If you’ve lived with seasonal allergies, you know what usually eases your symptoms. But if your allergies flare up while you’re pregnant, your choices narrow. It’s more work to understand what won’t pose a risk to your baby.
As with most aspects of pregnancy, it’s hard to tell ahead of time how allergies might affect you. The good news is that whether your seasonal allergy symptoms are mild or severe, the symptoms themselves likely won’t affect your baby, says OB/Gyn Salena Zanotti, MD.
But will you notice a change in your allergy symptoms while you’re pregnant? It could go either way, she says.
“It’s funny, with pregnancy we see allergies go all three ways,” says Dr. Zanotti. “And we see that with asthma as well.”
So however it goes for you, Dr. Zanotti suggests five tips that will help you safely manage your symptoms while you’re expecting.
Environmental allergens such as mold, pollen and animal dander are most often to blame for allergy symptoms. And they are also the most difficult allergens to avoid.
Dr. Zanotti’s advice? When pollen or pollution levels are high, limit your time outside. Keep your windows closed and turn on your air conditioning or a fan to help limit your exposure.
Nasal congestion is common during pregnancy, Dr. Zanotti says.
Using a humidifier in your home can sometimes help solve that problem. It won’t remove allergens from the environment, but it will moisten the air. And that can help soothe irritated nasal passages.
You can also try a saline or salt water nasal spray to help ease congestion, she says.
Many allergy medications aren’t safe to take during pregnancy. But loratadine (found in Claratin®) and cetirizine (found in Zyrtec® and Alleroff®) are two over-the-counter antihistamine medications that doctors consider safe to use during pregnancy and when 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.
If your allergies are severe and you aren’t getting relief from OTC allergy drugs, try an intra-nasal steroid spray, such as Nasonex® or Flonase®.
These sprays are safe to use throughout pregnancy and regular dosing is appropriate, Dr. Zanotti says.
“If you have 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 initiating allergy shots during pregnancy, because you don’t know what reaction you will have.”
She says many expectant mothers ask about taking pseudoephedrine (a decongestant in such products as 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. So it’s best to steer clear of them.
If you have tried Dr. Zanotti’s treatment options but aren’t getting much relief, remind yourself that the problem is only temporary.
“It’s important to keep in mind that neither pregnancy nor seasonal allergy symptoms last forever,” she says. “There is light at the end of the tunnel.”