Is it safe to take Claritin or other allergy medicines during pregnancy?

Answer From Mary Marnach, M.D.

Sometimes, health care professionals recommend certain allergy medicines during pregnancy. But before you take an allergy medicine, try to ease your symptoms with the following tips:

  • Stay away from your triggers. Try not to come in contact with anything that sets off your allergy symptoms.
  • Use saline nasal spray. Saline is a mix of salt and water. You can buy it in spray form at a drug store. Use the spray as needed to ease your symptoms.
  • Try nasal irrigation. Once a day or as needed, fill a neti pot with a saline nasal solution or specially prepared water. Tilt your head sideways over a sink. Then place the spout of the neti pot in your upper nostril. Pour in the liquid so it drains through your lower nostril. Breathe through your mouth as you pour. Repeat on the other side.

    Do not use regular tap water. Water should be distilled or sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or passed through a filter that is designed to trap common germs.

  • Get active. Exercise helps ease swelling inside the nose.
  • Use nasal strips. These flexible strips go across the bridge of the nose. They can help keep your nasal passages open when you have a stuffy nose.
  • Raise the head of your bed. Elevate it by about 30 to 45 degrees. If you don't have an adjustable bed, try placing objects such as bricks under the legs of your bed. This might help ease your symptoms.

If you still want to try allergy medicine, talk with a member of your health care team. Ask about the risks and benefits. To manage mild allergy symptoms, your health care professional might recommend an oral antihistamine that's taken by mouth. These antihistamines include loratadine (Claritin, Alavert) and cetirizine (Zyrtec Allergy).

For moderate to serious symptoms, your health care professional might recommend a steroid spray along with an antihistamine. Take the lowest effective dose of the steroid spray. Choices that you can buy without a prescription include the nasal sprays budesonide (Rhinocort Allergy), fluticasone (Flonase Allergy Relief), and mometasone (Nasonex 24HR Allergy).

Your health care professional also might recommend certain decongestants to treat a stuffy nose. The nasal spray oxymetazoline can be used for up to three days in a row. Talk with a member of your health care team if your symptoms don't get better within three days. Longer use can cause congestion to become worse.

During your second and third trimesters of pregnancy, if you don't have high blood pressure, your care team may recommend a decongestant taken by mouth called pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, SudoGest). You'll likely be told to take 30 to 60 milligrams (mg) every 4 to 6 hours as needed. Do not take more than 240 mg every 24 hours. Be sure to talk with your care team before you try pseudoephedrine. Using it during the first trimester may be linked with a risk of serious birth defects.


Mary Marnach, M.D.

Dec. 02, 2023