Pregnancy does not cause hay fever. Though it can develop during pregnancy, it is more likely a person experiencing nasal symptoms during pregnancy has pregnancy rhinitis.
People often go into pregnancy with a known allergy, such as hay fever. Their pregnancy may reduce their symptoms, worsen them, or have no effect.
If a pregnant person is considering taking medications for their allergies, they should discuss this with a doctor.
This article looks at pregnancy and hay fever, pregnancy rhinitis, symptoms, treatment, and more.
Hay fever, more formally known as allergic rhinitis, refers to a group of symptoms that affect the nose. It does not cause fever, nor does a person need to come in contact with hay to experience the symptoms.
Like other allergic reactions, hay fever occurs when the immune system recognizes a harmless substance, such as pollen, as a potential threat. The body then reacts to it, causing symptoms.
Hay fever symptoms typically include:
- itchy eyes, mouth, or skin
- runny nose
- stuffy nose
- fatigue, due to loss of sleep
About 1 in 100 pregnant people experience asthma during pregnancy, with many more experiencing allergic reactions such as hay fever.
Another common cause of nasal distress comes from a condition known as pregnancy rhinitis. Pregnancy rhinitis refers to inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes. It will typically last 6 or more weeks with no known cause.
Pregnancy rhinitis can cause similar symptoms to hay fever. This is usually due to hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy adjusting how the immune system reacts to foreign bodies.
However, in general, hay fever will cause itchiness and sneezing, while pregnancy rhinitis does not. A person may wish to visit a doctor for confirmation.
Regardless, neither condition will cause harm to the developing fetus.
Learn about pregnancy, hay fever, and more.
Allergies and pregnancy
While some people may develop allergies like hay fever for the first time during pregnancy, it is more common for a person to have known allergies before conception.
How allergies affect a person when they are pregnant can vary:
- about one-third will notice their symptoms worsen
- approximately one-third will not notice any difference in their symptoms
- about one-third will notice their symptoms improve during pregnancy
Symptoms of hay fever can vary in severity throughout the year, depending on the underlying cause. A person will experience the symptoms when breathing in an allergen, such as pollen or mold.
Symptoms of hay fever can include:
- nasal congestion
- runny nose
- red, watery eyes
- post nasal drainage
- itching, often around the nose, mouth, eyes, or throat
- puffy, swollen eyelids
Several different substances can trigger allergic reactions that result in hay fever symptoms. Some common causes include:
- dust mites
- strong odors from perfumes or other chemicals
- cleaning solutions vapors
- air fresheners
- pet hair or dander
- cockroaches and droppings
There are two types of hay fever:
- Perennial: This type occurs all year round. It typically results from allergens that are present all year round, such as dust, cockroaches, and mold.
- Seasonal: Occurs at certain times of the year, such as spring or fall. This type typically results from pollen from grass, trees, or other plants.
A person should see a doctor if they develop allergy-like symptoms during their pregnancy. If they have not had allergies before, then the symptoms may be a result of pregnancy rhinitis.
However, a person should see a doctor for a formal diagnosis. If the doctor suspects hay fever, they will likely recommend seeing an allergist. They will also be able to recommend safe remedies for both the pregnant person and the fetus.
A pregnant person should avoid taking over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines before consulting a doctor. Some antihistamines are not safe to take during pregnancy.
For diagnosis, they may recommend a skin prick or scratch test. During this test, the doctor uses a small sample of a possible allergen and pricks or scratches it into the skin. The test will show results in 10–20 minutes.
They may also recommend an intradermal test. In this test, a doctor injects a small sample of the suspected allergen under the skin. Results typically appear within 20 minutes, and it tends to be more sensitive than a skin prick test.
Neither hay fever nor pregnancy rhinitis affects a developing fetus.
However, both conditions may reduce the amount of sleep a pregnant person gets, and this can potentially impact the fetus. Pregnancy rhinitis and hay fever may cause congestion and other symptoms at night, making it more difficult to sleep.
If a person is worried about how much sleep they get while pregnant, they should discuss this with a doctor. They will be able to suggest ways to help alleviate the symptoms and help a person sleep better.
However, a person should make sure to talk with a doctor before they take any medications for the condition. Certain OTC antihistamines may pose risks to the pregnant person and the fetus.
Learn more about pregnancy and sleep.
Treatment and management of hay fever during pregnancy may be slightly different than usual. Certain medications that a person could take before they were pregnant may cause potential harm to the developing fetus.
In some cases, a doctor may recommend a person stop taking certain medications until after the first trimester.
Once a person becomes pregnant, they should review all of their medications, including allergy medications, with a doctor. This is because some medications are not safe to take during pregnancy.
Some OTC antihistamines may be safe for people to use, particularly after the first trimester. While a doctor may advise this, a review of studies from
Second-generation antihistamines, such as loratadine and cetirizine, may be safe to use during pregnancy. These medications have fewer side effects, such as drowsiness, associated with first-generation antihistamines like chlorpheniramine, diphenhydramine, and tripelennamine.
A doctor may also recommend a corticosteroid nasal spray for people with more moderate to severe symptoms. A person should also continue to take any medication that prevents anaphylaxis.
A pregnant person may wish to avoid medicated treatments for hay fever. In this case, several nonmedicated strategies may help reduce a person’s symptoms.
Some strategies a person can try include:
- applying nasal strips
- using a saline (saltwater) nasal spray
- allergy-proofing the home, such as by keeping windows closed
- avoiding allergy triggers
- trying nasal irrigation
However, a person should still consult a doctor before using any natural remedies while pregnant.
Learn more about natural and home remedies for hay fever symptoms.
Things to avoid
A person should avoid taking decongestants, particularly alongside antihistamines, during pregnancy.
However, a doctor may recommend a nasal spray decongestant in some cases. Otherwise, a person should talk with a doctor before taking any nasal decongestants.
A person should also talk with a doctor about any other medications they may take on a regular basis, including over-the-counter pain relievers or supplements.
A person should avoid starting allergy shots if they did not start them before conception. They should also avoid increasing their dose, though they may find that decreasing the dose may be helpful.
The following sections answer frequently asked questions about pregnancy and hay fever.
How long does pregnancy rhinitis last?
Pregnancy rhinitis can last 6 or more weeks. Symptoms can also come and go throughout the pregnancy.
Typically, the symptoms will clear within 2 weeks of delivery.
Are allergies common in early pregnancy?
Allergies are common during early pregnancy.
About 1 in 100 pregnant people experience asthma, while more experience allergies.
A doctor should closely monitor a pregnant person with asthma, as symptoms can worsen during pregnancy.
Allergies often start before a person becomes pregnant, though it is possible for a person to develop allergies during pregnancy.
Is hay fever worse in early pregnancy?
About one-third of pregnant people will experience worsening hay fever symptoms, while the remaining two-thirds will either experience improving symptoms or no difference in symptoms.
Hay fever can worsen at different times of the year if it is based on seasonal allergens, like pollen.
A person may also notice their symptoms worsen if they stop using medications during pregnancy or if they develop pregnancy rhinitis on top of their allergies.
Hay fever can occur during pregnancy. It is more likely a person will have already had it before pregnancy, but a person can develop it at any time.
A person with hay fever during pregnancy may experience improving or worsening symptoms. Some people do not notice any difference in symptoms.
There are ways to manage hay fever during pregnancy, including medicated and nonmedicated treatments. A person should be mindful of which medications they take, however, as some can be harmful to the fetus.
A doctor can recommend safe medications or provide additional advice on managing symptoms.