Where children gather in large numbers, outbreaks of viral illnesses often occur throughout the year. Pregnant mums are often concerned about the significance to them and their unborn offspring. However, most common outbreaks do no harm to the pregnant Mum and her fetus. Rather, they are simply annoying and tiring.
Gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhoea)
Most “gastro” bugs take around 24 – 48 hours from beginning to end. Symptoms in your child are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and loss of appetite. Good hand washing by all members of the family and carers help to stem the spread. Utensils should not be shared – cups, spoons, drink bottles. Children usually get better quickly while the pregnant mum may take longer to recover.
If the pregnant Mum does develop the same symptoms, the best advice is to keep up fluids and get as much rest as she can. Electrolyte drinks and ice blocks are safe in pregnancy and are often more palatable, than just water. Ice chips or lemonade ice blocks (not milky ice confectionery) will often get the mum through the worst of the symptoms. When reintroducing solids, try crackers and hard cheese or good old vegemite and delay the introduction of dairy products until you are on the mend.
Lice are tiny parasites which cause lots of itching and scratching. They attach to the hair strands, lay eggs and reproduce rapidly. They are highly contagious and can spread throughout the family quickly. All family members must be treated with commercial “head lice” treatment. All treatments are safe in pregnancy. Use as directed. This entails applying the treatment to the head, covering the head with a shower cap for 15 minutes’ minutes, and then using a fine-toothed comb to remove the dead lice and eggs from the hair. The treatment should be repeated a couple of times, usually at 7 days and at 14 days, to avoid reinfestation. All bed linen, should be washed in hot soapy water to avoid reinfection from displaced eggs. Pillows, blankets and doonas should be left in the sun to kill off any lice.
Whilst most of these preparations carry warnings for pregnant women, all are safe in pregnancy as they are “topical” medications limiting their absorption.
Another option, if the mum chooses to avoid chemicals, is to lather the hair and scalp, in hair conditioner, smothering the lice, followed by combing with a fine tooth comb to remove the lice and eggs. This method requires diligence and frequent use for 2 weeks, as the life cycle from egg to adult is 10 days.
Threadworms are highly contagious and commonly erupt in school children of all ages. Most common symptoms are an itchy and red bottom. The worms are spread by the ingestion of minuscule threadworms eggs from contaminated food, sharing utensils (drink bottles) or fingers. Eggs are caught underneath the fingernails from scratching itchy areas.
Symptoms in children are usually an itchy bottom and often behavioural irritability. Mature threadworms may be visible in bowel movements, as they appear as moving white cotton threads.
They entire family should be treated, including the pregnant Mum. Over the counter medication is safe in pregnancy. The active ingredients, Mebenazole and/or Pyrantel are poorly absorbed with the medication being excreted with the bowel movement. The medication is taken twice, at two weekly intervals, to ensure irradiation of all eggs.
All bed linen, towels and toys should be washed in hot water, and good hand washing is essential. Toilet seats would be disinfected and Carpets and floors need to be vacuumed.
These are caused by the herpes simplex virus and appear as blisters generally around the mouth. They are highly infectious, and whilst thought to cause no harm to the fetus, a herpes infection in the newborn is serious and can be life threatening. It is therefore important to treat an outbreak. Early treatment is advised and all topical “over the counter” treatments with Acyclovir, are safe during pregnancy. Good hand washing is essential as this virus can also be transferred to the genital region. If genital herpes occurs in the pregnant woman, she must seek medical advice for management of this condition as transference to the newborn at birth can be catastrophic.
If you have any questions regarding these topics and the medications, please call our midwives on 9251 8550 or Mothersafe.org.au