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Allergies are very common during pregnancy, and many women suffer from them. A previous history of allergy may or may not be an influencing factor in deciding the occurrence of various types of allergies during pregnancy. On the other hand, pregnancy can alleviate an expecting mother’s susceptibility to existing allergic problems. The common types of allergies that expecting mothers experience are skin allergies, allergic rhinitis, eye allergies, etc.
An understanding of the various causes and treatment options for allergies that occur during pregnancies can greatly help in identifying and treating them effectively.
Are Allergies Common in Pregnancy?
Allergies are very common during pregnancy, and about 25% of pregnant women experience seasonal or food allergies during the time. They usually resort to natural home remedies to treat moderate levels of allergy. However, with severe forms, over-the-counter anti-histamines are used to regulate the body’s allergic responses.
There is no single attributable cause of an allergy during pregnancy. General hypersensitivity towards non-allergic substances like pollen or mould, which usually do not trigger an allergic reaction, is attributed to the mother’s genetic predisposition. Studies have also shown that repeated exposure to allergens early on in their life regulates the sensitivity to particles around them. Surrounding weather conditions also have a major influence in triggering allergies like hay fever and rhinitis during pregnancy.
Signs and Symptoms
Runny nose, congestion, sneezing, heaviness or a headache, and itchy eyes are some signs of allergic hay fever occurring during pregnancy. Some women also suffer from allergic reactions to certain food products, and experience red and itchy hives on the skin. This may sometimes lead to a swollen face. General itching of skin around the belly is common during pregnancy, and should be well-differentiated from the characteristic skin allergy during pregnancy, before concluding on the diagnosis.
Tests for Allergies When Pregnant
Allergy testing is usually done to ascertain the cause of the allergy in the body. Potential allergens are selected and pricked on a small patch of skin. A redness or reaction indicates an allergic response to the substance. This helps in identifying the cause of the allergy, and subsequent preventive measures to be taken.
Blood tests to test the level of immune response are also done to identify if the symptoms presented are due to allergic reactions in the body.
Difference Between Allergies and Nasal Congestion as a Pregnancy Symptom
Having a blocked nose is quite common during pregnancy, as there is an increase in mucous secretion due to hormonal changes. However, if it is an allergic reaction, a clogged nose is usually accompanied by having itchy eyes, redness, and continuous sneezing.
Safe Allergy Medicines During Pregnancy
When natural home remedies do not provide relief, safe allergy medications can be taken in consultation with the doctor. Here are some of the medications that are effective for allergy during pregnancy.
1. Saline Nose Drops
Saline solutions available as nasal drops give a good relief from blocked noses. It is the safest method to treat the symptoms of respiratory allergies during pregnancy.
Oral antihistamines like cetirizine, diphenhydramine, fexofenadine, and loratadine are safe anti-allergy medications, which work by regulating the immune response of the body to substances that trigger the allergy.
3. Nasal Decongestants
Decongestants containing phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine help in unclogging a blocked nose. Although it helps the mother to breath freely, it has some reported side effects like restricting the blood flow to the foetus. It has to be taken in consultation with the doctor.
Natural Ways to Treat Allergies
Expecting mothers who go through allergic episodes resort to natural remedies for allergies while pregnant, due to the side effects of allopathic medications. Here are some tried and tested remedies:
The sneezing and runny nose can be greatly reduced by practicing pranayam on a daily basis. It optimizes the body’s allergic response when practiced for a continuous period of time.
2. Neti Pot
An ancient Ayurvedic technique of cleansing is called the neti pot, usually learned from a certified yoga practitioner, and is proven to reduce allergic sinusitis. It is done with saline water in a special pot available for this purpose. It acts similar to a saline solution, and instantly revives a clogged nose.
3. Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil has special medicinal characteristics to prevent or clear chest and nasal congestion. It can be inhaled as vapours while steaming, or simply applied in the sinus areas. It can be sprinkled on the bed sheets and pillow covers to aid better breathing at night.
Turmeric is a natural antiseptic, and inhaling vapours of turmeric helps in reducing nasal layer inflammation. When taken regularly in diet, it boosts the immunity of the body.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has numerous benefits on the body, and is very safe to consume during pregnancy. A spoon a day maintains the pH balance in the body, and controls the over secretion of mucous.
Drinking a lot of water during pregnancy not only flushes out toxins, but keeps the body hydrated and nourished. Regular intake of water during the day ensures a steady cleansing of the body from all kinds of allergens and toxins.
As the popular saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Here are some ways to prevent allergies in expectant mothers.
- Identifying the substances that trigger allergy and avoiding them consciously can greatly help in reducing the incidences of allergies. Pollen, dust particles, and fur from pet animals are all plausible triggers that can be avoided.
- Seasonal changes in weather can be countered by limiting outside exposure and staying indoors. Use of air-conditioners and humidifiers also can be helpful in regulating the air temperature.
- Food allergies can be avoided by conducting a detailed analysis and identifying the exact food substance causing the allergy. These food substances can be avoided during the entire period of pregnancy, and even otherwise.
Here are some frequently asked questions about allergies in expecting mothers.
1. Can allergies affect my pregnancy or can allergies get worse during pregnancy?
Allergies do not affect pregnancy noticeably in a majority of the cases. Many women deliver healthy babies despite having allergic episodes during their pregnancy. Safe medications are available for allergies to be taken during pregnancy, to safeguard the health of the baby. Breathing difficulties caused due to allergy may affect the oxygen supply to the foetus in some cases, which can be taken up by the doctor for assistance.
Pregnancy can increase or decrease the symptoms of a pre-existing allergic condition. It is entirely based on specific cases, and there are no general patterns observed.
2. Can I continue my allergy shots during pregnancy?
If your case of allergy is severe and only treatable through shots, it is appropriate to continue them during the pregnancy. However, it can be discontinued if there is any adverse allergic reaction to it. There are no pieces of evidence of any allergy or effect of these shots on the newborn so far.
While allergies are common across all age groups, it is advisable to be extra cautious about any allergies when pregnant, to avoid any adverse effect on the foetus.