else may have touched), or if you shake hands with someone during cold and flu season, wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, such as Purell. (Cold and flu viruses can live on surfaces for up to two days, especially on nonporous surfaces, such as plastic, metal or wood.)
Pregnant women should also talk to their doctors about getting the flu shot–no matter what trimester they are in. You're more vulnerable to getting very sick if you get the flu during pregnancy. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the flu shot can also reduce a newborn's risk of infection if it's mother was vaccinated during pregnancy.
Treating cold and flu symptoms during pregnancyThe general rule when it comes to treating cold and flu symptoms during pregnancy is to always use non-medical treatments first. (So if you're congested, try steam before Sudafed, for example.) The only exception is if you have a fever, in which case you should treat it with Tylenol (and not other pain relievers, such as Advil or Aspirin).
Other safe cold and flu treatments include: cough drops, Vicks Vapor Rub, honey and lemon, hot tea and saline nasal spray. It's also important to check in with your doctor if you get sick during pregnancy.
Dr. Marjorie Greenfield is a practicing board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). She is currently associate professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Her new book, The Working Woman's Pregnancy Book, hit bookshelves in spring, 2008. www.marjoriegreenfield.com