Many women have heard that you should not take anything while you are pregnant or breastfeeding. This is true for certain medications without a doubt, but there are, for instance, some allergy medications that are safe during breastfeeding. There is no reason that you should have to suffer through the symptoms associated with allergies.
There are three things breastfeeding moms should consider when it comes to allergy medications:
- what effect the drug will have on you
- what effect it will have on your baby
- how it might affect your milk production
Always get advice from your GP before taking any medicine if you're breastfeeding. If you would like to start with something very minimal, practitioners will recommend that you use saline nose or eye drops to alleviate stuffiness or itchy, dry eyes.
Another alternative to treat allergies while nursing, is to have your medical provider administer allergy injections — so-called allergen immunotherapy. According to a Joint Task Force on Practice Parameters "there is no evidence of an increased risk of prescribing or continuing allergen immunotherapy for a mother while breastfeeding and no risk for the breastfed child”.
If you find that you are still experiencing uncontrolled symptoms, there are oral allergy medications that are safe to take while breastfeeding.
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The danger associated with allergy medicine, like so many other types of medication, is that there are not many medical or scientific studies that have been routinely performed on pregnant and nursing women. This is obviously because of the risk to harm the baby. Because of this, there just isn’t enough information to say whether a drug is completely safe and would not have any side effects.
The allergy medications that should be avoided while breastfeeding are those that are classified as first-generation antihistamines and medications that include decongestants. These medications include chlorpheniramine, brompheniramine, diphenhydramine, and pseudoephedrine to name a few.
The medications included in this category will pass into the breastmilk and have been shown to cause drowsiness, irritability and colicky symptoms among breastfed babies (first-generation antihistamines). It should also be noted that a single dose of medications such as pseudoephedrine can influence breast milk production. A review of studies has shown that “A single dose of pseudoephedrine decreases milk production acutely and repeated use seems to interfere with lactation”.
The best way to look at these medications is to consider how they make you feel when you take them. These are the same side effects that your baby could experience when the medicine is passed through the breast milk.
And always, always remember to contact your doctor or your baby's pediatrician for advice before taking any medications while breastfeeding! This way, you minimize the risks of possible complications.
Cox, L., Nelson, H., Lockey, R., Calabria, C., Chacko, T., Finegold, I., ... & Khan, D. A. (2011). Allergen immunotherapy: a practice parameter third update. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 127(1), S1-S55. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2010.09.034
Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2006-. Pseudoephedrine. [Updated 2018 Oct 31]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501085/
Kelsey, J. J. (2016). Drug Principles in Lactation. Retrieved from https://www.accp.com/docs/bookstore/psap/p2016b3_sample.pdf
Merlob, P., & Weber-Schöndorfer, C. (2015). Antiallergics, antiasthmatics and antitussives. In Drugs During Pregnancy and Lactation (Third Edition) (pp. 671-676). https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-408078-2.00027-5
Ngo, Q.T. & Dass, K. (2018). Impact and assessment of sleep disturbances in adult and children with allergic rhinitis. Current Treatment Options in Allergy, 5(2), 236-246. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40521-018-0163-7