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Hayfever is one of the most annoying situations to have to go through at the best time of times, with many people more susceptible than others. Some people may not get it all, some may just have a runny nose (toddlers get runny noses, too) whilst others can suffer quite a bit with streaming eyes, puffy face and constant sneezing to the point where it makes everyday life a massive struggle.
Suffering from hayfever while pregnant adds another dimension which can compound your discomfort. The later in the pregnancy you are the more uncomfortable it can be.
Normally, you would take a trip to the supermarket or pharmacist to get a nasal spray, eye drops, petroleum jelly, antihistamine tablets, strepsils or whatever has worked for you but the pregnancy makes it confusing as to what is safe to use during pregnancy and what can you get to make hayfever more manageable whilst keeping your unborn baby safe and in good health.
Foreword – Prevention is better than a cure
It’s easy enough to say this but as you’ll start reading below; your choices of what to take for hayfever while pregnant is more limited than if you were not. If you are particularly vulnerable to pollen spores during spring and summer then you’ll be doing yourself favour by avoiding hotspots as much as you can, this means;
Try to stay indoors as much as you can and avoid areas with a lot of flowers and places with a high pollen count if you do go out
- Wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your itchy eyes
- Put petroleum jelly around your nostrils
- Try to avoid leaving windows open
- Wear a face mask
- Use an air purifier
- Bathe regularly and change clothes if you have been outside
- Keep the house well-vacuumed and dust-free
If you try to do the above as often as you can without going too far (it’s important to go out during pregnancy for health and mental wellbeing) then you’ll reduce the risk of needing to find pregnancy-safe hayfever medicine.
Lastly, the closer to your due date you are the more careful you should be as a combination of third-trimester discomfort and hayfever is not a pleasant experience for anyone, not just pregnant women.
What medications can you take for hay fever while pregnant?
What you should avoid
Many over the counter or off the shelf hayfever relief medicines contain ingredients which can impact your baby and it’s never advised purchasing any of these. The ingredients which can make people feel drowsy can affect the baby and most antihistamines and antihistamine tablets contain these.They travel through the blood and can have the same effects on the baby. Example ingredients are diphenhydramine and doxylamine succinate. Lastly, decongestants can increase the likelihood of birth defects so should be avoided on their own and care should be taken to ensure you do not contain an antihistamine which also contains a decongestant.
Antihistamine tablets and other oral-based hay fever medicine travels through the blood and can reach the umbilical cord and the placenta. This is not to say that it is fatal or even likely to cause any issues but the fact remains that medical professionals can’t say with certainty that it is harmelss and therefore it’s simply not a risk worth taking during pregnancy. To an adult they could cause drowsiness but what would it do to a tiny foetus?
This doesn’t leave many options on the table which causes the confusion over what is and isn’t safe to take while pregnant and reaffirms why it’s so important to a) avoid getting hayfever, b) not take anything at all if it’s not serious and c) see a GP if you are suffering a lot.
What you can take
The safest and most effective antihistamines and medicines to use to combat hayfever during pregnancy, particularly during a high pollen count hay fever event are nasal sprays and eye drops because they do not travel through the body and don’t reach the baby. Specifically, a corticosteroid or sodium cromoglicate based nasal spray. These nasal sprays should make the allergy symptoms of hayfever a little more manageable and not cause drowsiness.
If you have itchy eyes then antihistamine or sodium cromoglicate based eye drops will also help pregnant women with allergies caused by pollen.
There are antihistamine tablets available which are safe to use when expecting a baby but they are generally not something you can purchase without speaking to a pharmacist or a GP (which we would recommend). If your pharmacist were to offer tablets then they would be loratadine or cetirizine based because there is a significant amount of safety data available. However, your GP may not recommend them after a few checks. Chlorphenamine may also be recommended but this can cause drowsiness which is something GPs always look to avoid with a pregnancy.
Can pregnancy make hay fever worse?
Allergies are caused by an overreaction by the immune system (pregnancy rhinitis) which creates inflammation, a runny nose, itchy eyes and general feel of discomfort. Being pregnant is already uncomfortable as your immune system is heightened and your body temperature is higher so pregnancy does make the symptoms of hay fever worse. Due to hay fever medicine being such a tricky subject we repeat our advice to try and avoid going outside when there’s a high pollen count.
Hay fever and pregnancy is not a good mix and should be avoided. If you know you have always had a bad time with allergies then this should be adhered to as much as possible so that you never find yourself in a situation where you need to even consider taking medications which could potentially harm your unborn child. Stay indoors, avoid places with a lot of pollen and keep the windows closed and wait it out.
However, if you are pregnant and currently suffer from the effects of hayfever and you’re desperate for the help of antihistamines then please consult your GP first and don’t take the chance with over the counter drugs. We’d recommend if the symptoms are mild and you can manage to simply wait it out. But, if they are severe then that’s when you should visit a GP and perhaps consult your midwife as well.