How to safely treat hay fever during pregnancy

Pregnant woman with hay fever

Blocked noses, streaming eyes – hay fever's the pits, particularly when you're carrying a tiny human around in your belly. To make matters worse, many hay fever treatments aren't recommended for use during pregnancy – but there are still some things you can do to ease your discomfort.

What are the symptoms of hay fever?

The most common hay fever symptoms are fairly similar to those of the common cold – you might find yourself sneezing a lot or getting a runny nose and itchy eyes. However, some sufferers also get headaches and feel more tired. Added to the general sense of exhaustion many women feel whilst pregnant,

Will pregnancy make my hay fever worse?

Possibly – the hormonal changes that take place when you're upduffed can mean that if you've suffered from hay fever before, it gets worse whilst you're pregnant. Think of it as nature's hilarious way of congratulating you on your new arrival. However, some women report that their hay fever actually got better during their pregnancy, so keep your fingers crossed.

Can I take any hay fever medication during pregnancy?

Check with your GP or pharmacist before taking any hay fever treatments – some hay fever medecines are not recommended for use by pregnant women due to their ingredients or potential side-effects. Your GP will probably recommend that you try antihistamine/sodium cromoglicate eye drops or a corticosteroid/sodium cromoglicate nasal spray before suggesting oral tablets.

It's unlikely your pharmacist will sell you over the counter hay fever treatments due to manufacturer's restrictions, so you'll need a prescription if you find eye drops and nasal sprays don't do much for you. Loratadine and cetirizine are considered the safest antihistamine tablets to use during pregnancy as they don't cause drowsiness.

While I was pregnant my doctor told me to put vaseline around my nose, but I also found Olbas oil really helped.

Your doctor might also recommend you take chlorphenamine (Piriton) but you shouldn't take it near to your due date, as it might affect your baby. It can also cause drowsiness, so take care while driving or operating machinery.

You should also avoid decongestant drugs (tablets or sprays) unless prescribed, as their safety for pregnant women, particularly in the first trimester, is not known. You could try saline drops instead to ease the inflammation, which are safe for use in pregnancy.

If your doctor prescribes medication for you, do remember it will be free during your pregnancy – hooray!

Are there any natural remedies I can try?

There are some topical balms you can try using, which act as a barrier to stop the pollen entering your mucous membranes.

You might also try inhaling the steam from a bowl of hot water, particularly with menthol or eucalyptus drops in it, to ease your congestion.

Wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen and driving with windows closed might help if you're at the stage where you'll try anything.

Finally – a high pollen count is considered anything over 50, so if you check the forecast and see it's high, you might want to stay indoors. Not always practical, but if there's ever a time you've got an excuse for sitting at home and binge-watching Netflix, it's whilst you're pregnant.