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Dealing with hay fever in pregnancy

Pregnancy is no easy task. From muscle cramps to hair thinning and varicose veins - daily life can certainly become a challenge.

For women who suffer from seasonal allergies, it can feel daunting to add hay fever symptoms on top of all these other health problems. Some hay fever treatments are not suitable to take during pregnancy and you may feel nervous tackling the pollen season without your go-to meds.

This article will provide advice for dealing with hay fever in pregnancy, including preventative measures, natural remedies and medicinal treatments that are considered safe.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 23-04-2024

Will pregnancy affect my hay fever symptoms?

Pregnancy causes many different changes to your body - including how you react to pollen grains during the warmer months.

A pregnant woman holding her belly while sitting cross-legged on a bed.

Unfortunately, there’s no way of predicting if pregnancy will make your allergies better or worse. For some women, pregnancy has no effect at all.

Can you develop hay fever in pregnancy?

It is possible to develop hay fever for the first time while you are pregnant. Hay fever (or allergic rhinitis) can come on at any point in life - it doesn’t always begin during childhood.

While pregnancy cannot directly cause hay fever, it can cause something called pregnancy rhinitis. This is a condition that has similar symptoms to hay fever (nasal congestion, runny nose) but isn’t caused by an allergy to pollen.

It is thought to be caused by a change in hormones, although there is some uncertainty surrounding this.

Preventing hay fever in pregnancy

To reduce your chances of experiencing hay fever symptoms while pregnant, it’s important to minimise your exposure to grass, tree and weed pollens.

Check the pollen forecast

The pollen count changes daily throughout the pollen season and is usually highest on dry, windy days.

Tips for preventing hay fever
BMI Stay home when the pollen count is high.
Long-term Use Vaseline around your nose to trap pollen.
Injections Change out of outdoor clothes when you arrive home.
Side effects Don’t hang your laundry outside.
Side effects Avoid grassy outdoor areas like parks.
Side effects Vacuum and dust your home more often.

Before going outdoors, check the local pollen forecast on your phone or computer. Usually, the pollen count will be listed as low, medium, high or very high.

It may be best to stay indoors on days when the pollen count is very high. Or, if you do decide to leave the house, avoid parks or other green areas with lots of trees and grass.

Keep your home pollen-free

Try your best to keep pollen out of your home. That way, you shouldn’t have much difficulty sleeping due to nasal congestion or other symptoms. Consider:

  • getting an air purifier, which removes pollen particles and other allergens (like dust mites and pet dander) from the air
  • keeping your windows and doors shut as much as possible
  • changing out of your outdoor clothes as soon as you arrive home
  • vacuuming and dusting more often, as pollen can gradually build up in your home
  • hanging your laundry inside, so it doesn’t attract pollen from outdoors

Take extra steps before leaving the house

Before going outdoors, make sure to take some extra precautions:

  • use Vaseline (petroleum jelly) around your nostrils to trap pollen particles
  • wear sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat to keep pollen out of your face
  • bring tissues so you can regularly blow your nose to clear it of pollen

Natural treatments for hay fever in pregnancy

Many medications haven’t been studied thoroughly enough to ensure that they are safe for pregnant women.

Due to this, it’s best to avoid taking anything medicinal if you can. The following natural hay fever treatments need to be taken for roughly 4 weeks to have an effect - but you may find they work even better than antihistamines and nasal sprays.

Take a natural antihistamine

Quercetin is a naturally occurring plant pigment that has anti-inflammatory effects. Due to this, it can act as a natural antihistamine.

You can get quercetin by eating apples, citrus fruits, onions, sage and parsley. However, it’s best to take quercetin supplements every day to feel its full effects.

A selection of fruits, vegetables and spices containing quercetin

It can take some time for quercetin supplements to improve your hay fever symptoms. For most people, it needs to be taken consistently for at least 4 weeks.

Please note: Before taking any new treatments or herbal supplements, talk to your doctor or midwife. In some cases, it may not be suitable to take during pregnancy.

Follow a low-histamine diet

Histamine is a compound that is released by the body when it senses a threat. It causes our cells to become inflamed as a way of cushioning and protecting them.

For people with hay fever, the body perceives pollen as a threat to the body. A release of histamine is what causes an allergic response.

Histamine can also be found in several common foods, including smoked meat, aged cheeses and wine. When we consume these foods, the amount of histamine in our body increases.

Changing your diet can naturally lower your histamine levels, which reduces the severity of hay fever symptoms. It takes roughly 4 weeks for a low-histamine diet to have an effect.

Hay fever treatments during pregnancy

Due to a lack of medical research, it is generally recommended to avoid most hay fever medicines when you are pregnant. Even mild antihistamines (such as Loradatine and Cetirizine) do not claim to be entirely safe during pregnancy.

You can use nasal sprays containing a saline solution - but other steroid or decongestant sprays may be unsafe.

In severe cases, a doctor can prescribe a suitable treatment. However, they will be responsible for assessing the risk to your unborn baby.

Always consult with a pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter treatments. Although you can purchase them without a prescription, they may pose a threat to your pregnancy.

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