What allergy medications are safe while pregnant
Get advice first
Although you can purchase numerous hay fever medicines over the counter, it’s best to get advice from a pharmacist or GP before taking any medicine when you’re pregnant.
They’ll assess your symptoms and the benefits of taking a medicine against the risk of any side effects.
To ease your symptoms when the pollen count is high, it helps to:
- wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes
- stay indoors whenever possible
- keep windows and doors shut as much as possible
If you decide to take hay fever medicine, you’ll generally be advised to attempt a nasal spray or eyedrops first.
Antihistamine tablets (oral antihistamines)
Antihistamine tablets can assist relieve itchy eyes, a runny nose and sneezing, but not every types are suitable to take during pregnancy, so always check with a GP beforehand.
Pharmacists are unlikely to sell antihistamines without a prescription for use in pregnancy because of manufacturers’ restrictions.
If you cannot use nasal sprays or eyedrops or they do not work for you, a GP may recommend an antihistamine tablet that does not cause drowsiness, such as:
- loratadine – this is generally the first choice for pregnant women because of the quantity of safety data available for it
- cetirizine – if loratadine is not suitable or does not work for you, a GP may recommend cetirizine, another antihistamine tablet that does not cause drowsiness
Chlorphenamine is also considered one of the safer antihistamines to take during pregnancy, but because it can cause drowsiness, loratadine and cetirizine are generally the preferred options.
For information about taking specific medicines in pregnancy, see the bumps (best use of medicines in pregnancy) website.
There’s not enough data to completely law out risk for most drugs in pregnancy.
(For safety reasons, few studies test drugs in human pregnancies.) But I would rate most allergy medications as low risk.
All antihistamines, including those containing loratadine (such as Claritin), fexofenadine (such as Allegra), chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) appear to be low risk in pregnancy.
Avoid the decongestants pseudoephedrine (an athletic ingredient in Actifed and Sudafed) and phenylephrine in the first trimester.
While the risk is probably low, there own been some reports of related birth defects.
It’s always excellent to check every of the ingredients on the contents label, and call your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medicine, to make certain it’s safe for you and your baby.
It’s okay to continue getting your allergy shots while you’re pregnant.
By the way, it’s common for pregnant women to feel that their allergies are worse. Actually, it’s probably just that your mucous membranes are swollen, which makes you feel more puffy and stuffy during pregnancy.
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More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In fact, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S.
What’s more, pregnancy can sometimes make allergy symptoms worse. Every woman’s body is diverse, and every pregnancy is diverse, so it’s impossible to predict exactly how allergies will affect an individual pregnant woman.
But in general, pregnant women may experience some of the following symptoms differently from other allergy sufferers:
- Pregnancy hormones might cause the inner lining of your nose to swell.
This causes nasal congestion and a runny nose.
- This enhanced congestion makes seasonal allergy symptoms worse.
- Severe congestion could lead to poor stress and poor sleep quality.
If you’re expecting and suffering from symptoms love these, here’s what you need to know about taking allergy medicine while pregnant.
Older antihistamines, such as chlorpheniramine, are the preferred agents to treat allergic rhinitis during pregnancy and are both Category B medications.
Newer antihistamines such as over-the-counter loratadine (Claritin, generic forms) and cetirizine (Zyrtec, generic forms) are also Pregnancy Category B medications.
A newer prescription antihistamine that is Pregnancy Category B is Xyzal (levocetirizine).
Avoid certain allergy medicine while pregnant
There are a number of medications that are not safe to take during pregnancy. First among them are oral decongestants.
“Oral decongestants are best avoided altogether during the first trimester because of an uncertain risk of several rare birth defects,” says Ciara Staunton, a family nurse practitioner and owner of Staunton Primary Care in Cincinnati.
“However, Sudafed (pseudoephedrine), which is locked up behind the pharmacy counter, can be used in the second and third trimesters in women without hypertension.”
But Staunton warns that Sudafed-PE (phenylephrine), the over-the-counter option, should never be taken during pregnancy. It is less effective than pseudoephedrine. But more importantly, its safety for pregnant women is questionable.
Ms. Staunton also recommends against using any herbal therapies during pregnancy.
“In the United States and most other countries, herbal medicines are minimally regulated and not monitored for adverse events.”
How to safely treat allergies during pregnancy
While it would be best to avoid allergens that annoy you, that’s not always a possibility. Numerous pregnant women and their providers prefer to start with a non-pharmaceutical treatment plan whenever possible.
Dr. Janelle Luk, medical director and co-founder of Generation Next Fertility in New York City, suggests an over-the-counter saline nasal spray.
Dr. Luk also recommends physical activity to reduce nasal inflammation. In addition, she says patients with a stuffy nose might be capable to sleep better if they elevate the head of the bed by 30 to 45 degrees during sleep.
However, sometimes those non-pharmaceutical options just don’t do the trick, and you need something stronger (aka allergy medicine) to ease your distress.
In that case, there are several options that are safe to try.
“For moderate to severe allergies, your physician may recommend a nonprescription corticosteroid spray or an oral antihistamine,” Dr. Luk says. “Some nasal spray options include Rhinocort Allergy, Flonase, and Nasonex.”
For oral antihistamines, Staunton says she recommends Claritin (loratadine) or Zyrtec (cetirizine) because of their excellent safety history. Both are rated pregnancy category B by the FDA. This means that controlled studies in animals own shown no adverse effects to the developing fetus.
Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is considered fairly safe during pregnancy, according to the CDC.
However, Benadryl Allergy Plus Congestion is not safe for pregnant women because it contains phenylephrine.
You can also take one of the oral antihistamines together with a nasal spray if neither one controls your symptoms on its own.
As for subcutaneous allergen immunotherapy (SCIT), aka allergy shots—if you were on them before pregnancy, your doctor may continue them.
But they wouldn’t be started during pregnancy because of “the potential harm that could result if a reaction were to occur,” Staunton says.
If you are suffering from allergy symptoms, speak with your provider about your best options for allergy medicine while pregnant.
It’s understandable that a lot of women don’t love to take unnecessary medicines when they’re pregnant. No mother-to-be would ever desire to put her baby at an increased risk of a birth defect caused by medication.
However, allergies can make some lady so miserable that medications may be needed just so that allergy symptoms are not taking over their lives.
According to the Food and Drug istration (FDA), no medicines are considered completely safe in pregnancy. This is because no pregnant lady would desire to sign up for a medication safety study while she is pregnant.
Therefore, the FDA has assigned risk categories to medications based on use in pregnancy:
- Category A medications are medications in which there are excellent studies in pregnant women showing the safety of the medication to the baby in the first trimester.
Few medications are in this category and no asthma medications are rated category A.
- Category B medications own been studied in pregnant animals, which show that they are relatively safe, but no human studies are available.
- Category C medications may result in adverse effects on the fetus when studied in pregnant animals, but the benefits of these drugs may outweigh the potential risks in humans.
- Category D medications show clear risk to the fetus, but there may be instances in which the benefits outweigh the risks in humans.
- Category X medications show clear evidence of birth defects in animals and/or human studies and should not be used in pregnancy.
Which Medications Are Safe in Pregnancy?
Medicated Nasal Sprays
Cromolyn nasal spray is helpful in treating allergic rhinitis if it is used before exposure to an allergen and prior to the onset of symptoms.
This medication is Pregnancy Category B and is available over the counter.
If Cromolyn is not helpful, a nasal steroid spray called Rhinocort Aqua (budesonide) received a Pregnancy Category B rating. Every other steroid nasal sprays are category C) and should be avoided during pregnancy.