Pregnancy and Allergies


Pregnant woman outside in front of a lilac bush

Do women develop allergies for the first time during pregnancy?

It is possible for a woman to develop allergies during pregnancy. It is more common for women to already have allergies before conception.

Do allergies get worse during pregnancy?

It depends on the woman and the severity of allergies during pregnancy. About one-third of moms-to-be find their allergy symptoms tend to worsen during pregnancy. Another one-third find their allergy symptoms stay the same. And another one-third find their allergy symptoms actually improve during pregnancy.

What are types of allergy symptoms during pregnancy?

Symptoms are the same for pregnant women as they are for non-pregnant individuals. Common allergy symptoms during pregnancy include:

  • itchy, watery eyes
  • sneezing
  • sore or itchy throat
  • runny nose
  • sinus congestion

Does a stuffy nose during pregnancy mean I have allergies?

Pregnant women often develop stuffy noses. Nasal congestion usually starts sometime in the second trimester causing mucus membranes to swell and soften. Your doctor may refer to this as pregnancy rhinitis.

Pregnancy rhinitis can make you as stuffed up as if you had a cold or an allergy. It can result in nosebleeds during pregnancy and/or post nasal drip that may make you cough or even gag at night.

The good news is that pregnancy rhinitis typically goes away soon after pregnancy ends.

How can you tell the difference between allergies and a bad case of pregnancy congestion? If you have allergies, you’ll most likely experience symptoms such as congestion, coughing, sneezing and itchy eyes. If noticeable itchiness and sneezing aren’t plaguing you, it could be hormone-related congestion of pregnancy. If you’re not sure, talk to your doctor.

Pregnant Black woman laying in bed holding a tissue to her nose. She appears to have allergies.

What medicines can I take for allergies during pregnancy?

Women should be very cautious when taking medications during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester.

It’s important to talk with a doctor before using allergy medicine while pregnant. Work together to find an appropriate balance for the medication and symptom control.

Your doctor may first recommend ways to reduce symptoms that don’t involve medications. Strategies include allergy proofing your home, avoiding allergy triggers, or using a saline (saltwater) nasal spray, nasal irrigation or nasal strips.

  • Oral antihistamines treat nasal and eye allergy symptoms of allergic rhinitis. It is best to take them after the first trimester.
  • Loratadine and cetirizine are second-generation oral antihistamines. They are considered safe for pregnancy, according to multiple studies. They do not cause drowsiness unlike first-generation oral antihistamines (chlorpheniramine, diphenhydramine, tripelennamine).

Avoid using antihistamines combined with a decongestant during pregnancy. Research is ongoing on the impact of these medications to mom and baby.

Can I use a nasal spray during pregnancy?

Some nasal sprays are safer than others. The good thing about nasal sprays is that the drug focuses primarily on the nose. It does not travel throughout the rest of the body.

Corticosteroid nasal sprays are mostly safe. They are prescribed to pregnant women with moderate to severe allergy symptoms that last longer than a few days. Budesonide is considered the safest. Mometasone and fluticasone are also considered safe.

Decongestant nasal sprays are more problematic. Some studies point to a risk of birth defects when expectant moms use these products. They are not typically recommended during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester.

Pregnant women should avoid antihistamine nasal sprays, as there is not enough research to prove their safety.

Always talk with your doctor about which nasal spray medication is right for you, as well as any medication risks to you and your baby.

Can I get allergy shots during pregnancy?

Pregnant women can continue with allergy shots they started before they were pregnant. They should stay at the current dose through pregnancy — do not increase dosage. If there’s any reactivity, the doctor may reduce the dosage of the shot.

It’s not recommended to start allergy shots during pregnancy. This can trigger changes in an already-fluctuating immune system and may cause a systemic reaction.

Pregnant woman laying on the bed holding her head up because of allergies.

If I experience anaphylaxis, can I use my epinephrine auto-injector during pregnancy?

Treatment of anaphylaxis during pregnancy is similar to treatment for non-pregnant women with food, insect venom or latex allergy. Use epinephrine at the first sign of symptoms.

Latina woman discreetly breastfeeding her baby in the park, under a tree. She is smiling and looking at the baby.

Can I breastfeed if I take allergy medications?

Breastfeeding is a good way to increase your child’s immunity. It is strongly recommended. Medications recommended for use during pregnancy can be continued while nursing. (The baby gets less medicine through breast milk than in the womb.) Your allergist can discuss the best medications for you when nursing your baby.

If I have allergies during pregnancy, will the baby have allergies?

Allergy symptoms during pregnancy are not believed to have any impact on whether your baby develops allergies. Genetics, however, are a major factor in the development of allergies in children. If a child has a parent or a sibling with allergies, then they are at increased risk of getting allergies, too.

An expectant mother’s diet during pregnancy may be a factor in whether a child develops allergic rhinitis, food allergies, asthma or eczema. One study found that expectant moms who ate plenty of food-based vitamin D reduced their child’s risk of getting allergic rhinitis. Foods with a lot of vitamin D include dairy products, cereals, fish, eggs and mushrooms. Learn more about the allergic march.

What can I do to reduce allergy symptoms during pregnancy without taking medications?

Stay away from people who are smoking. Smoke can make allergies worse. Exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy isn’t good for you or your baby.

If you’re allergic to pollen, try to stay inside as much as possible. If you do go outside, try wearing wraparound sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes. When you come back inside, take off your shoes, wash your hands and face, and change clothes so the pollen doesn’t stay with you. Then put your clothes in the wash. Shower and wash your hair before you go to sleep to help relieve nighttime symptoms.

If you’re allergic to dust, make sure your house is cleaned regularly or hire someone to clean for you. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, a wet mop or a sweeper to avoid stirring up dust. A microfiber cloth is better than a traditional feather duster. Try to keep away from attics, basements and other musty places.

If you’re allergic to pets, let your dog- and cat-owning friends know of your allergy before you drop by so they have time to make arrangements. If you’re suddenly allergic to your own pet, try to make at least one room in your house pet-free.

Are there certain foods that pregnant moms should avoid to reduce risk of the child developing allergic disease?

Avoidance diets during pregnancy do not prevent allergic disease, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That means pregnant women don’t need to avoid common food allergens such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk or wheat.

While no specific diet or food can prevent allergic diseases, studies have shown that consuming peanuts, milk and wheat in the first and second trimesters can reduce the risk of a child developing peanut allergy, allergic rhinitis and asthma.

Doctors say the most important thing expectant moms can do is eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, fish and vitamin D. Consuming these foods may reduce the risk of a child developing allergic diseases.

Talk with your doctor before considering any changes involving diet during pregnancy.