Pregnant women and allergies

May 4, 2009 6:50:00 AM PDT
It's allergy season, and that means itchy, watery eyes and lots of sneezing. And this time of year can be especially difficult for pregnant women to get their allergy symptoms under control, especially if they are concerned about taking any medication. But, there are many drugs that are indeed safe to treat allergies and asthma in pregnant women. Doctors say the most important thing is to keep patients breathing easily, and to that end, sometimes you need drugs, and sometimes you don't.

Jennifer Chipman Bloom is eight months pregnant and she has noticed something interesting about her allergies.

"Surprisingly, my allergies got better. I guess I'm like a lot of women who get better with pregnancy," said Jennifer. Jennifer is right. About a third of pregnant women find their allergies improve. Another third have worse symptom, and the final third don't see any change. Allergists can explain the improvement in some women's symptoms-- natural antihistamines.

"The placenta makes substances that work against histamines that cause the symptoms of allergies," said Dr. William Reisacher with New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Hospiital.

But what about pharmaceutical antihistamines and other treatments for a woman's allergies and asthma during pregnancy?

One of the most common questions women ask is what medications are safe?

Pregnancy hormones can make the nose stuffy, but rather than use decongestants that can speed the baby's heart rate, both ob/gyns and allergists suggest trying non-drug treatments, such as nasal salt water sprays and rinses. They can clear the nose of secretions and of pollen from the trees and grasses that are everywhere in the spring.

If they don't work, cortisone nasal sprays can. They don't get absorbed in the blood to affect the fetus. Some pills are safe, even in the first three months when the fetus is most sensitive.

"It's important that patients discuss with their doctors about the risks versus the benefits with medication use." Said Dr. Reisacher.

Web produced by Maura Sweeney


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