Pregnancy Problems

Allergies During Pregnancy

Whether it's a food allergy or hay fever, you're probably dying to know how you're going to deal with it during pregnancy. What medicine can you take? What risks are there to baby? Say no more.

What are allergies during pregnancy?

It’s completely normal (and helpful!) for your body to notice when you’ve got something harmful in there, but when it declares all-out war on an invader that really isn’t so bad — like pollen or pet dander —that overreaction is considered an allergy.

What are the signs of allergy during pregnancy?

Nasal congestion, sneezing, watery eyes and itching are all signs of allergy, usually hay fever. Other types of allergies can cause hives — raised bumps that itch — facial swelling or itchy and red skin.

Are there any tests for allergies during pregnancy?

Sometimes allergies are diagnosed on symptoms and medical history alone. (Like, if you get a case of hives after taking a couple doses of a particular antibiotic, you’re probably allergic to that antibiotic.)

But sometimes it’s less clear-cut, so allergy testing might be ordered. Skin testing is the most common form of allergy testing. Basically, your skin is pricked with very small amounts of potential allergens. If your skin reacts by developing redness or itching in the area of a certain allergen, you’re considered allergic to that substance.

How common are allergies during pregnancy?

Pretty common. About 20 percent of Americans, or one in five, suffer from allergies.

How did I get allergies?

Who knows? Some people seem to be genetically predisposed to allergies. Others are thought to develop allergies based on early, repeated exposure to potential allergens.

How will my allergies affect my baby?

Unless you have a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) that interrupts your airflow during pregnancy, your baby probably won’t be affected at all.

See next page for pregnancy-safe allergy treatment tips.

What’s the best way to treat allergies during pregnancy?

Prevention is always the best treatment. Minimize exposure to your allergy triggers whenever possible. Allergy meds can be used during pregnancy, but it’s best to do so under the guidance of your doc. So instead of picking up a pack of over-the-counter allergy meds, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and triggers. He can help you develop an allergy control plan that’s good for you and your baby.

If you’re looking for natural remedies, some moms-to-be swear by neti pots, special mini pitchers designed to wash out the sinuses with saline. Others use saline nasal spray or breathing strips at night.

What can I do to prevent allergies?

You probably can’t, but you can avoid allergic reactions by limiting your contact with allergens. You might want to stay away from pets, seal your pillows and mattresses in dust-mite-proof casing, wash your bedding weekly in hot water to kill dust mites and use a filtering vacuum. If you have outdoor allergies, close windows and limit your time outside during high pollen and pollution days.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have allergies?

“I was on an antihistamine, but I stopped when I found out I was pregnant.”

“Today I felt like my nose was itchy pretty much all day. I’ve sneezed a ton and feel like I’m constantly blowing my nose.”

“The neti pot is a great help. It takes a little getting used to, but it makes a huge difference.”

Are there any other resources for allergies during pregnancy?

American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology

Plus, more from The Bump:

Asthma During Pregnancy

Itchy Skin During Pregnancy

Watery Eyes During Pregnancy

By Rebecca Kolp, MD, ob-gyn and medical director at Massachusetts General Hospital West