Get advice first
Although you can buy many hay fever medicines over the counter, it’s best to get advice from your pharmacist or GP before taking any medicine when you’re pregnant. They will assess your symptoms and the benefits of taking a medicine against the risk of any side effects.
If you decide to take hay fever medicine, you’ll usually be advised to try a nasal spray or eyedrops, first.
Nasal spray and eyedrops
Your pharmacist or GP may recommend:
- a corticosteroid nasal spray
- a sodium cromoglicate nasal spray – though this may be less effective than a corticosteroid nasal spray
- antihistamine or sodium cromoglicate eyedrops
Antihistamine tablets (oral antihistamines)
Antihistamine tablets can help relieve itchy eyes, a runny nose and sneezing, but not all types are suitable to take during pregnancy so always check with your GP beforehand. Pharmacists are unlikely to sell antihistamines over the counter for use in pregnancy, because of manufacturers’ restrictions.
If you can’t use nasal sprays or eyedrops, or if they don’t work for you, your GP may recommend an antihistamine tablet that doesn’t cause drowsiness.
- loratadine – this is usually the first choice for pregnant women because of the amount of safety data available for it
- cetirizine – if loratadine isn’t suitable or doesn’t work for you, your GP may recommend cetirizine, another antihistamine tablet that doesn’t cause drowsiness
Chlorphenamine is also considered one of the safer antihistamines to take during pregnancy, but because it can cause drowsiness, loratadine and cetirizine are usually the preferred options.
For information about taking specific medicines in pregnancy, see the bumps (best use of medicines in pregnancy) website.