Seasonal Allergies During Pregnancy

by Robert A. Gehring

Pregnancy and AllergiesSpring has sprung and Summer's on its way! An unwelcome guest might accompany the waving grasses and beautiful blossoms -- seasonal allergies.

Just as you can finally breathe a sigh of relief, the floating pollen and grasses give way to ragweed and molds.

You might already be battling pregnancy rhinitis, that estrogen-induced stuffy nose that often plagues pregnant women. Add in seasonal allergies and it's apt to be twice as bad. What's a mom-to-be to do when a refreshing walk turns results in sneezes, a runny nose, nasal congestion and red, itchy eyes?

You could reach into the medicine cabinet for pills and sprays, but pregnant women today tend to be cautious with drugs. Fortunately, you can avoid or reduce your exposure to allergy triggers.

Lessen Allergy Symptoms Without Medicine

Avoid triggers. Limit your exposure to anything that triggers your allergy symptoms.

  • Close the windows, use air-conditioning and avoid outdoor activity between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when pollen and pollution are at their highest. Change the unit's filter monthly through October.
  • Change clothes after spending time outdoors, and shower to remove pollen from hair and skin.
  • Don't hang sheets and clothing outside to dry.
  • Remove allergy-causing pets from the house.
  • Seal pillows, mattresses and box springs in special dust mite-proof casings.
  • Use an electrostatic cloth instead of a dry dust cloth to pick up dirt, dust and hair.
  • Use filtering vacuums or "filter vacuum bags" to control airborne dust when cleaning.

Try saline nasal spray. This safe, salt water solution can help ease nasal dryness, bleeding and congestion. A few squirts in each nostril can ease or end an attack. You can use the spray as often as needed.

Use a neti pot once or twice a day. Neti pots are available in most pharmacies. Fill the neti pot with an over-the-counter saline nasal solution. Then tilt your head over the sink, place the spout of the neti pot in your upper nostril and gently pour in the saline solution. As you pour, the saline solution flows through your nasal cavity and out your lower nostril, rinsing away pollen and irritants. Repeat on the other side.

Make physical activity part of your daily routine. Exercise is known to help reduce nasal inflammation. Your best bet for outdoor activity is right after a rain, when the air is cleanest.

Use nasal strips at night. Over-the-counter adhesive nasal strips can help keep your nasal passages open while you're sleeping.

Allergy Medications Used During Pregnancy

If these tips don't help your allergy symptoms, you still might not need to buy stock in tissues. Some allergy medications can be used during pregnancy. Your midwife or doctor can help you choose the safest medication for you and your baby. Your health care provider might suggest one of these solutions:

Antihistamine: Most antihistamines are considered safe for use during pregnancy. Popular antihistamines include over-the-counter medications such as chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), loratadine (Claritin) or prescription antihistamines such as cetirizine (Zyrtec).

Nasal spray: Cromolyn sodium nasal spray (Nasalcrom) has Class B rating for pregnancy safety and is used to prevent or control allergy symptoms during pregnancy. It takes several days to "kick in," so it won't provide immediate relief.

Allergy shots: If you're already receiving allergy shots, many providers suggest you continue using them. No evidence suggests that allergy shots affect the growing fetus. If you have never received allergy shots, experts recommend that you wait to start shots until after your baby is born.

Other allergy medications are considered safe for short-term use during pregnancy or appropriate only during certain stages of pregnancy.

Do seasonal allergies hit you during pregnancy? What's worked to fight back?