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Dealing with Springtime Allergies during Pregnancy

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Spring is here, and if you’re like many people, you’re dealing with the watering eyes, coughing, sneezing, and sniffling that pollen causes those sensitive to it. When you aren’t pregnant, you usually don’t need to think twice before popping a pill to relieve those symptoms, but once you are pregnant, you start to question everything you put into your body – and rightfully so. You want to do everything you can to keep your baby safe and healthy, but you also don’t need the continual stress of dealing with your allergy symptoms, whether they are caused by pollen, dust, pet dander, or whatever else triggers them. 

Many pregnant women deal with allergies. Some of these are women who have always had them and find that they don’t magically disappear just because they are now pregnant; some women find that they experience allergy symptoms during pregnancy that they have never had before. Sometimes swollen nasal passages, a common result of pregnancy hormones, can mimic the symptoms of allergy sufferers. This can occur alone or in conjunction with actual allergies, multiplying the misery of the affected woman.

What You Can Do

The best way to get relief, of course, is to avoid your triggers in the first place, whenever possible. Secondhand smoke (which is dangerous for you and your baby anyway), pollen, cat dander, and mold are all common triggers; so are paint thinner and other household chemicals. Use common sense and stay indoors when pollen is at its worst, invite your cat-loving friends to your house instead of going to theirs, and use natural cleaners that don’t make your symptoms flare.

If your best efforts to avoid symptoms are unsuccessful and you need to take a more proactive approach, the first step is to talk to your doctor to see what steps you can safely take. Even if you have been taking an allergy medicine for years, check with your doctor before continuing it now – and this includes prescription, over the counter, and homeopathic medicines.

There are some general guidelines for what drugs are safe in pregnancy. For example, over-the-counter antihistamines are usually considered safe for use by pregnant women, but they can make you sleepy. Pregnancy itself can also cause considerable fatigue, so this may not be ideal for you. Conversely, decongestants such as Sudafed or other decongestants containing vasoconstrictors like pseudoephedrine may constrict the vessels in your placenta and cause fetal compromise. The bottom line is that you should ask your doctor before taking any medication at all during your pregnancy to make sure the drug is safe for your individual situation.

Desensitization for allergies needs to be discussed with your obstetrician and your allergist in a mutual consultative meeting, understanding the risks and benefits. You can also try natural remedies such as using a neti pot (with sterilized water), as long as your doctor is aware of the treatment and gives you his/her approval.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H