Tackling hayfever when pregnant or as a parent.

Important

This website does not intend to suggest how you should nurture or raise children or prepare teens for later life.

Always consult a doctor or paediatrician (specialist child doctor) before taking any action or purchasing any medication for a child’s hayfever, and whenever pregnancy is a consideration.

Pregnancy / Babies

Can I take hayfever medication during pregnancy?

Your doctor is the best, and should be your primary, source of information on medication.

Nasal sprays treat your hayfever direct at the site of suffering, leaving much less in the bloodstream than systemic drugs, so some may be suitable during pregnancy.  Always consult your healthcare professional first.

Expectant mothers may be advised to avoid all medications during the first tri-mester (first 3 months) of pregnancy.

Reconsider Decongestants

Research has uncovered risks in relation to the use of decongestants during the first 3 months of pregnancy. Thus if you are trying to conceive or you are in early pregnancy this information may be of interest to you.

How can I prepare for pregnancy with hayfever?

Prepare home and body

Hayfever sufferers planning on having children might benefit by putting the nursery and baby toy purchases on hold, in favour of first preparing the optimum home environment for the mother during pregnancy.

An ioniser in the master bedroom is a great idea before and after pregnancy. Consider that your new arrival will mean things are a little bit more crowded at sleep time, so keeping the air clean and fresh is for everyone’s benefit.

Overall, factors like dust and mites, moulds and yeasts, food and drink, and other habits and ‘must haves’ for the home are all part of minimising your medication intake, and your hayfever itself.

Rinse and inhale

Try saline (specially formulated salt water solution) nasal rinses, as well as inhaling the steam from a container of hot water to help clear congestion.

Also, by removing irritants from your nose as often as possible, medication will be more effective and/or may not be needed as often.

Use nasal sprays correctly

Remember, don’t spray straight up your nose. Angle the sprayer outwards a little.

Moreover, inhale the mist slowly and softly just enough to coat the inside of your nose – it’s no use to you if it goes over the back and down your throat.

See how to use a nasal spray.

Breast-feeding

Aside from emotional advantages that come from the release of oxytocin (the trust hormone) as well as the evolutionarily traditional behaviour of suckling, there are also immunity benefits from breastfeeding that are widely agreed on by experts.

Breastfed babies tend to have fewer colds, ear infections, and gut/intestinal problems and literature supports the claim that breastfeeding as the sole source of a baby’s nourishment reduces the risk of asthma, and breastfeeding exclusively for the first 4 months may also lower the risk of developing milk allergy and eczema.

Can I take hayfever medication while breastfeeding?

Overall, the goal should be to adopt the ideal diet, lifestyle and habits/routines to minimise your hayfever, as you may not need medication.

Even if you suffer from severe hayfever, the more you can reduce your symptoms with lifestyle changes, the less medication you will need for relief. 

Often a saline nasal cleansing spray together with lots of vitamin C, combined with dust and dust mite reduction in the home can suffice for breastfeeding mothers with mild to moderate hayfever. 

It is always recommended you consult your doctor on the appropriate treatments to take to control your hayfever symptoms while breastfeeding.

Antihistamines

New non-drowsy antihistamines are sometimes used under medical advice by some expectant mothers.

Compared to older generation antihistamines much less of the drug is absorbed into your bloodstream. Antihistamine nasal sprays go direct to the site of suffering, which means even less of the drug remains in the body.

Older drowsy-type antihistamines are less ideal as they penetrate the blood- brain barrier, leaving significantly more of the drug in your system than newer versions.

Decongestants

Pseudoephedrine is known to decrease milk supply, hence some healthcare professionals may advise against using decongestants breastfeeding, as well as antihistamines that contain this decongestant.

As is commonly understood, decongestants need to be used with caution and only for a few days at a time even under normal circumstances, so be sure to consult your doctor before taking this type of medication. Decongestants are generally not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.

Corticosteroids

Intranasal and inhaled corticosteroids are considered safer than oral corticosteroids, again because localised medication leaves much less trace of drugs in the body than medication that goes via the gut.

Immunotherapy Injections

The proteins contained in allergy injections to prevent severe hayfever are not likely to enter breast milk. This option is sometimes approved for breastfeeding mothers.

Children

Infants & Toddlers

No honey Honey is known to contain bacteria spores that may cause botulism as it contains small traces of dust and dirt, thus honey should not be given to children under 2 years of age. Their digestive systems can not yet handle the toxin.

No pets in the bedroom – Not only for possible prevention of S.I.D.S. (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) but for the possible prevention of allergic reactions, always keep animals out of the child’s sleeping room at all times.

Did you know

Children who are NOT exposed to pets in the first year of life have a greater risk of having hayfever, and also asthma. Interestingly too, being an only child increases the risk of allergies in later life as well. Having siblings appears to aid immunity1.

Avoid carpet if possible – In a child’s early years, the avoidance of asthma is also important, if not even more important as asthma usually arrives on the scene earlier than hayfever which usually doesn’t show up until primary school.

Carpet is notorious for harbouring dust mites, one of the main triggers of asthma and general respiratory woes.

No cigarette smoke – None at all whatsoever is the best idea. Clear and well-evidenced advertising and outreach campaigns conducted by numerous countries and healthcare organisations has made this requirement for children fairly clear in recent years. 

Head to the seaside – There’s no better saline nasal rinse than a good old swim at the beach.

As long as your child is not suffering from any form of sickness (such as ear infections) and is healthy enough to go swimming, not only the salt water but the fresh seaside air can also help keep many a toddler’s respiratory system clean and clear. 

School-aged Children

Now hayfever is a serious consideration for you and your child – the condition usually presents itself from around six to seven years of age.

Given the potential combination with asthmatic symptoms and other first-time health issues that school-aged children encounter, close attention should be paid to school children’s respiratory function around pollen season, and indeed the state of their living and sleeping environment as they approach the age of significant hayfever risk.

No raking – Cleaning up leaves in the garden or any other chores involving mowing, the overturning of leaves, decaying matter, compost, grass or ground matter can be harmful for anyone, but even more so for children with allergies or mould sensitivity. 

Mould grows and threatens the health of children from many more places than you might consider. See our section on Mould & Yeasts here. 

Caution Rainfall – Heavy rainfall with its causal rise in fungal spore release is associated with increased hospital admissions of children with asthma.

Lots of Vitamin C – School is a bacterial bonanza which a growing child’s immune system has to deal with, and if you add to the various viruses the immunological response of hayfever as well then you have a solid demand for vitamin C.

This could be a case where vitamin supplements could be of benefit, given the fact that some citrus fruits need to be avoided by some allergy and hayfever sufferers.

Top Tissues Only – While it may be a bit of an expense, it is worth buying hypo-allergenic tissues during the Spring/Summer or whenever your child is suffering from nasal issues of any kind.

Hang Clean Clothes Inside – As tempting as the bright sunshine might be, hanging clothes indoors is the better option so that pollen doesn’t stick to clothes, especially the clothes of a known allergy sufferer. For more on this and other essential hayfever tips see the relevant page here.

Keep Pollen Out – It’s a good idea to get shirts off as soon as kids return home from being outdoors. Perhaps even better if the grass and tree pollen is washed out of their hair, thus some parents opt for the early shower before dinner during the Spring and Summer. Children and pets explore and play actively near the ground, bringing more than their fair share of pollen into the house (and often straight into their own bedrooms and onto bed linen) so any system that keeps dirties off furniture and straight into the laundry could prove immensely helpful.

Know your corticosteroids – Some of the older forms of corticosteroids have been shown to effect child growth, however data on some of the newer nasal steroids have not shown such effects. Doing your own research on the various types available, and confirming with your doctor what all potential side-effects might be, is a good idea.

Teens

Teens have enough challenges on their plate without hayfever to worry about as well.

Educating and instilling good hayfever habits can lay the foundation for successful control of the condition into a teen’s adulthood, and perhaps as a result in the future your teen’s own children will suffer less also.

Also, your teen using the car during Spring and Summer could be on the condition that they give it a quick hose-down before bringing it back into the garage, so that it’s not coated in half the neighbourhood’s pollen.

Shampoo bottle on pillow – Teens come home with their hair full of pollen, and most of them go promptly to their bed to read, listen to music or stare at a smartphone to relax. An extremely bad habit for a hayfever sufferer to have. 

During hayfever season, why not ‘kill two birds with one stone’ and give them their own shampoo bottle of their choice which no one else is allowed to use (you’ll get no arguments there) and have them keep it in their room (no arguments from a teen there either, particularly those with siblings) so their shampoo bottle can stay on their pillow as a reminder to have a shower soon after getting home.

Early showers also help ensure that pollen-covered clothes find the washing basket before they find the furniture.

It is a little strange a routine keeping a shampoo bottle on one’s pillow, but it will work as an effective reminder during pollen season.

All you need to do is breeze through their room during the day (or in the morning before work) and place the bottle that’s on their dresser onto their pillow.

You may even find after a few days they’ll start putting it there themselves of a morning, so that you have no reason to enter their room.

Medication reminder alarms – Another great hayfever habit that teens are likely to adopt is the electronic reminder – assuming your teen has a phone or email account which will have a calendar reminder system. Smartphones are particularly useful as they have alarms which can be labelled and set to go off multiple days per week when it’s time to administer medication.

Given that being slack with medication is a major factor that contributes to adults having out-of-control hayfever, implementing and monitoring this habit will be beneficial for your teenager not only now, but long into the future.

Spring cleaning rituals – Educating and instilling good hayfever habits can lay the foundation for successful control of the condition into young adult life and beyond – good habits to pass on to one’s own children in the future. 

The following clean involves one ‘senior’ such as a parent (or older sibling/cousin/friend) and one ‘junior’, the teenager whose bedroom is being cleaned.

As with any major clean it’s best to set up some kind of reward for the participants to enjoy at the end of the clean, to avoid delay or lack of motivation.

The process should be done twice at around the same time of two consecutive months – first at the end of winter, then again at the beginning of Spring a month later. 

 The Teen Clean

After throwing all pillows in the rubbish bin and applying all necessary face masks and non-allergenic gloves: 

  1. REMOVE curtains, cushions, bedding, rugs and shoes from the bedroom and open all windows.
  2. WIPE DOWN all surfaces with 1 part naturally fermented white vinegar: 2 parts water.
  3. VACUUM floor and skirting boards thoroughly by moving furniture all to one side, then all to the other side.
  4. WASH all fabrics (including old clothes) in hot water, whilst allowing any dust still in the bedroom to settle.
  5. CLEAN windows, vents, air conditioners and filters, as well as any furniture (insides/undersides) that need a de-moulding with vinegar.
  6. FINISH by wiping down all surfaces once again and vacuuming one more time, then warm-drying all fabrics to ensure optimum dust mite extermination.

The most important lesson to communicate is that this needs to be done at least twice per year without exception throughout the teen’s entire life. This does of course mean that the parent/s will have to do the same to their own room in order to ‘practice what they preach’, which is good too!

Sources:

  1. Hesselmar B et al. Does early exposure to cat or dog protect against later allergy development? Clin Exp Allergy 1999; 29: 611-7