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Allergy Medicine While Breastfeeding: Is It Okay?

Allergy Medicine While Breastfeeding: Is It Okay?

If you’re wondering about the safety of taking allergy medicine while breastfeeding, it depends on the type and dosage of the medication.

Although some drugs in your breast milk may be very low, knowing these medications’ potential risks and benefits is important. 

To determine the safety of allergy medicine while breastfeeding, consider the following:

  • Type of medication, the dose, and the mother’s metabolism.
  • Safe timing for taking allergy medicine while breastfeeding.
  • Risks associated with taking allergy medicine while breastfeeding.
  • Unsafe medications to avoid.
  • Alternative medications and natural remedies to try.

NOTE: Even over-the-counter medications can affect babies. It would be best to consult with your doctor before taking any medication while breastfeeding.

Is It Okay to Take Allergy Medicine While Breastfeeding?

Antihistamines are generally considered safe to use during breastfeeding

However, you must know which type or formulation of this allergy medication and dosage is suitable for you. 

Taking them should be done with precaution as they may still cause side effects for breastfeeding moms and their babies. Fortunately, your breast milk can still come back after drying up, even if your medication causes it.

Antihistamines can be taken by mouth, nasal sprays, or eye drops.

They are classified into two types: first-generation and second-generation. 

First-generation antihistamines are older and more likely to cause side effects like drowsiness. Second-generation antihistamines are newer and have fewer side effects.

Second-generation antihistamines are preferable for breastfeeding mothers. This includes loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and fexofenadine (Allegra).

What Are the Risks of Taking Allergy Medicine While Breastfeeding?

What Are the Risks of Taking Allergy Medicine While Breastfeeding?

Dairy in breast milk may not necessarily cause an allergic reaction in all babies. But first-generation antihistamines and some oral decongestants can pass into breast milk. 

It may cause drowsiness, irritability, and other side effects in the baby. 

Therefore, dosage, formulation, and potential risks should be considered when evaluating medications.

  • The correct dosage is crucial for safety and effectiveness. 
  • Formulation affects absorption and duration of action. 
  • Knowing the risks helps you decide.

WARNING: Allergy medicine safety during breastfeeding is uncertain due to limited research. If you are breastfeeding and need an allergy medication, talk to your doctor about safe options.

What Are Unsafe Allergy Medications While Breastfeeding?

What Are Unsafe Allergy Medications While Breastfeeding?

Antihistamines with these generic names should be avoided while breastfeeding.

First-generation antihistamines

  • Chlorpheniramine (e.g., Chlor-Trimeton)
  • Brompheniramine (e.g., Dimetane)
  • Diphenhydramine (e.g., Benadryl)

Medications that include decongestants

  • Pseudoephedrine (e.g., Sudafed)

Antihistamine is a drug class of medicines used to treat allergic reactions.

Although the generic names and brand examples mentioned above are not advisable, some antihistamines (cetirizine, loratadine, etc.) can be safe for breastfeeding moms. 

Continue reading and learn which generic names and brands are safe to use or take while breastfeeding.

What Cold and Allergy Medications Are Safe While Breastfeeding?

What Cold and Allergy Medications Are Safe While Breastfeeding?

Thankfully, some cold and allergy medications are generally considered safe while breastfeeding.

As a mother, I’ve learned the importance of distinguishing generic and brand names when choosing medications. 

Generic names are the scientific names of medications that work perfectly fine, while brand names are the specific names pharmaceutical companies provide to market their products.

Cough and Sore Throat Meds

A cough suppressant such as dextromethorphan is considered safe for a dry cough while breastfeeding.

Dextromethorphan is a generic name in over-the-counter cough syrups and lozenges. It effectively treats coughs associated with the common cold, flu, and respiratory infections.

Some brand names you can try taking include:

  • Robitussin 
  • Vicks DayQuil Cough

Pain Medicine

Various types of pain medicine are available, including over-the-counter and prescription options. 

Ibuprofen (like Advil/Motrin) and paracetamol (Biogesic) are generally safe for breastfeeding moms.

Naproxen is AAP-approved for nursing mothers, but should be used cautiously due to its long half-life and potential impact on the baby’s cardiovascular system, kidneys, and GI tract.

Aspirin is discouraged for children and nursing mothers due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome and bleeding.

Eye Drops

Many over-the-counter eye drops are considered safe for use while breastfeeding. These eye drops are typically used to relieve dryness, redness, and irritation. 

Commonly used eye drops that are considered safe while breastfeeding includes:

  • Artificial tears (lubricating eye drops)
  • Saline solution eye drops
  • Preservative-free eye drops

The active ingredients in these eye drops, such as lubricants or saline solutions, are safe for breastfeeding infants. They do not pose significant risks.

Nasal Spray or Gel

Corticosteroids and cromolyn sodium nasal sprays are the most effective treatments for allergic symptoms in breastfeeding moms.

Compared to oral medications, these allergy formulas have a reduced effect on the body, especially on your milk supply.  If you’re not producing breast milk after delivery and suspect your medication, ask your physician to be sure.

They provide targeted relief for nasal congestion, sneezing, and other allergy symptoms.

Other nasal sprays and gels that are safe to use while breastfeeding includes:

  • Saline nasal sprays – Safe for mom and baby. They clear mucus and congestion.
  • Antihistamine nasal sprays – Choose a spray that does not contain a decongestant, as decongestants may reduce or cause an uneven milk supply.
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays – Those with beclomethasone and budesonide are safe to use. 

Decongestants

Most oral decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine, are not recommended during breastfeeding. 

A study from the National Library of Medicine has indicated that lactation consultants have reported a link between the use of pseudoephedrine and reduced milk production.

But the amount of medication that passes into your breast milk varies depending on the drug and the mother’s metabolism. 

Nasal decongestants (such as the nasal sprays or gels above) are considered safer for breastfeeding moms.

Oxymetazoline nasal spray (e.g., Afrin) is another example of a safe-to-use decongestant.

Antihistamines

First-generation or sedating antihistamines like Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton are generally safe for breastfeeding. 

However, these antihistamines may have minimal transfer into breast milk, so avoiding them is still advised and done by most moms. 

Non-sedating antihistamines like Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec are preferred. 

No widely-used research supports the belief that antihistamines can affect milk supply. 

However, if you suspect a medication is causing a drop in milk supply, you can discontinue or reduce its use. If your milk supply increases afterward, consult your pediatrician for further advice.

What Are Safe Natural Remedies for Cold and Allergies While Breastfeeding?

What Are Safe Natural Remedies for Cold and Allergies While Breastfeeding?

If you prefer natural remedies, there are several options available to ease common allergy symptoms.

Natural remedies can relieve head congestion, chest congestion, sore throat, and cough. Unlike certain antihistamine medications, you don’t have to worry about potential risks.

Head Congestion

Steam inhalation is a remedy that involves inhaling warm, moist air to help loosen mucus and relieve congestion. 

You can achieve this by taking a hot shower or using a humidifier in your room. 

Another option is fenugreek tea, which can help alleviate head and chest congestion and cough symptoms.

Additionally, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and keeping the air in your home moist can help ease head congestion.

Chest Congestion

Steam inhalation and drinking fenugreek tea can also help with your chest congestion. 

Another option is drinking lactation supplements like herbal teas such as peppermint or eucalyptus teas, which have expectorant properties. 

You can also try drinking hot lemonade with honey or a mixture of lemon juice and honey. Sip on this throughout the day for relief. 

Breastfeeding can cause milk ducts to block, leading to chest congestion. Lactation massage can help break up blockages and relieve congestion.

Sore, Itchy Throat or Cough

Gargling with warm salt water can help soothe a sore throat. You can also try gargling with apple cider vinegar mixed in water. 

Warm herbal teas, such as chamomile or peppermint, can provide relief. 

Honey mixed with warm water or herbal tea can help alleviate cough symptoms. 

You must also avoid foods that can trigger a sore, itchy throat, like fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, and wheat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Allergy medicines are generally safe to take while breastfeeding, but choosing an allergy medicine designed for breastfeeding mothers is important.

To make sure I don’t miss anything with the things I need to share with you, here are some FAQs about allergy medicine and breastfeeding.

Can Allergies Be Passed Through Breast Milk?

No, allergies themselves cannot be passed through breast milk.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) confirms that breastfeeding does not cause allergies in babies but instead helps prevent them.

In rare cases, babies may be sensitive to food particles that pass through breast milk. This is because breast milk can contain small amounts of food proteins that the mother has eaten

These food particles can trigger an allergic reaction in some babies, leading to hives, eczema, or wheezing symptoms.

Avoid taking allergy medicine and flush dairy out of your system to prepare for protein-rich dairy products before breastfeeding to minimize babies’ reactions or symptoms.

How Long Does an Antihistamine Stay In Breast Milk?

Some work only 4 to 6 hours, while others last 12 to 24 hours.

First-generation antihistamines stay in the body longer and cause more drowsiness. Its long-term effect is why it is not recommended. 

On the other hand, second-generation antihistamines are shorter-acting and less sedating. If you take a second-gen antihistamine, knowing the potential for drowsiness is still important. 

If you are concerned about the amount of medication your baby receives, you can also hand express your milk for a few hours after taking the medication.

Conclusion

As a mom who has taken allergy medicine while breastfeeding, I hope this article has provided valuable information. 

Remember, understanding the risks and benefits of your medications is crucial when breastfeeding. 

Check the active ingredients and opt for non-sedating options or natural remedies. 

If you notice any changes, seek advice.

Nayna Llenos
Nayna Llenos

Hi, I’m Nayna!
I’ve always wanted to be a mother, and I’m lucky and blessed to have two wonderful children to care for and love.
Despite this blessing, there are times wherein I do wonder if I truly am the mother my children need. Am I giving them the right food, care, and discipline to them?
But that is the beauty of parenting — you grow along with your children as they flourish to be their wonderful selves!
I wish to share my experiences with motherhood and how these tips can help you in your parenting journey.
I hope my advices and experiences will prove useful to you and that you have a smooth and wonderful journey as a mother!