The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) reports that as much as 30 percent of the population worldwide is affected by "allergic rhinitis" (which is a fancy way of describing seasonal allergies of the respiratory system). That's an awful lot of people walking around with scratchy throats, runny noses, and watery, itchy eyes during allergy season!
If you are a breastfeeding mom who suffers from seasonal allergies, it's likely you'll have a bout with them while nursing your little one. And if your allergies are severe, you're sure to be left wondering what you can take for a little relief.
Good news! There are many options for breastfeeding moms to get some relief during allergy season, and many are the easy-to-find, over-the-counter products that are a godsend for most allergy sufferers.
The problem is, many breastfeeding moms mistakenly believe they can't take most medications while breastfeeding. But this actually isn't the case—at least not most of the time.
As the Academy of American Pediatric (AAP) points out, "Many mothers are inappropriately advised to discontinue breastfeeding or avoid taking essential medications because of fears of adverse effects on their infants." The AAP goes on to explain that only a small proportion of medications are not advised for breastfeeding moms because they are associated with adverse effects on infants, but the majority should not pose a problem.
So if you are a breastfeeding mom suffering from seasonal allergies, how can you find out which medications are fine, and which are the few that are off limits?
First, it's always advisable to contact your doctor or your baby's pediatrician. The AAP also notes that there is a fabulous resource out there for breastfeeding mothers and their providers: LactMed is a free, government-sponsored online database that compiles the latest data and studies about medications and how they affect breastfeeding moms and their babies. There's even an app for it—total game-changer for breastfeeding moms on the go.
For more specifics on the kind of allergy medications that are most appropriate for breastfeeding moms, we spoke with Sylvia Romm, M.D., MPH, a New York City-based pediatrician and founder of MilkOnTap, an online breastfeeding resource. Dr. Romm explains there are three things breastfeeding moms should consider when it comes to allergy medications:
As far as antihistamines, Dr. Romm says that first-generation antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton) are least preferred because they can cause moms to become more tired than usual, which she says may make it "difficult or even dangerous to take care of your baby."
But don't fret: Dr. Romm says second- and third-generation medications such as loratadine (Claritin) and fexofenadine (Allegra) are fine to take. They are a better choice than Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton because they are less likely to make mothers tired and sedated.
As for how antihistamines might affect your baby, Dr. Romm says that small, occasional exposure to antihistamines "may cause some fussiness, but have not been shown to be dangerous."
Dr. Romm does have a word of warning when it comes to your milk supply: Any allergy or cold medication that contains pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) is a big no-no for a breastfeeding mom. "Studies have shown that even one dose can decrease milk supply substantially," Dr. Romm explains. She recommends oxymetazoline (Zicam) as a possible decongestant alternative.
Keep in mind that antihistamines and other OTC medications aren't the only way to address seasonal allergies. The popular breastfeeding site, KellyMom.com (which is run by an international board-certified lactation consultant) reminds breastfeeding moms that saline nasal spray and eye drops designed for cold/allergy symptom relief are considered safe for breastfeeding moms, and may help relieve some of their symptoms. Additionally, Dr. Romm confers that allergy shots (a form of immunotherapy) are safe for breastfeeding moms and their babies, and do not have negative effects on milk supply.
The bottom line is that breastfeeding moms who experience seasonal allergies should not have to suffer. Think about it: It's hard enough to manage baby care and all that goes along with that—having to deal with months on end of allergy symptoms is not something moms should have to put up with.
So educate yourself, download the LactMed app, and always speak to your doctor if you have any concerns. But don't let breastfeeding be a hindrance to treating your allergy symptoms: relief is out there, and you deserve it.