Hay fever medication in pregnancy
Written by Dr Sameer Sanghvi
Hay fever is a type of allergic rhinitis and is an allergic reaction to pollen in the atmosphere. Hay fever typically affects people from spring to late summer in the UK. It is often made worse by the weather - warm, windy weather will likely make symptoms worse.
Hay fever is a very common condition, and is usually nothing to worry about, but you may want to take steps to help ease the symptoms of hay fever you experience. The symptoms of hay fever include sneezing, coughing, itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears, red and watery eyes, loss of smell, headaches, earache and tiredness.
You might find that during pregnancy hormonal changes can worsen the symptoms of nasal congestion, making your hay fever worse.
Taking hay fever medication in pregnancy
If you’re pregnant you should always try and seek advice from your GP or pharmacist before you take any sort of medication. Not all medications can be taken safely during pregnancy, as some may affect the development and growth of the baby.
If you have mild hay fever, or don’t experience symptoms, it’s best to avoid taking medication, as it’s not necessary. Before taking medication there are some preventative measures that can be taken to avoid your exposure to pollen.
NCT have put together some useful tips for pregnant women on how to help ease symptoms of hay fever, without having to take medication:
- Stay indoors where possible, with windows and doors shut
- If you do go out, try and avoid parks/fields/grassy spaces
- Wear wrap around sunglasses when you go outside
- Keep an eye on the pollen count via the Met Office website to avoid going out when the pollen count is at its highest
- Know what you’re allergic to (grass pollen count is highest April-July, weed pollen count is highest June-September)
- Avoid mowing the grass in the garden
- Wash your hands and face regularly
- Put petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) around your nostrils to trap pollen before it enters your nasal passage
- Try to avoid hanging laundry outside. This stops pollen being caught in your clothes/towels/bed sheets.
- Wash and brush your pets’ hair as often as possible
- Avoid contact with other irritants such as smoke, dust and sprays.
Best hay fever treatments when pregnant
If after trying these preventative measures you’re still being affected by hay fever you might want to consider medication. You can speak to your GP or pharmacist and they may recommend you some of the medications we discuss below.
While for most people antihistamines (like Piriton) are the go-to for treating hay fever, most of these treatments cannot be sold for use during pregnancy without a prescription. This is because of the manufacturers’ restrictions, but you may be able to get a prescription for these from your GP.
Loratadine and Cetirizine are the tablets most often prescribed for hay fever during pregnancy. This is because neither causes drowsiness. Chlorphenamine can also be prescribed for use during pregnancy, but it can cause drowsiness, so is not usually the first choice.
Nasal sprays and eyedrops
Thanks to the fact that the medicine in nasal sprays and eyedrops enters the bloodstream in such small quantities, they are thought to not cause any harm to an unborn baby. Pregnant women are usually advised to try this type of treatment prior to tablets.
For nasal symptoms you might consider trying a corticosteroid or sodium cromoglicate nasal spray and for eye symptoms consider antihistamine or sodium cromoglicate eye drops.
These types of medication (such as Sudafed®, Galpseud®) are not advised during pregnancy. These treatments cause the blood vessels in the nose to narrow and reduce the swelling of the nasal membranes, but they could then reduce blood supply to the placenta and baby.
If you need more advice on taking medications during pregnancy, please visit the NHS ‘Your pregnancy and baby guide’ or the ‘best use of medicines in pregnancy (bumps)’ website. But don’t forget, it’s always best to check with your GP or a pharmacist before taking any medication during pregnancy.