Relieving allergy symptoms can be tricky while pregnant and under medication restrictions.
Keep a tissue handy these days. Pregnancy hormones cause everything to swell, including the membranes lining your nasal and breathing passages. Allergy sufferers may suffer more during pregnancy, and postnasal drip may worsen. Even itchy eczema may get worse.
On the other hand, many expectant mothers in our medical practice report their allergies are actually better while pregnant, as if some inner wisdom of the body says, “You need to use your energy to grow your baby instead of healing your allergies.”’
Keep it fluid
When it comes to congestion while pregnant, think “skills” instead of “pills” to relieve your nasal stuffiness naturally.
Make your own saltwater nose drops (1⁄2 teaspoon of salt dissolved in 8 oz. of water) or buy a ready-made saline solution. Drop or spritz a few drops into your clogged nasal passages and gently blow, one nostril at a time.
Don’t blow your nose forcefully or hold both nostrils tightly while you blow, as this can cause nosebleeds and can push nasal secretions up into the sinus cavities triggering a sinus infection.
Savor a “steam clean.” Use a facial steamer while reading a book or watching TV. Enjoy a before- bed steam clean in a warm shower and run a vaporizer at your bedside. In winter months, turn down the central heat in your bedroom and turn up one or two vaporizers. The warm mist from the vaporizer acts as a healthier heat source, protecting you from the dry air caused by central heating, which can further thicken the secretions in your breathing passages.
If you already have food allergies, expect your gut to get more sensitive and selective while you are pregnant. As your baby grows and pushes up on your stomach, graze on mini- meals, which also help ease a sensitive gut.
You’ll be happy to know that new studies show you can make several health changes to protect your baby from allergies. First, of course, limit foods you are allergic to. It used to be thought that if the mother ate less of the foods most likely to cause allergies — such as dairy, wheat, shellfish, soy, nuts and eggs — her baby would be less likely to be allergic to these foods. Since there is no scientific proof of this, allergists now advise mothers to eliminate only the foods they are certain they are allergic to. This sensible advice lowers your risk of undernutrition.
Omega-3 fish oil, vitamin D and probiotics have been shown to lower your baby’s chances of getting allergies such as asthma and eczema. Be sure to consume plenty of these. Breast-feeding is also one of the best ways to reduce later allergies in your child.
Hidden cause of asthma during pregnancy
Mothers in our medical practice often report their asthma flares up while pregnant. The usual reason is gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Your growing uterus pushes on a full tummy, which pushes acids up into the esophagus and upper airway, which triggers pregnancy heartburn and pregnancy wheezing. Here are our home remedies.
- Stay upright, at least 45 degrees for a half hour after eating.
- A shake a day helps keep reflux away, because liquid meals empty faster from the stomach and blended meals are more easily digested.
- Suck on lemon drops. Saliva is a natural antacid.
- Eat twice as often, half as much.
- Chew, chew times two: Chewing your food longer lessens reflux.
- Sleep on your left side; try a 30-45 degree wedge-shaped pillow to sleep more upright if nighttime reflux is bothersome.
Bill Sears, M.D.,is a co-author of The Healthy Pregnancy Book, Little, Brown 2013, and The Allergy Book, Little, Brown 2015.