Hayfever Treatments For Breastfeeding Mums

Hayfever season is here – and it seems, everyone is itchy or sneezing.

Spring and Summer is the peak time for seasonal allergies when teeny, tiny particles of pollen from plants enter your nose, eyes, mouth, and throat, causing Hayfever symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, red irritated eyes, a runny or blocked nose and sinus pressure and congestion. Animal fur, dust mites and mould can also cause allergy and hayfever symptoms as your body reacts to these ‘invaders’.

But as a mum, you have to carry on. And if you are breastfeeding, this means worrying what treatments are safe and don’t affect your baby or your milk supply.

Any medication that enters your bloodstream will potentially also be in your breastmilk, but the good news is that most medications are present in very low levels in breastmilk and don’t have adverse effects on your baby.

However, some medications can be more concentrated and pose increased exposure and potential risks to babies, especially newborns. For instance, some decongestions and antihistamines can reduce your milk supply as they ‘dry up’ your mucous membranes or they can make your baby too drowsy to feed effectively.

Of course, it’s always important to let your health carer or pharmacist know you are breastfeeding and check that any medication is safe for you and your baby and what potential side effects to watch out for.

Reducing Hayfever risks

Before heading to the medicine cabinet, consider some simple, practical preventative measures to avoid or reduce severe hayfever symptoms:

  • Apply Vaseline around your nostrils to ‘catch’ pollen particles and avoid them entering your nose;
  • Wear sunglasses (preferably wrap around style) to protect you from red itchy eyes;  
  • Avoid mowing the lawn (good excuse) and having flowers inside your home;
  • Vacuum and damp dust regularly - clean using a damp cloth or wet wipes, not a feather duster.
  • Limit exposure to chlorinated pools as chlorine is an airway irritant.
  • Stay inside on high pollen days and keep windows closed.

A natural approach to hay fever treatment

Naturopath, Kasey Willson, from Glowing Mumma, advocates looking at making diet, supplementation and lifestyle changes, that can reduce inflammation and balance your immune response to lessen your hay fever symptoms.

Kasey says, “Nature has provided incredible healers. Some foods, nutrients and herbs have the ability to improve hay fever symptoms by acting to reduce histamine and inflammation levels; supply nutrients to protect and improve respiratory health and improve gut health and balance the immune system.”

She advises that along with improving gut health and maintaining optimum vitamin D levels to support your immune system, it’s helpful to increase foods that can reduce histamine levels and anti-inflammatory foods to reduce inflammation in your respiratory mucous membranes.

Foods to reduce histamines: Apples, kale, red grapes, onions and garlic, due to their levels of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoid, quercertin. Parsley is also histamine reducing but in larger amounts can be anti-lactogenic.

Vitamin C, bioflavonoid and antioxidant rich foods are important due to their natural anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory and immune enhancing properties, protecting against hay fever and respiratory infections, however Kasey cautions against citrus as this can be histamine producing.

Foods that reduce inflammation -Omega 3 rich fish-wild caught salmon, mackerel, sardines; Omega 3’s  are also found in chia seeds, flax seeds, green leafy vegetables and grass fed meats; Pineapple contains an anti-inflammatory enzyme called Bromelain; Turmeric spice contains the powerful antioxidant, decongestant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrient curcumin. Grate the fresh spice into cooking, add into smoothies, and teas.

Safe Hayfever medications when breastfeeding

Rather than taking oral medication, consider treating your hayfever symptoms locally. For instance, nasal sprays act locally and are unlikely to enter breastmilk in significant amounts (Hale 2016). Eye drops are also used locally so won’t impact your breastmilk or your baby and for a sore, irritated throat, try gargling with salt water and drinking lemon and honey drinks or ginger tea. Avoid throat gargles that contain iodine as they may impact your own and your baby’s thyroid function.

If you need an antihistamine, the Royal Women’s Hospital (Melbourne) ‘Medicines in Breastfeeding’ fact sheet advises, ‘less sedating antihistamines such as loratadine can be used while breastfeeding for the relief of allergies and hayfever. Sedating antihistamines are not recommended because the medicine may pass into your breast milk and make your baby drowsy.’

Check with your doctor, naturopath or pharmacist what would be most appropriate for your personal symptoms. If medications are advised, ask health carers about timing your medications – when will levels peak in your breastmilk? You may find that by taking meds immediately after breastfeeding you reduce exposure to your baby, as the medication levels peak and reduce before your baby’s next feed.

When taking any medicine, either prescription or over-the-counter, watch for signs of possible side effects in your baby, such as increased sleepiness, rash and severe diarrhoea and seek medical advice if you are concerned.

Medications to avoid while breastfeeding

Some medications to avoid while you are breastfeeding, especially over extended periods of time, include antihistamines such as Benadryl, and decongestants containing pseudoephedrine such as Sudafed, as these can reduce milk supply.

It can be hard to function when you are feeling unwell and struggling with hayfever and allergy symptoms but when it comes to medicines consider, what are the risks of this medicine to my baby? What are the benefits to my health? And what are the risks to my baby of not breastfeeding? For instance, by not breastfeeding, you may be increasing your baby’s risk of allergies, and having an unwell baby can add extra stress.