Are allergy medications safe to use during pregnancy?

You can still find allergy relief in pregnancy while avoiding certain treatments

Pregnant woman outside smelling flowers

When it comes to taking allergy medications while pregnant, it’s right for a woman to be concerned about the baby. Women need to be very cautious about using any drugs during pregnancy and if at all possible, to avoid them completely in the first trimester. Most importantly, before taking any allergy drugs at any point during pregnancy, talk to your doctor.

Avoid certain allergy medications

Use of oral decongestants is associated with increased risk of birth defects. Some oral antihistamines, like Allegra (fexofenadine), Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Chlor-Trimeton (chlorpheniramine), Claritin (loratadine), and Zyrtec (cetirizine) appear to be safe after the first trimester, safe meaning they have caused no known harm in studies that have been done. Avoid antihistamines combined with a decongestant. (Most have a D for decongestant after the name, like Claritin-D.)

Nasal sprays, as prescribed or recommended by a doctor, are applied only in the nose. That means their effects do not go throughout the body like oral medications. However, avoid nasal spray decongestants. There is not enough evidence to indicate whether or not they are safe.

Don’t start allergy shots during pregnancy. If women are already taking them when they become pregnant, they can continue.

The reality is, not taking any allergy medication is the best option. But for women whose allergy symptoms are leaving them sleepless and unable to function, taking medication with a doctor’s approval may be better for both them and the baby. It’s important for women with allergic asthma to use their prescribed medication. Uncontrolled asthma can cause serious problems during pregnancy.

Watch the pollen count

Primarily, pollens in the air cause spring allergies. Pollens come primarily from trees and grasses. When pollen grains get into the nose, the immune system mistakenly labels them as foreign and releases antibodies to attack these allergens.

That leads to the release of chemicals called histamines into the blood. Histamines trigger runny noses, itchy eyes and other symptoms.

Avoiding triggers is the first and best option, although it is admittedly difficult. Pollens circulate more on windy days. The higher the pollen count, the more miserable one will be. Many cities publicize daily pollen counts. When counts are high or when it is windy, keep windows and doors closed. If possible, stay inside.

Minimize allergies

There are also some other steps to take to minimize allergies without danger to the baby:

  • Use an over-the-counter saline nasal spray and/or rinse the nasal cavity with a neti pot once or twice a day. (Follow the printed directions for safe, proper use.)
  • Physical activity can help reduce nasal inflammation.
  • Nighttime use of nasal strips and elevating the head of one’s bed can also help keep nasal passages more open while sleeping.

Try to keep a positive mindset. Two things are for certain: Seasonal allergies and pregnancy, both, do not last forever. While pregnant, try to avoid potential triggers and use alternatives to medication to minimize the effects of seasonal allergies. There is an end in sight, and soon mom will be breathing easy and enjoying a healthy, happy baby.

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Posted In Ear, Nose & Throat, Health Information, Pregnancy, Women's