What is allergic rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis, also called hayfever, is a condition in which the inner lining of your nasal passage becomes inflamed. This is due to a sensitivity to allergens, which cause a response that is driven by a type of immunoglobulin (antibody) called IgE. The condition can be perennial (present throughout the year), episodic (happens in episodes due to the presence of an inhaled allergen, such as dust), or it can be seasonal, meaning that it happens at certain times of the year, due to an increase in certain out-door allergens, such as pollen. Other agents that cause allergic rhinitis are dust mites, molds, and pets.
How common is allergic rhinitis during pregnancy?
In the United States, 10 30 percent of adults suffer from allergic rhinitis, making it extremely common. Although boys typically are affected more than girls during childhood, the gender difference flips during adulthood, when women are affected more often than men. All of this makes allergic rhinitis extremely common during pregnancy. Possibly, it is the most common long-term medical condition to occur during pregnancy.
How is allergic rhinitis diagnosed?
Usually, allergic rhinitis is diagnosed during childhood or adolescence, but its possible for it to be evaluated for the first time when you are pregnant. In any case, diagnosis begins with an evaluation of your history of nasal symptoms in connection with allergen exposure and the presence of signs, such as a swollen inner lining of the nose, pale mucous membranes, and watery, irritated eyes. Diagnosis of allergic rhinitis is confirmed by demonstration of allergen-specific IgE-mediated sensitivity – doctors may perform a skin prick test or may test you for whats called specific IgE, meaning IgE antibodies that are specific for the suspected type of allergen.
Does allergic rhinitis cause problems during pregnancy?
In a small fraction of women those whose history suggests they are at risk allergic rhinitis can lead to an asthma attack, which if severe can be life-threatening. Other complications of allergic rhinitis are a bloody nose, problems with the Eustachian tube of the middle ear, sinusitis, and an increase in your susceptibility to upper respiratory infections (the common cold).
Does allergic rhinitis during pregnancy cause problems for the baby?
There are no consequences for the developing baby unless your symptoms lead to an asthma attack, in which case your respiratory system can become compromised, putting both you and the baby at risk. There is a genetic (family) component to allergic rhinitis, so the fact that you have it means that theres an increased chance that your baby will have it too.
What to consider about taking medications when you are pregnant or breastfeeding:
- The risks to yourself and your baby if you do not treat the allergic rhinitis
- The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are pregnant
- The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are breastfeeding
What should I know about using medication to treat my allergic rhinitis during pregnancy?
Allergic rhinitis is not life-threatening (unless you are asthmatic and the rhinitis serves as a trigger for an asthma attack). Thus, medications are to alleviate symptoms in order to improve your quality of life. Medications include oral antihistamines, of which there are many choices, including some that are known to be safe during pregnancy. Commonly used antihistamines include loratadine and cetirizine, which appear to be fairly pregnancy-safe.
Who should NOT stop taking medication for allergic rhinitis during pregnancy?
Nearly any pregnant woman can stop, or take a break from, medications, but the medications are not dangerous to the developing baby, so there is little benefit to stopping. The only group of patients that cannot safely stop medication are those who are asthmatic and are on medication not just for the nasal symptoms but to prevent an asthma attack.
What should I know about choosing a medication for my allergic rhinitis during pregnancy?
You may find Pregistrys expert reports about the individual medications to treat this allergic rhinitis here. Additional information can also be found in the sources listed at the end of this report.
What should I know about taking a medication for my allergic rhinitis when I am breastfeeding?
Antihistamines taken by a lactating mother are safe for her nursing infants. Drugs that are taken as nasal sprays, namely cromolyn and beclomethasone have very little absorption into the mothers blood, so they are considered to be safe during breastfeeding.
What alternative therapies besides medications can I use to treat my allergic rhinitis during pregnancy?
One option against allergic rhinitis is reduction of pollen and other allergens in the environment through use of air conditioning and various air filters. Allergen immunotherapy can prevent future sensitization to various air allergens, as well as to help prevent asthma attacks in those who are at risk. This approach can be done during pregnancy. Flushing the nasal passages with saline (salt) water may help reduce symptoms – ask your doctor to be sure this is safe for you. One other option, which is appropriate in women with a problem of nose anatomy, such as nasal septum deviation, or nasal polyps, is surgery.
What can I do for myself and my baby when I have allergic rhinitis during pregnancy?
Reassure yourself that this is a very common condition that is easily treated to improve your quality of life.
Resources for allergic rhinitis in pregnancy:
For more information about allergic rhinitis during and after pregnancy, contact http://www.womenshealth.gov/ (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446]) or check the following links: