Is It a Cold or Early Pregnancy Symptoms? Take This Quiz

Updated on January 7, 2020
Kierstin Gunsberg profile image

Kierstin is a mom to two little girls and host of the satirical podcast Really Good Advice for New Moms.

5 Early Pregnancy Symptoms That Can Make it Feel Like You're Getting Sick

  1. A scratchy throat
  2. A lack of appetite
  3. A runny nose
  4. Feeling weak and short of breath
  5. A stuffed up nose and sinuses

You know what's weird? The first time I found out I was pregnant I was convinced I was just coming down with a cold or the flu. I had all of the classic symptoms of a virus but it turns out I was experiencing early pregnancy symptoms which can feel similar to a bug. Take the quiz below and then read about each symptom to find out if you should grab a pregnancy test when you make that Ramen/cough drop run.


Are You Having Cold Symptoms or Pregnancy Symptoms?

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A Scratchy Throat

What it Feels Like

That sore, irritated feeling that comes on in your throat right before you get a nasty cold or right after breathing in some dust. It's not painful, but it's not pleasant and it definitely makes you reach for the cough drops.

Why it Might Not Be a Cold

Something called "rhinitis of pregnancy" could be the culprit behind your itchy throat that never turns into a cold. This condition, though annoying, is basically harmless and pretty common. It's likely caused by changing hormones during the first trimester, but the condition can pop up during the second and third trimester or last all of the way through delivery. Fun!

A Lack of Appetite

What it Feels Like

You're supposed to meet your bestie for a chili cookoff but you're veering more towards a lemon La Croix, a bowl of rice and the entirety of the Queer Eye collection. Is this your usual social anxiety combining with an impending virus or something more?

Why it Might Not Be a Cold

Morning sickness, which is technically termed as "nausea and vomiting of pregnancy" isn't always going to show up as classic nausea and vomiting, especially in the earliest days. Oftentimes, this harbinger to a baby bump first appears in food aversions, a disinterest in rich foods and feeling full quicker than you normally do.

Feeling more like soup that a deep dish pizza this evening? A lot of women experience decreased appetite in early pregnancy.
Feeling more like soup that a deep dish pizza this evening? A lot of women experience decreased appetite in early pregnancy. | Source

A Runny Nose

What it Feels Like

Your nose is getting raw from all of the wiping and you might even be gagging from the post nasal drip.

Why it Might Not Be a Cold

Going back to the earlier mention of rhinitis of pregnancy, changing hormones could be causing your nose to run. It turns out that one of the most common cold symptoms is also one of the most common pregnancy symptoms. Who knew?

A Stuffed Up Nose and Sinuses

What it Feels Like

You're blowing your nose between meetings and slathering on the Vick's before bed.

Why it Might Not Be a Cold

Say it with me once more, rhinitis of pregnancy.

Feeling Weak and Short of Breath

What it Feels Like

You're huffing and puffing up the stairs and climbing into bed before you've even taken your pants off after work. Forget taking the dog for a walk this evening!

Why it Might Not Be a Cold

A whole heck of a lot is happening in the first trimester, especially in those first few weeks. Even before you've missed your period, you may start feeling run down and foggy. That's because after conception your blood sugar drops and we all know that low blood sugar means low energy. While that's dropping, your hormones are rising and on top of it all, you've got an increase of blood production (which basically means your body is working super hard with less resources) to accommodate a baby.

Feeling worn out and sleepy can mean you've got a virus coming on, but it can also be a sign that it's time to take a pregnancy test.
Feeling worn out and sleepy can mean you've got a virus coming on, but it can also be a sign that it's time to take a pregnancy test. | Source

Cold and Flu Symptoms That Aren't a Sign of Pregnancy


Although it's true that we might feel a little warmer than usual in early pregnancy, this is due to extra blood flow, not a fever. If you're a little warmer than your usual temperature that could mean you're pregnant, but if you're reading out at over 100.4 F or 38 C then you're dealing with an actual fever, unrelated at all to pregnancy.

A Deep Cough

Sure, those pesky sinus issues can be a chalked up to a tiny bun in the oven, but if you're experiencing a deep, chesty cough or lots of phlegm, you're experiencing a cold, virus or infection that you'll want to see a doctor about. This isn't an indication of pregnancy.

Chest Pressure

Likewise, chest pressure and aching is a signal that you're likely coming down with an upper respiratory virus or infection or some other non-pregnancy related medical issue.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

Swollen lymph nodes are a classic sign that your body is fighting someone off. Swollen lymph nodes might happen during pregnancy when you're battling a virus, but they're not an actual sign of being pregnant.

Questions About Feeling Sick with a Cold or Flu While Possibly Pregnant

Can you take antibiotics in early pregnancy?

Yes, but not all antibiotics are safe for pregnancy, especially early pregnancy, with some being linked to miscarriage when used in the first trimester. See, in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy a fetus grows faster than it will for the rest of the pregnancy, which means a ton of development is happening and outside factors (like medications) can negatively influence that development.

So, if you have a hunch you might be pregnant and you're being treated for a virus or infection, take a home pregnancy test or ask to have a simple urine test done while you're at the doctor's office. That way they can prescribe the safest course of treatment.

Can you use cough suppressants in early pregnancy?

Outside of acetaminophen (Tylenol) most medications including cough suppressants and expectorants have to run by your doctor for what's safe and what's not during the first trimester. Even if you can find a "safe" list on the internet, the criteria changes often enough that it's a good idea to check in with your doctor's office.

My skin is peeling and chapped from blowing my nose, what can I put on it?

Try Aquaphor in the squeeze bottle (so you're not dipping your germy hand into a jar of it) and slather it on before bed so it has a full night to repair your skin. It's a fragrance and preservative free skin protectant so it's safe for early pregnancy.

Can being sick give me a false positive pregnancy test?

No, if you receive a positive pregnancy test while sick you're still pregnant.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Kierstin Gunsberg


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