Allergies are quite common during pregnancy. Almost 25% of all pregnant women experience allergies related to their pregnancy. Allergies during pregnancy are usually characterized by coughing, itchy skin and sneezing.
What Causes Higher Risks of Allergies During Pregnancy?
It is believed that progesterone is partly the cause, since it increases the breathing frequency of expectant mums. The burgeoning belly does not make matters any better, as it pushes up the diaphragm, causing extra burden for the lungs to expand when breathing. For this reason, many pregnant women start breathing through their mouth, allowing more allergens into the body.
The excessive hormone levels in pregnant women also suppress immunity. This helps reduce the chances of miscarriage, but at the same time makes the mother’s more vulnerable to allergies. With a weakened immune system, the body of a pregnant woman may not be able to fight allergens as it usually do, making the allergy symptoms more severe.
Can I Have Allergy Tests to Make Sure?
If you have symptoms of allergies during pregnancy, you should get tested to determine what might be causing them and the right treatment.
The test performed is known as RAST. It is considered safe for both the baby and the mother. The test involves taking a small amount of blood and using the sample to test for about 20 allergens. You will be able to get the results in a few days. Most insurers cover the procedure unless otherwise stated in your policy.
To conduct the test, shallow scratches are made on the forearm using a needle. The scratches are then exposed to potential allergens to determine which of them you are allergic to. The test site will become swollen and red if you are allergic to a certain substance. There is only a slight chance for pregnant women who go through this procedure to get adverse reactions such as shortness of breath and hives.
Can I Take Medications If I Have Allergies During Pregnancy?
If you have been taking medications for allergies, you should stop when you get pregnant. Seek the advice of your doctor before taking any medication for allergies during pregnancy. Here are some general tips on choosing allergy medications during pregnancy:
- Over-the-counter antihistamines –medications such as cetirizine or loratadine are generally safe during pregnancy. They do not have any harmful effects but can result in some mild side effects such as drowsiness. You should take them following the instructions on the packaging. You should be extra cautious when taking medicines during pregnancy, especially in your first trimester as it is a crucial time for the development of your unborn baby.
- Allergy shots – they are considered safe if you have been taking them for a while before conception. Do not start taking allergy shots during pregnancy as they can interfere with your already weakened immunity and cause adverse impact.
- Regular decongestants – you should avoid using those contain pseudoephedrine, especially during your first trimester.
What Should I Do About Allergies During Pregnancy?
Apart from the above-mentioned medical treatments, there are also a number of self-help remedies to help you prevent having allergy symptoms during pregnancy. Usually, the best defense against allergies is offence.
- Stay away from smokers – in addition to prevent allergies, secondhand smoking is bad for you and your baby.
- Steer clear of household chemicals – products such as paint thinner can trigger allergies.
- Avoid pollen – You should stay indoors where there is a filtered air-conditioner if you are known to be allergic to pollen. Wear protective sunglasses when you go out and make sure to wash your hands and face when you get back indoors.
- Avoid dust - Do not do the cleaning when you are pregnant. This is especially so if you’re allergic to dust. Get someone to do it for you, and ask the person to use a wet mop or a HEPA-filter fitted vacuum to avoid stirring up dust.
- Avoid any other possible allergens – Stay away from foods that you’re allergic to during this period. Read all labels to avoid accidental consumption. Also, if you are allergic to pets, inform your friends who have pets before visiting them. And if you own a pet, try to have a pet-free area in your home.