What Allergy Medicine Can I Take While Breastfeeding?

  • Learn about allergens and how our body typically reacts to them 
  • Find out which allergy medicines are safe when breastfeeding 
  • Also know what medications to completely avoid while nursing 
  • Bonus video: Are OTC allergy medications safe while nursing?

Unlike a cold, not everyone suffers from allergies. And of the people that do suffer, the symptoms can be long ranging from slight watering of the eyes to terrible sinus infections. In a lot of ways, suffering from the effects of an allergy attack can be even more debilitating than those of a cold or flu.

If you’re breastfeeding while suffering from allergies, you may be concerned about what things you can and can’t take to help ease your symptoms. Unlike the rest of us, you can’t simply go to the store and grab something to take, not everything may be safe. That’s what we’ll be looking at today and hopefully this will be helpful in sorting things out for you. We’re going to look at;

  • What Are Allergens? What Ways Do Our Bodies React To Them?
  • If Breastfeeding What Can You Do And What Sorts Of Medicines Can You Use?
  • How D​o They Work?

  • Are There Medications Should Be Avoided?

What Are Allergens? What Ways Do Our Bodies React To Them?

An allergen can be almost anything that the body reacts to negatively. They can be food borne allergens, what happens when we eats something that our bodies react badly to. Or they can be environmental allergens that are caused by plants and insects such as bees and wasps.

For our purposes here today, we’ll be discussing the most types of allergens, environmental ones. Environmental allergens are anything that we come into contact with through interacting with our natural environments. Things that touch us, or things that we breathe in from the air around us.

The most common allergen types are pet dander, pollen and dust. The reactions to different allergens can vary in symptom and degree, it really depends on how sensitive the affected person is to the particular allergen they come in contact with. The severity can range from sneezing and coughing to skin rashes and anaphylaxis. 

When we come in contact with something we’re allergic to, the body’s immune system has defenses that spring into action in order to try and expel, or kick out, this parasitic invader. Our immune system produces a chemical called histamines to counteract foreign bodies. These histamines are what trigger your allergic reaction and creates the symptoms you experience.

Some of the reactions that can happen are;

body’s immune system
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    Allergic Conjunctivitis. This usually happens because the eyes are trying to clear themselves of pollen, dust or dander. The eyes will swell, become red and itchy and start to water.
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    Allergic Rhinitis or hay fever.  Like the eyes, this is the body’s way of trying to expel foreign particulates from the lungs, esophagus and the nose. Symptoms can include sneezing, stuffy nose and itchiness of the roof of the mouth.
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    Wheezing, coughing and tightness in the chest accompanied by shortness of breath. This happens when we inhale allergens that attach to alveoli in our lungs and prevents them from expanding effectively so we can pull in enough air.
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    Skin rashes or itching.  Some people that are allergic things that cause respiratory distress like pollen. They can also have reactions when their skin comes in contact with these allergens as well. The result can be either raised bumps that are painful and itchy with redness.

If Breastfeeding What Can You Do And What Can You Use?

There are many natural remedies that you can use that will help to alleviate the symptoms of an allergy attack. Fortunately there are quite a few over the counter medications for allergies that are completely safe for breastfeeding mums to take so that your entire spring season isn’t missed. These are perfectly safe for baby as well.

Creams and Lotions?

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    Diphenhydramine which comes in cream, liquid, pill and lotion forms for allergies. In cream and lotion forms, it’s used for skin reactions.. You can use this cream to get topical relief from the burning, itching and swelling that’s associated with an allergic reaction. It’s safe for pregnant and breastfeeding mums because only a relatively small amount passes into the bloodstream. It has no effect on the production of breastmilk and no studies have showed adverse effects to babies.Diphenhydramine is most commonly found in Benadryl.
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    Calamine Lotion is also safe to use for breastfeeding mums. It doesn’t pass into the bloodstream. It relieves the symptoms of burning and itching. Some other topical medications may interact with calamine lotion, so be sure to consult your physician before using if you’re using another topical. It has no generic and is only available as Calamine lotion.
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    Triamcinolone Acetonide is a corticosteroid that may be prescribed by your physician for particularly stubborn cases of allergic reactions. While it is a topical since it contains steroids, it can pass through the bloodstream and into breast milk. Although there have been no extensive studies on the effects on nursing babies, it may be best to avoid if at all possible.Thisc can only be obtained through a physician and comes in many different brand names.

Nasal Sprays.

All nasal sprays are applied directly to the nasal passages. It’s considered safer because of that form of application  and relatively little has a chance to be absorbed into the bloodstream. There are four forms of nasal sprays available on the market. Saline, antihistamine, topical and corticosteroids.

the nasal passage
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    Saline only nasal sprays can help with congestion and clear the sinuses to make breathing easier. You can either make your own using salt, baking soda and water or you can find them easily at the pharmacy under from brands labelled simply saline spray.
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    Pseudoephedrine is a safe nasal spray that works by constricting the blood flow to the nasal passages. It’s brand name is most often Sudafed, but can also be found in store brand varieties. Sudafed is a topical nasal spray.
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    Antihistamine nasal sprays are also considered safe for breastfeeding mums and babies. They work to relieve itchiness, runny nose and congestion. They’re preferable to antihistamine pills as they’re less likely to cause drowsiness. They can be found in pharmacies and groceries under the brands Clarispray, Flonase and Afrin.
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    Steroid Nasal sprays work very well to counteract the effects of allergies. They do so by reducing the swelling of the nasal passages allowing the sufferer to breathe better. The one downside to these types of sprays is that they take longer to provide relief, they can take two days to a full week to start working. They’re also considered safe enough for breastfeeding and baby. A few steroid nasal sprays that can be found in pharmacies are Nasonex, Vick Sinex and Nasacort. Some may experience headaches or nosebleeds as side effects.

Eye Drops.

Eye drops like nasal sprays come in a few different varieties. Your eye symptoms, all the  watering and  itching, are usually tied to the issues that you’re having with your nasal passages as they’re both a part of the ENT system. Often times the medication that you use to treat your nasal allergies will alleviate the eye symptoms. When they don’t eye drops are a good option.

  • Corticosteroid eye drops, are anti-inflammatory eye drops and like nasal sprays work very well to eliminate symptoms but take just as the long to work. Similarly, although the corticosteroid does eventually enter the bloodstream with longterm use, only a fraction of that will cross over in breast milk. Physicians generally consider it safe to use while breastfeeding. A few that can be found over the counter include Muro 128 and Systane Ultra.
  • Antihistamine eye drops will act faster than corticosteroids, but there effects are often fast fading and you will need to use them a few times per day. They work to block the  histamine that the immune system produces in response to an invading organism. These are perhaps the safest and most commonly found eye drops, being available in stores and pharmacies under as Visine and Opcon-A. They have had no measurable effect on breast milk in studies.
  • Mast Cell Stabilising eye drops are a new class of eye drop on the market and work much like antihistamines in that they inhibit the body’s production of histamine. They work to prevent your symptoms. Like antihistamines, they’re considered generally safe for breastfeeding. You can either get them as a prescription or find them over the counter as Aular, Refresh Eye Itch Relief or Zyrtec.
  • Multi-Action eye drops are most often used to treat allergic conjunctivitis. This is a condition that occurs in response to the conjunctiva of the eye, the thin membrane covering the eye, comes in contact with allergens such as pollen and becomes infected. These medications often have more than one ingredient such as an antihistamine or a mast stabiliser and a decongestant to treat all symptoms at once. An antihistamine and decongestant will reduce redness, itchiness and watery eyes. A mast stabiliser and decongestant with prevent and treat burning, itching, tearing and redness. You can find some of these multi-action eye drops in stores as Clear Eyes, Visine A and Refresh Optive Advanced.

Oral Antihistamines.

Antihistamines are probably the best way to treat an allergy attack, because it goes directly to the cause of the reaction, the production of histamines by the body. But what if you’re someone that doesn’t care to use either a nasal spray or eye drops to treat your symptoms? Well, there are orals that you can take that are easily found at your local pharmacy.

With antihistamines you usually have a choice of non sedating or sedating. Both are considered safe for breastfeeding mums. But you may prefer to use the non sedating types such as Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec to ensure that you’re alert for your little one. Both forms of antihistamine have not shown to affect milk production nor have adverse effects on baby.

Are There Medications That Should Be Avoided?

As with taking any form of medicine when breastfeeding, there are some that should be avoided if at all possible. The major concern when breastfeeding is making sure that whatever you take doesn’t easily cross in breast milk and affect the health and safety of your baby.

major concern when breastfeeding

Oral decongestants such as Sudafed should be avoided if possible, as it contains Pseudoephedrine which when taken orally can reduce milk supply. Antihistamine and decongestant combinations such as Dimetapp and Contac while also posing a risk of decrease milk supply, will also have a sedating effect and can cross into breast milk affecting your baby. 

Decongestants that contain phenylephrine and phenylpropanolamine both drugs that are similar to pseudoephedrine, should be avoided by lactating mothers for the same reason that it can contribute to a decrease in milk production although it hasn’t been found to have an effect on infants.

The ingredient guaifenesin which is found in many expectorants such as Mucinex and Robitussin is thought to cause a decrease in breast milk production. Though you may be tempted to use a throat spray to relieve the ach caused by coughing and or sinus drainage, you should avoid one with large quantities of menthol as that will decrease breast milk as well.

As with anything before you start any medication while lactating, you should speak with your physician or pharmacist first. Barring that there are some questions you should as and a few good rules of thumb to follow when deciding on medications;

  • How severe are your symptoms and can you manage without medication?
  • How effective is the medicine and how likely is it pass into your breast milk?
  • Always try topical medications first, they carry less risk of adverse reactions.
  • Use the lowest dosage of a medication for the shortest amount of time you can.
  • Use single symptom medications is at all possible, this minimises risk.

Hopefully this article was helpful in helping to answer whatever questions you had about what allergy medications are safe to take when breastfeeding. Maybe you’ve learned something today that you didn’t know before. As usual please pass along what you’ve learned and don’t forget to always consult your physician when think of taking any new medication.

Bonus Video

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