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. 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 nasal dryness, bleeding and congestion. Use the spray as often as needed.
  • Rinse your nasal cavity with a neti pot. Neti pots are available in most pharmacies. 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 gently 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. If you'd rather make your own irrigation solution, 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. Also be sure to rinse the neti pot after each use with similarly distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered water. Leave the rinsed 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 strips — such as Breathe Right and Breathe Clear — can help keep your nasal passages open while you're sleeping.

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. 12, 2012