profile picture of Rebecca Kolp, MD
Rebecca Kolp, MD
OB-GYN

Dealing With Allergies During Pregnancy

Whether it's a food allergy or hay fever, you're probably dying to find out how you're going to deal with it during pregnancy. Say no more.

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. And it can be a real pain when you're pregnant. Read on for signs, symptoms and solutions.

Signs of Allergies During Pregnancy

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

What Causes Allergies?

Wondering why you have allergies and your friend doesn't? (Lucky them.) Some people seem to be genetically predisposed to allergies, while others are thought to develop allergies based on early, repeated exposure to potential allergens. Whatever the reason, know that you're not alone: About 20 percent of Americans, or one in five, suffer from allergies. The good news is that unless you have a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) that interrupts your airflow during pregnancy, baby probably won’t be affected at all.

Can You Test for Allergies?

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 To Get Rid of Allergies During Pregnancy

Prevention is always the best treatment—meaning, try to minimize exposure to your allergy triggers whenever possible. 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.

Antihistamines like Benadryl and Claritin appear to be safe during pregnancy, but it’s best to use any allergy medicines under the guidance of your doctor. Some, like Sudafed, should be avoided during pregnancy. So instead of picking up a pack of over-the-counter meds, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and triggers. He or she can help you develop an allergy control plan that’s good for you and 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 Other Moms-To-Be Do for 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.”

Plus, more from The Bump:

Asthma During Pregnancy

Itchy Skin During Pregnancy

Watery Eyes During Pregnancy