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Can I take hay fever medicine during pregnancy?

Pregnant woman lying down drinking orange juice
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Taking medication during pregnancy might set off alarm bells in your head. But what happens when your hay fever symptoms make you struggle to get through the day?

In this guide, we’ll talk about:

  • Can allergies get worse during pregnancy?
  • Seasonal allergies symptoms
  • Tips to avoid allergy symptoms
  • Can you take hay fever tablets when breastfeeding?
  • Can you use a nasal spray when pregnant?

Taking hay fever medication when pregnant

There are plenty of ways to prevent your symptoms from getting worse when you have allergies during pregnancy. You won’t be able to buy antihistamines over the counter if you’re pregnant, so speak to your doctor if you find it difficult to tolerate your symptoms. You can also combat specific symptoms using products like saline nasal sprays and eye drops.

Can allergies get worse during pregnancy?

Your allergies during pregnancy may get worse, stay the same or even improve. It all depends on the individual, so there’s no specific rule for all pregnant women.

During pregnancy, a condition called rhinitis can make you feel like you’ve got allergic symptoms. Rhinitis can make you sneeze, have nasal congestion or have a runny nose.

Pregnancy rhinitis happens due to a hormonal change, not an allergen. When you’re pregnant, your blood flow increases around your body to keep up with your baby's demands. This includes blood flow to areas called mucous membranes, which are found in the lungs, stomach and nose lining.

When the blood flow increases in your nose, the blood vessels can become inflamed and swollen. Having pregnancy rhinitis while also experiencing hay fever can worsen your allergy symptoms.

Your doctor may suggest you use saline nasal drops or nasal strips for rhinitis treatment in pregnancy. They may also prescribe you with medication to reduce the inflammation in your nose.

Seasonal allergies symptoms

Seasonal allergies usually occur during the spring and summer months. The typical symptoms of seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever, include:

You might also get a headache, feel tired or have shortness of breath. If you have asthma, seasonal allergies may trigger an asthma attack.

Tips to avoid allergy symptoms

You can avoid getting allergy symptoms by following a few simple steps. This will depend on the type of allergen you want to avoid.

If you’re not sure what’s causing your allergy symptoms, try to keep a diary for when you notice your symptoms increasing.

Common allergens include pollen, house dust mites, animal fur and mould spores. These allergens can also trigger an asthma attack, so it’s essential to know the difference between allergy symptoms and asthma.

Pollen

Plants release a fine powder called pollen at different times of the year. They need pollen to reproduce. Pollen is not a harmful substance, but your immune system might be sensitive to it. This over sensitisation leads to allergy symptoms.

Wind-pollinating plants are the ones you need to look out for, as airborne pollen can trigger your symptoms. Pollen from insect-pollinated plants is usually heavier, which means it doesn’t become airborne.

The main types of pollen are tree pollen, grass pollen and weed pollen. Try to avoid going outdoors in the early morning and late evening, as this is when the daily pollen count is the highest.

The Met Office provides a weekly pollen forecast. This forecast will tell you what types of pollen are circulating in specific regions of the UK.

To avoid pollen, you can also:

  • Close your windows and doors
  • Stay indoors as much as you can
  • Take a shower and wash your clothes after being outside

If your allergies worsen when pregnant, your GP may refer you to an allergist specialist. An allergist will check if you are allergic to a specific allergen, like pollen. They can then advise you on how best to treat and manage your allergies.

House dust mites

House dust mites are tiny creatures that live in your home. You won’t be able to see them, but they feed off of the flakes of skin you shed every day. You won’t be allergic to the dust mite itself but the waste products it leaves behind.

It’s not easy to prevent allergy symptoms from house dust mites. You can take the following steps to reduce your exposure:

  • Vacuum your home regularly with a HEPA filter vacuum
  • Wear a dust mask or face mask when cleaning your home
  • Change your bedding regularly, around once a week, and wash in hot water to kill the dust mites
  • Cover your mattress and bedding with dust-proof covers

Remember that dust mites don’t just live in your bed. They can get into all types of furniture, including your carpet. If you can, change your carpeted floor to wood or linoleum and wash your rugs regularly.

Animals

You may have an allergy to pets, including cats and dogs. The allergen that causes symptoms is usually saliva trapped in the animal’s fur. Other trapped allergens can include dust and pollen.

If you’re allergic to pets, you’ll probably know and won’t have any pets at home. It’s equally important to avoid visiting homes that have pets.

If you discover you have an allergy and want to keep your pet, try to restrict the rooms your pet is allowed in at home. These might be the rooms you spend most of your time in, such as your bedroom.

Mould spores

Moulds are a type of fungi with seeds called spores, which can trigger an allergic reaction. Moulds can grow in a variety of areas. Some moulds grow better in humid or wet climates, while others prefer dry environments. The moulds that cause an allergic reaction often grow in damp environments, such as in your bathroom or kitchen.

If you have asthma, your symptoms may worsen if you have mould growing in your home or workplace.

To prevent the build-up of mould at home, try to:

  • Keep your windows open during the day to improve airflow
  • Fix the sources of dampness, such as broken rainwater drains
  • Clean your sink and bath at least monthly with an anti-mould cleaning agent
  • Remove clothes from the washing machine as soon as possible
  • Dry damp or wet clothes immediately

You can use a dehumidifier to reduce the humidity in your home. The dehumidifier will collect water, so you’ll need to drain it regularly.

Can you take hay fever tablets when breastfeeding?

Hay fever tablets manufacturers can’t do clinical trials with breastfeeding women, so limited data is available on their safety. You won’t be able to buy hay fever tablets over the counter if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Avoid using nasal decongestants that contain pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine. These can affect your milk supply. Saline nasal sprays are safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

You can also try non-medication remedies to treat your symptoms. This includes our Allergy Reliever, which uses red light therapy to block the cells that release histamine, and is suitable during pregnancy.

Can you use nasal sprays when pregnant?

You’ll usually be advised to use a saline nasal spray to treat hay fever symptoms when pregnant. You can also use nasal strips when you go to sleep. These strips open up your nasal passages and reduce a stuffy nose.

If your nasal symptoms are severe, your doctor may review your symptoms and suggest the safest options available. Avoid using decongestants like Sudafed nasal spray during pregnancy.

A final note on hay fever medicine during pregnancy

Your hay fever symptoms won’t necessarily worsen during pregnancy, and you might even find your symptoms improving.

You may choose to treat your symptoms with natural remedies. These can often be as effective as medication. Natural remedies can include using products like an allergy cold therapy mask.

It’s essential to support your body during pregnancy to ensure you and your baby stay healthy. This includes taking care of yourself when you feel unwell and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This includes taking pregnancy supplements and vitamins to support your body.

You can find more information about keeping healthy during pregnancy in our mother and baby advice blog.

References

www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/rhinitis
www.nhs.uk/conditions/allergies
www.nhs.uk/conditions/hay-fever
www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/can-damp-and-mould-affect-my-health
www.nhs.uk/medicines/pseudoephedrine