If you’ve lived with seasonal allergies you already know what usually eases your symptoms. But if your allergies flare up while you’re pregnant, your choices may become more limited.
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It’s hard to predict how things you normally experience will affect your baby (and yourself) differently during your pregnancy. It also takes time and a little digging to learn what’s safe, and what can pose a risk.
For allergy sufferers, the good news is that whether your seasonal allergy symptoms are mild or severe during pregnancy, the actual symptoms themselves likely won’t affect your baby, says OB/Gyn Salena Zanotti, MD. But you may need to change up how you’d normally treat those symptoms to limit any risks to your child.
Dr. Zanotti offers some interesting facts about how allergies can change when you’re pregnant.
- One-third of lucky women find that their allergy symptoms clear up.
- Another one-third of women find that their allergy symptoms worsen.
- The remaining one-third find that their allergy symptoms are about the same as before pregnancy.
“It’s funny, with pregnancy we see allergies go all three ways,” says Dr. Zanotti. “And we see that with asthma as well.”
Whichever way it goes for you, make sure to choose treatments that are safe for you and your baby.
Dr. Zanotti suggests five ways to safely manage your symptoms while you’re expecting.
1. Avoid allergy triggers as much as possible
Environmental allergens such as mold, pollen and animal dander are most often to blame for allergy symptoms. They’re also the most difficult allergens to avoid.
Dr. Zanotti’s advice when pollen or pollution levels are high is to limit your time outside. Keep your windows closed and turn on your air conditioning or a fan to help limit your exposure.
For mold and animal dander that commonly occur indoors, you may want to try the opposite and open your windows (during times when pollen and pollution levels are low outside).
2. Treat mild symptoms with home remedies
Nasal congestion is common during pregnancy, Dr. Zanotti says.
Using a humidifier in your home can sometimes help solve this problem. It won’t remove allergens from the environment but it will moisten the air. And that can help soothe your irritated nasal passages.
You can also try a saline or salt water nasal spray to help ease your congestion, she says.
3. Be picky about over-the-counter allergy medications
Many allergy medications really aren’t safe to take during pregnancy.
But loratadine (found in Claritin®) and cetirizine (found in Zyrtec® and Alleroff®) are two over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine medications that doctors consider as being safe to use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, Dr. Zanotti says.
Antihistamine medications work by blocking the effects of histamine, which is a trigger for allergy symptoms.
“These medications are really the first-line medications for treating allergies in pregnant women,” she says.
4. Try an intranasal steroid spray
If your allergies are severe and you aren’t getting relief from OTC allergy drugs, there’s still hope. You can try an intranasal steroid spray like Nasonex® or Flonase®.
These sprays are safe to use throughout pregnancy and the regular recommended dosage is still appropriate, Dr. Zanotti says.
5. Take care with allergy shots, pseudoephedrine and herbal remedies
“If you’ve received allergy shots before pregnancy and thought they helped your symptoms, it’s safe to continue them,” says Dr. Zanotti. “But we don’t recommend starting allergy shots during your pregnancy, because you don’t know what reaction you’ll have.”
Many expectant mothers ask about taking decongestants or pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®). She recommends that you avoid it in your first trimester. But you may take it in the second and third trimesters as long as you don’t have high blood pressure, she says.
As for herbal remedies and aromatherapy, Dr. Zanotti says their effects on pregnant women haven’t been studied sufficiently. It’s best to just steer clear of these, she says.
Hang in there
If you’ve tried Dr. Zanotti’s treatment options but aren’t getting much relief, remind yourself that the problem is only temporary.
“Your symptoms may be unpleasant but bear in mind that neither pregnancy nor seasonal allergy symptoms last forever,” she says. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and you’ll be happy you made the rights choices for your little one.”