pregnant women sat down sneezing into tissue
Louise Broadbridge
Louise Broadbridge

Hay fever in pregnancy

If you usually suffer from hay fever, you may be worried about whether it will affect your pregnancy.

The good news is that the hay fever itself won’t pose any risk to your baby but it can be unpleasant for you, especially as your usual medication may not be suitable to take during pregnancy. However, there are practical things you can do to ease your symptoms while you are expecting.

What is hay fever?

Officially known as seasonal rhinitis, hay fever is an allergy to pollen – a microscopic powder produced by certain plants when they reproduce. People with hay fever may only be allergic to certain types of pollen so not all plants will cause a problem.

Typically, hay fever is caused by the pollen from trees, grasses and weeds. Most people in the UK with hay fever experience symptoms from grass pollen, which is worst between mid-May and July. However, one in four will be allergic to tree pollen, which will typically cause problems from late March to the middle of May. Those who experience hay fever symptoms during the peak of summer will usually have an allergy to weed pollen as this peaks between the end of June and September. 

If you have hay fever, you will experience irritation in your nose, throat and eyes and they may become inflamed. The proteins from the pollen trigger histamine, a natural chemical produced by your body’s immune system, and this causes the allergic reaction. 

How can I tell if I have hay fever?

People with hay fever may not always know they have it and you can develop it later in life. This means you can experience symptoms even if you have never had any issues with pollen in the past. 

The symptoms of hay fever include:

  • A blocked or runny nose
  • Sneezing and coughing
  • Itching in the throat, mouth, nose and ears
  • Red, watery and itchy eyes
  • Loss of smell
  • Headache
  • Earache
  • Feeling more tired than usual

Many of the symptoms of hay fever are similar to those you might experience if you caught a cold or a virus like flu or Covid-19. Red itchy eyes are telltale signs of hay fever and you may notice your symptoms get worse when you have been spending time outside.

Will hay fever have an impact on my pregnancy?

Hay fever can make you feel pretty grotty, which is never nice but can be especially difficult when you are pregnant and already feeling tired. The symptoms of hay fever can make it even more challenging to get a good night’s sleep, which can leave you feeling very run down.

How can I ease my hay fever symptoms when pregnant?

Prevention is better than cure so check the pollen count before you go outside. If it is high, you may want to either avoid being outside or take extra steps to protect yourself like adding a barrier balm around your nostrils to catch the pollen. You can buy products specifically for this purpose but many people find simple Vaseline also works really well.

When you’ve spent time outside, change your outfit and have a shower to get rid of any pollen stuck to your skin and clothes. Protect your eyes by wearing wraparound sunglasses, particularly if there is any wind which may carry pollen.

Resist the urge to fling all your doors and windows open when it is hot as this can mean pollen getting into your home. Use a fan to circulate air or you could even look into air conditioning. You may also want to consider investing in an air purifier, which will remove allergens like pollen from the air in your home.

Hanging your clothes out to dry can mean pollen gets stuck on your clothes so either use an airer to hang them up inside or stick them in the tumble drier instead. Vacuum your home regularly and dust using a damp cloth to make sure there isn’t any pollen hanging around indoors too.

There are some hayfever products which are safe to use during pregnancy, including some saline nasal sprays, which will help unblock your nose so you can breathe more easily. Using baby wipes or facial cleansing wipes to clean your face, especially your eyes and nose can help remove pollen and reduce irritation too.

If your eyes feel itchy and irritated, wet a clean flannel with cold water and dab them for some relief. You may also want to use some eye drops designed to relieve hay fever symptoms – check with the pharmacist if you aren’t sure whether a particular product is safe to use during pregnancy.

Some of the standard hay fever medications like antihistamines and decongestants are not recommended for use during pregnancy so if you feel like you need to take something, talk to your GP for advice. They will be able to advise you on which medications are safe to use and which you should avoid. If you need an antihistamine, most doctors will advise loratadine as it is considered to be safe for use during pregnancy.

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