Breastfeeding moms and Theraflu?

When you got a cold while breastfeeding, what would you do? Most people seek comfort and relief by taking medicines such as Theraflu. But should breastfeeding moms also take it to reduce their symptoms too? The following article will answer this question and other important things breastfeeding moms should know about the drug.

Breastfeeding mothers may get sick just like women who aren't nursing an infant. It's a good idea for all new moms to learn what they can do to feel better quickly and decide which treatment options are safe for themselves and their babies.

What Theraflu consists of?

Theraflu comes in tablets, capsules, liquid suspension, and caplets. It is an over-the-counter drug that contains one or more of the following ingredients: acetaminophen (paracetamol), dextromethorphan, and pseudoephedrine. These components are analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antihistamine respectively.

Acetaminophen helps relieve pain by increasing the threshold of the body's pain receptors. It also helps reduce fever. However, taking higher-than-recommended amounts can cause liver damage.

Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a cough suppressant that thins out the mucus in your respiratory system to make coughing less effective. It works like most over-the-counter cough medicines without making you feel overly drowsy or nauseated. A downside of this component though is that it can interfere with some prescription medications.

Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant that works by narrowing the blood vessels in the respiratory system. It does this by keeping the arteries from relaxing or widening. This is beneficial during a stuffy nose episode because it helps prevent mucus from draining out of your body.

How can Theraflu be dangerous?

Like with any drug, it is possible for Theraflu to cause side effects. In the US, some of these adverse reactions include:

  • Drowsiness or dizziness
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Nervousness and irritability
  • Difficulty urinating or an enlarged prostate gland in males
  • Increased heart rate. There have been reports of increased blood pressure too though it is not yet known if this condition has a direct relation with Theraflu use.

Theraflu can also cause skin rashes and acute toxicity which manifests as fever, agitation, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, and coma.

What are the risks of taking Theraflu?

Acetaminophen can cause liver damage with excessive use. In fact, as little as 4 grams per day (around 12 tablets) may cause some degree of liver failure. For reference, most pediatric acetaminophen preparations for children under 2 years old contain less than 15 mg/mL of this substance. They typically come with dosage recommendations not to exceed 10 mL at a time and no more than 5 doses per day.

Pseudoephedrine can also cause heart problems which may include an irregular heartbeat, chest pain, or shortness of breath. When taken together with decongestants, Theraflu often causes uncontrolled muscle movements which are the main symptoms of the well-known condition called Sydenham's chorea.

How can it affect breastfeeding?

It's always best to ask your doctor if it's safe for you to take any drug while breastfeeding. Theraflu is known to pass into the breastmilk in small amounts. However, not all components of the drug have been formally studied with regards to their effect on breastfeeding infants.

Acetaminophen is considered compatible with breastfeeding by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But there are some concerns regarding its safety. A study done on nursing mothers showed that when 5 women took 1 gram of this substance every 6 hours, traces of acetaminophen can be found in their breastmilk after about 3 hours. The average peak concentration for this particular component measured 0.42 mcg/mL which is considerably lower compared to therapeutic doses in adults.

As of the moment, there are no specific data on how exactly this drug affects infants who are exclusively breastfed. But since it does pass into the breastmilk in small amounts, mothers should take caution if it's the only thing they're taking to relieve their symptoms. It would be more advisable to consult your doctor first before breastfeeding while using Theraflu.

Dextromethorphan (DXM) is considered compatible with breastfeeding although some doctors advise against its use during lactation because of insufficient information regarding its effects on nursing infants. Some experts also claim that prolonged exposure to DXM through breastmilk may result in nasal and respiratory problems in children. However, this has not been clinically proven yet nor is it documented with regards to its concentration in breastmilk.

Pseudoephedrine is not recommended for breastfeeding mothers ever since the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report saying that this substance may reduce milk production.

It's also known to transfer into breastmilk so mothers using it are advised against nursing their infants during therapy. A 1993 case study involving a 16-day postpartum patient who was being treated with pseudoephedrine reported reduced milk volume but her infant still gained weight normally even without supplemental feeding.

How Theraflu can affect your baby?

If you are afraid of the fact that while taking Theraflu your baby might suffer some of its side effects, you may opt to use a different medication for treatment. There are several types of cold medications which can be used by breastfeeding mothers without any risk to their infants.

A study conducted on a sample of 52 nursing mothers who exclusively took Zyrtec (a common antihistamine with decongestant properties) showed that it doesn't pass into the breastmilk in large quantities and is considered safe.

It doesn't reduce milk supply either. If your baby exhibits signs of sleeplessness or irritability after you've taken this drug, contact your doctor immediately. In case you don't notice any changes at all, chances are your baby won't experience anything out of the ordinary with regards to Theraflu use.

Although there are a lot of data regarding the use of Theraflu during breastfeeding, it's always best to err on the safe side. Even if you're well aware that your drug is compatible with breastfeeding, be careful not to take too much of it. The last thing you want is for this medication to affect your milk production.

Limit its use only when needed and observe closely if any changes occur in the condition of your baby. Of course, always consult your doctor first before taking any cold or cough medication. It's also best if you avoid using them while still pregnant as nobody knows how they may affect the unborn child.

How often and how long should you take Theraflu?

Your Theraflu dosage may be dependent on how severe your symptoms are. If you just have a cold, then 2 tablets every 6 hours is enough. You should stay within these limits if you're breastfeeding since it does transfer into your breastmilk in small amounts.

If the medication seems to give you no relief at all after 3 days of using it, talk to a doctor immediately because there might be a chance that you have a secondary infection that needs another type of treatment.

It's best to consult your physician before taking any cold or cough medication when you're pregnant as well. The reason for this is that certain drugs can harm the unborn baby and produce side effects both for him/her and the mother.

The use of Theraflu during pregnancy is strictly prohibited due to reports of increased risk of birth defects, miscarriages, and decreased fetal weight. There are also studies that correlate its use with an increased chance of preterm labor. If you're trying to conceive or might be pregnant soon, then stop using it as soon as possible.

Alternative relief options for colds and sinus infections

A number of over-the-counter drugs are now available which can provide effective relief from sinus pressure and congestion such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, phenylephrine, guaifenesin, or pseudoephedrine. It would be best to consult your doctor first however if you're unsure which of these medications may be safe for you to use while breastfeeding.

At the same time, it is always better to cure with folk methods:

  • Keep the sinuses moist by drinking lots of fluids: water is best, but you can also use warm fruit or vegetable juice.
  • Use a humidifier at home and in the bedroom.
  • Use saline solution to rinse your nose: 1/2 tsp of salt in 1 cup of water. You may also buy nasal rinses from the pharmacy which you can use several times a day to wash out impurities from your nose.
  • Relieve congestion by drinking hot tea with honey and lemon. Remember not to give any herbal tea to a baby without first checking with his doctor.
  • Do some mild exercises such as walking or yoga every day since it helps relieve sinus pressure better than taking drugs.
  • Wash your hair daily: it will help you to breathe better especially during the cold season.
  • Follow a balanced diet: make sure you get enough vitamin C and zinc to boost your immune system. And if you crave salty food, it means that your body actually needs them so indulge yourself once in a while.
  • Get lots of rest: sleep at least 8 hours every day, but not more than 12 hours since too much sleep can also affect immunity just like stress or overwork because it can cause fatigue.
  • Sleep with clean bedding preferably washed in warm water: this will keep the dust mites at bay as well as less exposure to allergens and other contaminants that can trigger an episode of rhinitis or sinusitis.
  • - Identify your allergies: if you have a family history of allergies, it is best to check with your doctor for screenings for environmental irritants such as pollen, mold spores, animal dander, dust mites, and cockroaches which are common allergy triggers.

Things that will help you get rid of cold:

  • lemon and honey;
  • garlic;
  • hot milk and honey;
  • camomile tea;
  • sage tea.

If you still feel like you have to use medications for relief, just remember that taking ibuprofen before breastfeeding is not recommended. Also, avoid any drug which contains aspirin during lactation since it may lead to Reye's syndrome in children who are exposed to chickenpox or flu.  

Final words

The use of Theraflu during breastfeeding is not encouraged because it can cause adverse effects on the baby due to its ingredients. However, when taken in low amounts, the benefits of taking this medication outweighs its risks.

It's best to consult your doctor first before you start taking any medication however so he/she may prescribe an alternative drug if available since some medications are not compatible with breastfeeding.

Finally, there are natural remedies that can help relieve sinus pressure and congestion which are safe for both the mother and the child have more beneficial effects than using chemical drugs.