Is it safe to take Claritin or other allergy medications during pregnancy?
Answers from Roger W. Harms, M.D.
Allergy medications are sometimes recommended during pregnancy. Before you take any medication during pregnancy, however, it's important to weigh the severity of your symptoms against the possible risks to your baby.
For example, loratadine (Claritin, Alavert) is considered a category B drug — which means that animal studies haven't shown any risks to unborn babies whose mothers take the drug. Other allergy medications in this category include cetirizine (Zyrtec) and budesonide nasal spray (Rhinocort). Although there are no guarantees about safety during pregnancy, drugs in this class are often the best option when medication is needed during pregnancy.
If you're struggling with allergy symptoms, it might help to:
- Avoid triggers. Limit your exposure to anything that triggers your allergy symptoms.
- Try saline nasal spray. Over-the-counter saline nasal spray can help ease symptoms. Use the spray as needed.
Rinse your nasal cavity with a neti pot. Once or twice a day, fill the neti pot with an over-the-counter saline nasal solution. Then tilt your head over the sink, place the spout of the neti pot in your upper nostril and pour in the saline solution. As you pour, the saline solution will flow through your nasal cavity and out your lower nostril. Repeat on the other side.
Or use water that's distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered using a filter with an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller. Rinse the neti pot after each use with distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered water. Leave the neti pot open to air-dry.
- Include physical activity in your daily routine. Exercise helps reduce nasal inflammation.
- Use nasal strips at night. Over-the-counter adhesive nasal stripscan help keep your nasal passages open while you're sleeping.
- Elevating the head of the bed. Raising the head of the bed by 30 to 45 degrees might help ease symptoms.
If these tips don't relieve your allergy symptoms, remember that allergy medications aren't necessarily off-limits during pregnancy. Work with your health care provider to choose the safest medication for you and your baby.
Jan. 14, 2015
- Schatz M. Recognition and management of allergic disease during pregnancy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 26, 2014.
- Garavello W, et al. Nasal lavage in pregnant women with seasonal allergic rhinitis: A randomized study. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology. 2010;151:137.
- Schwarz EB, et al. Risk of hypospadias in offspring of women using loratadine during pregnancy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Drug Safety. 2008;31:775.
- Briggs GG, et al. Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation: A Reference Guide to Fetal and Neonatal Risk. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Wolters Kluwer Health Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011:850.
- Sinus rinsing and neti pots. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/sinus-rinsing.html. Accessed Nov. 26, 2014.