Seasonal allergies are always annoying but can be even more bothersome during pregnancy.
When you’re expecting, you might experience hay fever for the first time or your symptoms may worsen. However, the list of medications you can take to treat your symptoms is shorter. So what should you do?
In this guide, you’ll learn about pregnant hay fever and how to minimize pregnancy allergy symptoms.
What is Pregnant Hay Fever?
Pregnant hay fever is an allergic reaction to your environment. Sufferers will experience allergic symptoms affecting the nose. Although anyone can get hay fever, it may be more likely you’ll experience allergies during pregnancy.
If you have pregnancy allergies you may suffer from a single allergen or you may suffer from a variety, worsening your symptoms. Common triggers for those with pregnant hay fever include:
- Weed pollen
- Tree pollen
- Mold spores
- Outdoor fungi
Contrary to the name, pregnant hay fever isn’t caused by hay.
Pregnant hay fever happens in the spring, summer, and early fall when nature is in full bloom. During these months, pollen from trees and weeds is blown around by the wind, creating more triggers. You may notice your pregnant hay fever is worse during a particular month when a specific plant blooms. Although your symptoms may be worse outside, they can happen indoors too. Consider that allergens are brought indoors by your pets, shoes, clothes, open windows, etc.
Seasonal pregnancy allergies usually subside by mid-fall as the weather gets cooler and there’s fewer allergy triggers. For some people, hay fever lasts year-round if they’re allergic to other year-round triggers like:
- Dust mites
- Dander from pets
These year-round allergies might be worse in the winter when homes are drier, creating more dander.
Pregnant Hay Fever Symptoms
Those with pregnant hay fever typically experience symptoms in the spring, summer, and early fall. During those months, you may experience these symptoms of pregnancy allergies:
- Runny nose with watery discharge
- Stuffy nose
- Itchy skin
- Itchy mouth
- Itchy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Red eyes
Unlike the name suggests, pregnant hay fever doesn’t cause a fever. If you have a fever, you likely have the flu or another infection instead.
Pregnant hay fever symptoms happen directly after you’ve been exposed to a trigger and last as long as your exposure does. Unfortunately for some people, this means you may suffer from allergies until fall.
Pregnant Hay Fever Symptoms Vs. Cold Symptoms
Considering that pregnant hay fever and the common cold have similar symptoms, how can you tell? Hay fever typically causes a runny nose with watery discharge, while the cold usually causes a thicker discharge. And while the common cold only lasts about 3-7 days, hay fever lasts as long as the trigger does.
Causes of Pregnancy Allergies & Pregnant Hay Fever
What causes allergies? And why is hay fever more common during pregnancy?
Pregnancy hay fever happens because your body reads an allergen as a threat and overreacts. Allergens that don’t cause a problem for most people set off a cascade of symptoms for those with hay fever.
You may experience allergies for the first time during pregnancy. Or if you’ve experienced them before, they may get worse. Those who are lucky have fewer symptoms when expecting. Simply put, there’s no way to predict how your body will react to allergens once pregnant.
Why might hay fever be more common during pregnancy? Your body goes through a number of changes that could have an impact.
- Immune system changes. During pregnancy, your immune system changes and weakens. This could cause your immune system to respond to allergens more severely.
- Thanks to hormonal changes, many experience pregnancy rhinitis, which is inflammation of the nasal mucosa. This leads to a runny nose and nasal congestion. Although pregnancy rhinitis is not caused by allergies, it can worsen allergy symptoms. For example, you might always have a runny nose in July from allergies, but now it’s even worse because of pregnancy rhinitis.
Treatment for Pregnant Hay Fever
Unfortunately, some treatments for hay fever aren’t typically recommended during pregnancy. Research from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) shows that most antihistamines don’t appear to cause birth defects. However, out of 54 studies examined, 9 found potential links. So although some over-the-counter medications are safe, use caution when selecting. Here’s a few ways to treat pregnant hay fever.
Keep Windows Closed
Both in your home and car, keep windows closed to stop allergens from entering your home. If your windows are left open, you won’t get a reprieve from the allergens once you’re indoors. When allergens are circulating in your home, it can also make it difficult to sleep. A stuffed, blocked nose can worsen sleep quality, leaving you fatigued the next day. If you’re keeping your windows open to cool down, consider using an air conditioner instead.
Use Clean Air Conditioning
Using an air conditioner is good for two reasons. Firstly, it allows you to cool off despite your windows being closed, limiting the allergens indoors. Secondly, it helps remove allergens from the air.
Consider that many pollutants and allergens are water-soluble. Since air conditioners remove water from the air to cool a space, it removes allergens along with it.
There’s a big caveat to using air conditioners for allergies though. If your unit isn’t clean or is outdated, it could make your allergies even worse. If an air conditioner is old or dirty, mold spores and dirt may collect—triggering your allergies instead of helping them.
When using an air conditioner to help pregnant hay fever, make sure the filters are cleaned regularly.
Use a HEPA Filter
Using a HEPA filter inside your home or office can improve your allergy symptoms. HEPA filters guide air through a mesh screen that traps pollutants. If you’re considering buying an air filter, make sure you purchase one big enough to purify the room you’re using it in.
Use a Dehumidifier
If you know that your pregnant hay fever is being triggered by mold in your home, use a dehumidifier. An appropriate-sized unit can help control the growth of mold, lessening your symptoms.
If you’re someone who gets itchy, watery eyes from pregnant hay fever, wear sunglasses. Eye protection prevents pollutants from entering your body through your eyes.
Pollutants can get stuck inside your home, hiding in your carpet and curtains and on your tables and counters. To avoid being constantly triggered, clean your home more frequently when you have pregnant hay fever.
<h3>Change Bed Sheets
When pollen and other allergens find their way inside your home, they can get trapped in your bed sheets and blankets. This can worsen nighttime allergies, making it difficult to sleep. Wash your sheets frequently to control your exposure.
Washing the allergens and mucus out of your nose can improve symptoms. Use saline solution to irrigate one nostril and then the other.
Steroid Nasal Sprays
Budesonide nasal spray, AKA Rhinocort Aqua, is safe to use during pregnancy, according to the FDA. It can be an effective way to reduce the inflammation that causes nasal congestion. You can purchase it over the counter, but talk to your doctor first.
Loratadine for Pregnant Hay Fever
Loratadine for pregnant hay fever is a top recommendation amongst doctors. The medication has been widely studied and there’s no indication that it will affect your baby. Loratadine, AKA Claritin, typically comes in capsule form and is available over the counter. Get the ok from your doctor before taking medication during pregnancy.
Pregnancy Cetirizine: Is It Safe?
During pregnancy, is cetirizine safe? Cetirizine, AKA Zyrtec, is also typically considered safe to use while expecting. Four studies didn’t show a significant fetal risk after taking the medication.
The common antihistamine is used to relieve watery eyes, itchiness, runny nose, and sneezing. It typically comes in tablet or capsule form and can be purchased over-the-counter. Compared to other antihistamines for pregnant hay fever, cetirizine is less likely to make you drowsy.
Other Over-The-Counter Medications for Pregnancy Allergies
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), these medications are also safe for pregnant hay fever:
Check with your doctor before taking any allergy medication.
Summary: Pregnancy Allergies & Pregnant Hay Fever
During pregnancy, you may notice your hay fever is better, worse, or the same. For many, pregnancy allergies get worse. This may be because your immune system is more sensitive during pregnancy. It could also simply be that your allergic symptoms are exacerbated by pregnancy rhinitis.
If you have pregnant hay fever, the first step is to control your symptoms using lifestyle changes. For example, close the windows, use an air conditioner, and clean more frequently. You can also try a pregnancy-safe antihistamine, like loratadine or cetirizine, but talk to your doctor first.
P.S. Are you sure you have hay fever and not an infection? Using a thermometer tells you whether you have a fever, indicating an infection. The DuoSmart thermometer allows you to take temperature using both the ear and forehead—perfect for adults and babies!