Dealing with a sinus infection can feel particularly challenging during pregnancy.
Experts have suggested that hormonal changes may play a role in pregnancy-induced rhinitis, which typically occurs in the second and third trimesters and clears up within 2 weeks of childbirth.
Regardless of what causes a sinus infection during pregnancy, it is important to know how to relieve symptoms safely. Learn more in this article.
A sinus infection on its own is not likely to harm the developing fetus. However, in rare cases, its symptoms can lead to complications.
Being pregnant may also affect the severity of sinus infection symptoms.
For example, one study looked into the effect that a pregnant woman’s body mass index (BMI) and stage of pregnancy could have on nasal congestion. The researchers found that both increased BMI and gestational age have a significant effect on the extent of nasal congestion during pregnancy.
They suggest that women with gestational diabetes or multiple pregnancies (such as twins or triplets) might have a higher risk of developing pregnancy-induced rhinitis. In the case of carrying multiples, this could be due to an increase in pregnancy hormones.
The researchers also propose that persistent nasal congestion could pose risks for the proper development and growth of the fetus because of a gradual decrease of oxygen.
Complications such as this are rare, however, and with proper treatment, the risks to the fetus are very low.
An earlier study found that nasal congestion due to allergies had no effect on the birth outcomes. In fact, there was a lower incidence of congenital abnormalities in the babies of women who had experienced these symptoms.
While it can be tempting to take common over-the-counter (OTC) medications for quick relief, certain drugs could be harmful, depending on the stage of the pregnancy.
For example, aspirin can cause problems with blood clotting and may affect the heart or lungs of the fetus in the final stages of pregnancy.
Sometimes, a doctor might prescribe a low dosage of aspirin for certain pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia. This dosage does not appear to be harmful, so the doctor will use it if they consider the benefits to outweigh the risks.
A doctor may prescribe corticosteroids to relieve nasal congestion, but only after the first trimester.
It is best to avoid the following drugs during pregnancy, although some doctors may prescribe them at low dosages, particularly for people with allergies:
- oral decongestants
Other effective OTC medications and home remedies are safe to use in pregnancy. A doctor can offer advice on suitable treatment options.
Some home remedies may help provide symptom relief. People can try:
- using saline nasal irrigation or saline nose drops, which experts recommend as a suitable treatment
- using a couple of extra pillows to elevate the head when lying down, which can reduce congestion
- getting plenty of sleep to help the immune system fight the infection
- drinking lots of fluids, including water and clear broth, to stay hydrated
- leaning over a bowl of hot water with a towel over the head or standing in a warm shower, using the steam to help clear the nasal passages
- using a humidifier in the bedroom at night
The most common symptom of a sinus infection, or sinusitis, is pain or tenderness around the nose and cheeks.
An infection causes inflammation in the sinuses, which are air filled cavities behind the cheekbones and forehead.
The inflammation prevents mucus in the sinuses from draining properly, causing pain and pressure.
Other symptoms of a sinus infection include:
- a blocked nose
- a sore throat
- low energy
- a fever
- a toothache
In most cases, people can treat a sinus infection with home remedies. However, if a pregnant woman experiences the following symptoms, it is best to see a doctor:
- a fever above 101°F
- coughing up green or yellow mucus
- being unable to eat or sleep
- recurring sinus infections
A doctor might prescribe medication to clear up the infection, taking the woman’s overall health and pregnancy trimester into account.
Getting ill while pregnant can be particularly challenging, as a person may not be able to take their regular OTC medications.
Home remedies are the best way to manage mild symptoms of sinusitis during pregnancy.
In some cases, a doctor can prescribe medication that poses no or few risks to the developing fetus.