Can You Take Allergy Medicine While Breastfeeding?

Protecting Your Breastfeeding Baby While Relieving Your Allergy With Medicine

Having to deal with sneezes, a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes while taking care of and breastfeeding a baby is no fun. Thankfully, some allergy medicines are available that the medical community has deemed safe for breastfeeding moms. However, you should avoid some other allergy medicines because they may harm your milk supply.

Allergy Medicines While Breastfeeding

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A wide variety of prescription and over-the-counter allergy medicines are available. According to the Mayo Clinic, certain allergy medicines have been determined to be safe for mothers to take while breastfeeding, such as the antihistamines Loratadine and Fexofenadine. These antihistamines help relieve sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, runny nose and hives. Some of the allergy medicine products that are made of Loratadine carry the brand names Claritin and Alavert. Allergra is a medicine that contains Fexofenadine. Claritin, Alavert and Allegra are all available for purchase without a prescription at retail stores.

Another type of allergy medicine, the decongestants, help relieve allergy symptoms such as nasal and sinus congestion and pain. You should be wary, however, of taking decongestants while breastfeeding because some contain pseudoephedrine, including Sudafed and Zyrtec D, which can decrease your milk supply. Be aware that some allergy medicines are a combination of an antihistamine and decongestant. Since decongestants can decrease your milk supply, you should also avoid combination allergy medicines while breastfeeding.

The Mayo Clinic's list of medications that are safe to take while breastfeeding isn't comprehensive, which means that some medicines may be safe even though they don't appear on the list. Check with your doctor about other medicines you're interested in that aren't on the organization's list.

Taking Allergy Medicines

Take the allergy medicine according to the manufacturer's directions, which is usually found on the packaging or in an insert. Remember that the dosage directions are there to ensure your safety, so don't take the medicine more than directed, even if you feel as if you need more of it to get some relief from your allergy symptoms.

In particular, look out for any information on the medicine's effects on pregnancy and breastfeeding. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration issued a new ruling that states that prescription medication labels must include more information as to the medication's safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding, specifically whether the medication gets into breast milk and how it could potentially affect your baby. Since this labeling and information rule only applies to prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines may not include such information or be less clear about it.

Also make sure to read the information as to when to stop taking the medicine and call your doctor. While the medicines mentioned have been determined safe for the general population, including breastfeeding moms, some people may still have adverse reactions to them.

Check With Your Doctor

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Before taking any medicine while breastfeeding, it's best to first check with your doctor to get her approval. If you get the go-ahead to buy and take a particular medicine, or are prescribed one, ask your doctor about when it's best to take it. Your doctor may advise that you take the medicine immediately after breastfeeding to help reduce your baby's exposure to it. Alternatively, she may advise you to take it at another time since different drugs have different peak times in breast milk.

Let your doctor know if your allergy medicine isn't helping or if it's causing negative side effects. It's especially important to let your doctor know if you think your baby is having a reaction to the medicine. Signs to look out for include a change in behavior, a rash, fussiness, sleep problems and a refusal to eat. Your doctor may advise that you try another medicine or prescribe a different one.

You should also check in with your doctor before taking any natural supplements and herbs as well as homeopathic medicines for your allergies. Keep in mind that just because something is labeled "natural" or is sold in a health store, it doesn't mean that it can't cause harm to you or your baby.

Other Ways to Help Your Allergies

Besides taking allergy medicines, there may be other things that you can do to help prevent and/or lessen allergy symptoms. Try to avoid the substance that triggers an allergic response. For example, if you're allergic to pollen, check the pollen forecast, which you can see on weather forecasts, before heading out.

For air allergens, showering after being outside and/or before going to bed can help remove the allergens from your body and reduce the chances of an allergic response. Try to rinse out your nose with a nasal saline solution. Having a good air filter at home and/or work may also help with air allergens.

If you suffer from a skin allergy and know what causes it, avoid the offending culprit as much as possible by closely examining ingredient lists on products. Switching to more natural products for anything that comes in contact with your skin, such as dish and laundry detergent, personal hygiene products and makeup, may also help reduce flare-ups.

If it's a food item that you're allergic to, check the ingredients lists on prepared foods and make sure that you make your allergy known to food preparation staff. If you don't already cook, learning how to cook not only puts you in control of what goes in your body, but also usually means a healthier diet for you and your baby since you won't have to rely on takeout and processed foods.

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