As colder weather approaches or a little one is off to start preschool for the first time, we brace ourselves as we all know those nasty bugs are well on their way into our house!
Many cold and flu medications are not safe for a breastfeeding mother as some of them may contain antihistamines or pseudoephedrine which can cause drowsiness in infants as well as drastically reduce the milk supply. Some mothers may not realize that there are indeed some breastfeeding safe cold medications, so many turn to homeopathic remedies instead.
One of those remedies is Zinc, often sold under different brand names, including Zicam cold medications. But are the Zicam products safe for breastfeeding mothers? Does it affect their breast milk, milk production or their milk supply? What about breastfed infants, are they affected in any way?
What exactly is Zicam?
Zicam is a popular homeopathic over the counter cold medication believed to help with cold symptoms such as a runny nose and nasal congestion. Zicam is one of the most popular natural cold medicine remedies out there.
Most of their medications contain zinc, Zincum Gluconicum or zinc acetate as active ingredients.
An active ingredient is any ingredient that provides a biologically active or direct effect in the treatment or prevention of a disease or to affect the structure or any function of the body.
Zicam contains small amounts of zinc (Zincum Gluconicum) – 266 micrograms per squirt.
Why is Zinc believed to help with colds and flus?
The exact mechanism of zinc’s activity on viruses remains uncertain, but Zinc can inhibit rhinovirus replication and has activity against other respiratory viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus.
A new meta-analysis shows that zinc supplementation can reduce the duration and severity of a cold, if it’s started early on.
Is Zicam safe to take while breastfeeding?
In one small study, a daily dosage of 2.1 mg per day was administered and the results concluded that Zinc is considered compatible with breastfeeding, especially in small amounts. Excessive amounts are not recommended as it can cause Zinc toxicity.
Seeing as Zicam basically contains only Zinc, it is considered compatible with breastfeeding.
It’s recommended to only use small dosages and only for a few days at a time. 12mg daily is the recommended daily allowance of zinc for breastfeeding mothers and it is recommended that Zinc not exceed the upper limit of 25-50mg per day.
The side effects of Zinc
If you are on antibiotics, Zinc can impact their effectiveness. Zinc may also inhibit the absorption of certain antibiotics.
Extremely large quantities of zinc could cause zinc toxicity. Zinc toxicity symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and headaches. If you suspect that you may have Zinc toxicity, consult with a healthcare professional immediately.
Alternatives to Zicam medications
Zicam or Zinc, although crucial to the human body, is found in everyday food and is not necessarily the best remedy for colds and flus. Natural colds and flu remedies may work just as well, if not better than Zicam or Zinc.
The very best remedy for any sick person is rest, rest as much as possible. This gives your body the chance to heal without any additional stress.
Hydration is always important, even more so when you’re sick, as your body needs more water during times of illness which is why we tend to dehydrate very quickly when we’re sick. Keep up the liquids to allow your body to take what it needs.
Up your Vitamin C intake
Although Vitamin C won’t heal you, it will help to build up your immunity which can in turn, help you heal faster and help protect you against further illness. Citrus fruits are a great source of Vitamin C.
Garlic is alleged to have antimicrobial and antiviral properties that relieve the common cold, among other beneficial effects. Raw garlic is best for this purpose.
Nothing opens your nose like some pepper! A 2016 review found that capsaicin may relieve symptoms such as sneezing, a stuffy nose, postnasal drip, and congestion.
Saline nasal spray
Saline nasal spray is the most recommended course of treatment of stuffy noses in both babies and adults. Simply spray some into your nose, and suction or blow out the loosened and moistened mucus. Some people also like to use neti pots to help clear mucus from the nose.
Salt water gargle
Chances are, you’ve done a saltwater gargle sometime in your life. Gargling salt water has been shown to ease pain and inflammation in a sore throat. It may also reduce harmful bacteria in your mouth, lowering the risk of cavities and gingivitis.
Honey is an all-time favorite treatment for many, and evidence is slowly proving its efficiency against cold and flu symptoms.
There is increasing evidence that a single dose of honey might reduce mucus secretion and reduce coughing.
In a study offering 500 mL of water, water with buckwheat honey, black tea, black tea with sugar, or black tea with buckwheat honey to 25 healthy men, honey showed good demulcent effect and antioxidant properties, and it increased cytokine release, which might have antimicrobial effects.
Chamomile tea is not only relaxing, but it also contains anti-inflammatory properties which may help reduce inflammation and reduce cold and flu symptoms.
Sore throat sprays or throat lozenges
Sore throat sprays, lozenges and cough drops are generally considered safe. Consuming excessive amounts of cough drops containing menthol should be avoided as large amounts of menthol can reduce the milk supply.
Many forms of Robitussin, Delsym and Benylin
Many forms of Robitussin, Delsym and Benylin are considered compatible with breastfeeding. Always check the active ingredients as there are many different versions of some medications and not all of them will contain breastfeeding safe ingredients.
Nasal sprays are generally considered compatible with breastfeeding.
Corticosteroid nasal sprays (Flonase, Nasacort, etc.) and cromolyn sodium nasal spray (Nasalcrom) are considered to be effective and safe for breastfeeding mothers.
The ingredients of Claritin, Claritin-D, Clarinex, Allegra, Allegra-D, and Zyrtec are generally regarded to be compatible with breastfeeding. Be sure to check the active ingredients first, as there are many different versions and not all of them are compatible with breastfeeding.
Ibuprofen and paracetamol
Both Advil/Motrin (Ibuprofen) and Tylenol (Acetaminophen) are considered compatible with breastfeeding.
Important notes on Zicam/Zinc medications while breastfeeding
A homeopathic nasal gel, made by Zicam and containing ionic zinc gluconate, was recalled by the FDA in 2009 because it has been associated with serious side effects regarding the sense of smell, permanent anosmia (loss of smell) to be exact.
From the available data that we have, the occasional use or short-term use of small doses of zinc is usually harmless. High doses and long-term use of zinc is not recommended.
Natural cold remedies such as chamomile tea and saline spray are great and safe alternatives to use for colds and flus with much less risk.
Most people don’t need additional zinc or any zinc supplements as they already consume enough zinc in their diet, or from taking their normal or prenatal vitamins.
If you’re ever in doubt about anything related to breastfeeding, please consult with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) to support you with any needs that you may have.
Homeopathic medicines are not very well regulated nor are they always evidence based. If you’re in need of medical advice or medical help, please consult with your health care provider.