Managing Allergies While Pregnant or Breastfeeding

Allergies are a concern for those who are pregnant and breastfeeding, and rightly so. Allergies can be hard to manage while pregnant or breastfeeding since special consideration is needed for the medicines you can take.1

Typical allergy symptoms also occur during pregnancy. These may include:1,2

  • Breathing problems
  • Inflamed sinuses
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Scratchy, sore throat
  • Sneezing

Pregnancy rhinitis

Pregnancy rhinitis may also appear due to an increase in certain hormones. It is also called gestational rhinitis. About 1 in every 5 of those who are pregnant develop this condition in the second or third trimester.3

Symptoms of pregnancy rhinitis look just like hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and include:3

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Postnasal drip
  • Congestion

This can lead to poor sleep or snoring, which can make it hard to get enough rest. The good news is that this type of allergy-like reaction goes away soon after giving birth.3

How do allergies affect a baby?

The impact of allergies on a baby in the womb varies along with the allergies themselves. Most symptoms have little or no effect on a baby. But symptoms like shortness of breath can have a major effect. Getting enough oxygen is vital to the baby’s life and health.1,2

Allergies may also have indirect and future effects on a pregnant person's baby. Allergies can detract from their overall health, and this in turn can distress the baby. A pregnant person's allergies also raise their baby’s chance of having allergies later in life.4,5

What a pregnant person does to treat their allergies also has a bearing on their baby. Certain drugs can harm a baby when the person takes them while pregnant or breastfeeding. But other drugs and non-drug treatments can boost their health, which in turn helps their baby.

What allergy drugs are safe?

Controlling allergy symptoms is key for keeping pregnant people and their babies well. Certain allergy drugs are safe to use while pregnant and breastfeeding, including:1,2,6,7

Antihistamines

  • Chlorpheniramine (ChlorTrimeton®)
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®)
  • Loratadine (Claritin®)
  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec®)
  • Dexchlorpheniramine

Steroid nasal sprays

  • Fluticasone (Flonase®)
  • Mometasone (Nasonex®)
  • Budesonide (Rhinocort®)

Taking antihistamines and nasal sprays for your symptoms can help prevent sinus and other infections. Clearing up infections requires antibiotics and oral steroids. However, these drugs may present greater threats to pregnant people and their babies.1,2,4

Some may safely continue allergy shots while pregnant and breastfeeding. However, doctors generally advise against people starting allergy shots during pregnancy. Talk with your doctor about whether allergy shots during pregnancy or breastfeeding is safe for you.1,2,4

What allergy drugs are not safe?

Certain allergy drugs are harmful when used during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This includes most decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®), phenylephrine, and phenylpropanolamine.1,2,6

Studies show pseudoephedrine can cause birth defects in the baby’s belly. Avoiding this drug is best, especially during the first 3 months of pregnancy. Phenylephrine and phenylpropanolamine have even more serious risks than pseudoephedrine.1,2,6

Talk with your doctor before taking any decongestant while pregnant or breastfeeding.

What non-drug treatments ease allergies?

During pregnancy and breastfeeding, you may find relief from allergies through non-drug treatments. More well-known options include:7

  • Cleaning the sinuses with nasal saline
  • Keeping away from allergens like cat hair, mold, or pollen
  • Moistening air in the home with a humidifier
  • Opening nasal passages with nasal strips
  • Raising the upper part of the bed
  • Staying active

Some studies show that breastfeeding in the first 3 to 6 months of life may be linked to a lower risk of developing allergies later in life. However, other studies do not show a link.5

If you have concerns about allergies or asthma while pregnant and breastfeeding, talk to your doctor. They can advise on the best course of action. Your doctor can also provide a complete list of drugs that are safe to use during these times.

Managing allergies while pregnant and breastfeeding matters for you and your baby. Allergy treatments are available that can ease your symptoms and are safe for your baby. You can choose the ones that work for both of you.

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Written by: Michelle Marie Hernandez | Last reviewed March 2022