Updated: Jul 4
Having hay fever is just crap isn't it! Particularly if you're pregnant and prefer not to take medications. As a long-term sufferer of allergies, I know first-hand how much they can affect your everyday life, and they are definitely on the rise, with 20 - 30% of the population suffering seasonal allergies there's no getting away from it, hay fever and allergies are a real pain in the arse!
Managing symptoms while pregnant is often difficult because some steroid and antihistamine drugs are off limits, and often, women simply prefer to avoid taking drugs in pregnancy for fear of unwanted side effects. This is when you start scolling the internet to look for natural remedies to help with symptoms - but as we know, 'natural' doesn't always mean 'safe', especially for pregnancy.
Being a midwife, I thought it might be helpful to share some knowledge and experience of how I have used natural remedies for hay fever in pregnancy, and how I have helped women like you to manage their allergy symptoms. I'll also take a look at what current research tells us about using natural remedies and therapies, and which are felt to be safe and effective in pregnancy, and which are not.
Several natural remedies have been found to be effective in managing hay fever and seasonal allergies, both internal and external, however not all of them are safe to use while pregnant!
Internal allergy remedies include:
External Allergy Management includes:
Acupucture / Acupressure
So if you've ever typed "natural antihistamines" (histamine being the chemical in your blood stream responsible for triggering allergy symptoms) or "natural hay fever remedies" into a search engine, you'll likely find the top 5 Natural Antihistamines are the following, so this is where I'll start:
Vitamin C for Hay Fever & Allergies in Pregnancy
Vitamin C is fabulous for helping to manage allergies. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which can support allergy sufferers by reducing 'oxidative stress'. Oxidative Stress is when you have too many free radicals in your body which can damage your body's cells, a
process which is thought to play a key role in people suffering with allergies. Vitamin C also helps support your baby's growth and development, reduces iron deficiency, and helps prevent pre-eclampsia. Result!
But don't reach for those Vitamin C tablets just yet! Research does not support the routine use of Vitamin C tablets or supplements in pregnancy, (especially high dose vitamin C). It is recommended that you get your Vitamin C daily through the foods you eat - Foods with particularly high levels of vitamin C are: Citrus fruits, Cantaloupe Melon, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Red Bell Peppers, Strawberries & white Potatoes. I'm sure we can all squeeze these in through the week!
Bromelain for Hay Fever & Allergies in Pregnancy
Bromelain sounds like it belongs in a chemistry lesson, however, it's actually a natural substance found almost exclusively in pineapples. The flesh, the skin, and particularly in pinapple cores. Research suggests that Bromelain can reduce sensitivity to allergies because it causes your body to make substances that fight pain and swelling. Bromelain capsules are available, but not recommended for pregnancy, so squeezing fresh pineapple into your diet a few times a week is definitely the way forward. Pineapples also contain amazing amounts of vitamin C too - double whammy!!
Side note - You may have heard that eating pineapple can bring on labour, this is a myth - the research is clear that pineapple, when eaten is normal amounts, does not trigger labour.
Stinging Nettle for Hay Fever & Allergies in Pregnancy
Surprisingly those pesky stinging nettles which stung our little legs when we were young (and elsewhere on a painfully memorable camping trip) , have turned out be extremely helpful in naturally managing allergies.
Nettle is indeed a natural antihistamine, able to interfere with the inflammation responses in your body that cause allergic reactions. Nettle is also bursting with iron and other beneficial nutrients to support you and baby. Nettle is safe to drink in pregnancy providing you take it in tea form and you limit yourself to no more than 2-3 cups per day. (If you need to take blood pressure tablets then reduce to 1 cup per day).
Nettle supplements / tinctures / tablets are not recommended in pregnancy - so stick to nettle tea. Now I find nettle tea absolutely disgusting, so I suggest making a small amount of tea in a cup, (dried tea or freshly picked leaves) then transfer it into your water bottle, add a few slices of citrus fruit, and fill it up with cold water. This can be sipped regularly through the day. Be aware that stinging nettle is also a natural diuretic (makes your body release fluid (aka wee)) so 'happy days' if you have swollen legs, but best limited if you are dehydrated or suffer with low blood pressure.
Quercetin for Hay Fever & Allergies in Pregnancy
Quercetin is a flavonoid found in lots of fruit & vegetables (it gives them colour) and is one of the
most powerful antioxidants found outside the body. The Antioxidant properties make Quercetin a natural antihistamine, thought to help allergy sufferers by preventing your body's immune cells from releasing histamines (your body's response to an allergen, causing your reaction). Again, supplements should be avoided in pregnancy as there is some concern of kidney damage at doses of over 1g per day.
However there are plenty of foods which are quercetin rich, and safe to add to your diet in pregnancy so you can boost your levels of this natural antihistamine.
Capers, small green pickled flower buds found in small jars close to the pickled onions at the supermarket are one of the richest forms of natural quercetin - Capers are traditionally served with fish for their distinctive sour / salty flavour - add these to your salmon sauce recipes. Coriander leaf is also bursting with the stuff, as are radicchio lettuce, onions, kale, sweet potato, and peppers. See antihistamines can be tasty too!
Butterbur for Hay Fever & Allergies in Pregnancy
Butterbur is a large leaf plant that grows freely in the UK and has been shown to be an effective natural anti histamine for some allergy sufferers, however butterbur should not be taken in pregnancy in any form as it may cause birth defects or liver damage.
Pro-Biotic Spirulina for Hay Fever & Allergies in Pregnancy
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae bursting in proteins, vitamins, and minerals. A natural pro-biotic typically sold in powder or capsule form and super beneficial in pregnancy!
Spirulina is a complete protein source, rich in iron and folic acid, which can also support the neuro-development of your baby.
Research trials show that consuming spirulina can significantly improve symptoms of sneezing, itching, blocked and runny nose - therefore a great choice for naturally managing allergy symptoms in pregnancy, and boosting your probiotic and vitamin intake too!
Note: The spirulina you consume must be of a good 'food grade' quality though. I needs to have been properly tested for possible contamination with heavy metals (and labelled as safe) as these can be harmful to both you and your baby.
Homeopathy for Hay Fever and Allergies in Pregnancy
Homeopathy, or homeopathic medicine has been used for over 200 years.
The basic principles of this complementary health system is the notion that "like cures like".
This means that symptoms and diseases can be cured by consuming a substance that produces symptoms similar that of the issue that you are trying to cure.
Think vaccines - when you are injected with a vaccine, you are injected with a tiny (dormant) amount of the illness you are trying to avoid. This triggers the body to develop antibodies to fight the illness in question.
Homeopathic Medicines are natural plants and minerals such as arnica or poison ivy that have
been shaken and diluted over and over again, thousands of times until there is barely any of the original substance left in the solution. The solution is then soaked into tiny white round pellets which dissolve under the tongue. Counterintuitively, in homeopathic medicine, the more dilute the medicine, the stronger the effect - go figure?!?
There are homepathic remedies that cover broad hayfever symptoms in pregnancy such as 'Sabadilla'. However, other remedies are much better at targetting specific symptoms, such as Wyetha which is best for 'uncontrolled itching to the roof of the mouth, nose and ears, a generally dry irritation with a dry cough, and sometimes accompanied by a runny nose'. And 'Allium Cepa' is best for symptoms of 'burning to eyes and nose, with a watery dischcharge and corrosive mucous that causes redness to the skin, accompanied by a hacking cough' - So you see that treatments can be very specific.
So, for targetted relief of particular symptoms, it might be best to see a qualified homeopath, than to randomly try different remedies.
Homeopathy is safe to use in pregnancy, labour, postnatally, and breastfeeding as there is such a tiny amount of the original substance in this gentle natural medicine.
Note: Homeopathy doesn't mix well with essential oils and aromatherapy as the oils can cancel out the homeopathic medicines.
So. How on earth do you squeeze all this amazing plant-medicine into you?
I suggest having yourself a pineappple, apple, melon, citrus and spirulina smoothie for breakfast. A cup or two of nettle tea through the day. A delicious dinner of salmon with a caper and coriander sauce with a side of kale, broccoli and white potatoes, and strawberries & cream for afters.
Boom! You've got yourself a superboost of ALL the natural antihistamines felt to be safe to use in pregnancy. Plus a whole bunch of other essential nutrients to boot! Yum!
Aromatherapy & Essential Oils for Hay Fever & Allergies in Pregnancy
Now we're talking! - Me being a Midwife qualified in, and crazy passionate about using essential oils for pregnancy, birth, post-birth, and as a Mother and all!
Essential oils are just blinkin' fabulous!
A divinely scented natural pharmacy right at your finger tips!
There are SO many ways to use essential oils in place of pharmaceutical drugs, and chemical laden creams to support the body, not just with allergies, but also
preventing ill health
To name just a few!
There really is an essential oil blend for just about any ailment you can think of! My 'medicine cupboard' at home consists of several essential oil blends, plants oils, flower waters, and balms galore! My son JD, who is now 12, has never needed pharmaceutical drugs or antibiotics for his childhood ailments over the years, he always requests that I make him a blend when he's feeling poorly, and even makes his own blends too!
Just so you know, I'm not anti-medicine, not at all! - I'm a qualified nurse as well as a Midwife and I definitely wouldn't be without our amazing medical advances. I just think that there is far too much reliance on pharmaceutical drugs, which always run the risk of side effects, side effects that often lead to needing further medication. The pressure on our poor GP's and the NHS is immense. Doctors are innudated with complaints of minor ailments, and many of these ailments could be treated naturally with a bit of knowledge. Knowledge that used to be commonplace and passed down through the generations (that's a whole other blog!)
I believe that drugs, medicines and anti-biotics should be saved for more serious issues! .......
O.K. - Rant Over!
Back to plant medicine. Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils, floral waters and plant extracts to support the body (and mind) in
returning to health
helping to prevent ill health
Essential oils are super-concentrated natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, leaves, seeds, resin, roots and rinds of plants and fruit.
Essential oils can be
put into water (bath / sitz bath / foot bath)
hot and cold compresses
diluted into a 'carrier' such as a vegetable oil, cream or gel.
used neat (in some circumstances)
The active substances are taken into the body through the skin, and nasal passages.
Which ever way you apply essential oils, the tiny molecules get into your blood stream very quickly, and once there, work similarly to pharmaceutical drugs (with a much lower risk of side effects). Each unique essential oil has several different health benefits and effects on the body (and mind) and can be used in several ways to support your health.
Note - I do not recommend drinking essential oils during pregnancy, even if very diluted (or indeed at any other time without the advice of a specially qualified aromatologist). Many, but definitely not all essential oils are safe to use if you are enjoying an uncomplicated pregnancy, providing you dilute them correctly, and use them at the right gestational age. (I would recommend waiting until you are at least 14-16 weeks pregnant before considering using any essential oils at all - with the exception of Lemon for morning sickness).
Floral water is the water that is collected during the process of making essential oils. These are generally much gentler, and can have different health properties to the essential oil it was separated from. Floral water also includes plants, flowers, seeds, bark etc that have been infused in water or alcohol to extract their medicinal properties, and can be very useful for pregnancy and postnatal issues.
Plant oils, butters and extracts are used to dilute the highly concentrated essential oils, and also help the essential oils absorb into the body. Pure plant oils, butters and extracts are not only a carrier for essential oil - they often have their own magnificent health properties too!
Over my 20+ years as a midwife, I have successfully supported hundreds of women and babies using these wonderful medicines from the earth for many wide ranging health issues.
Managing allergies in pregnancy is just one of them.
Lavender, eucalyptus, lemon, frankincense and Roman chamomile are among my go-to essential oils for managing hay fever and allergies, and I wouldn't be without Witch Hazel Floral water too! Essential oils and floral waters can help alleviate hay fever symptoms by reducing inflammation of the mucous membranes (inside your nose, throat, lungs and eyes), relieving swelling and itching, breaking down mucous and unblocking nasal passages.
For the prevention of hay fever symptoms I often make a balm to put around the nostrils / eyes / lips which can trap pollen before it gets into your airway. I use essential oils in the balm to reduce inflammation and mucous production.
To make the balm I often blend lemon and eucalyptus, or lavender and roman chamomile in a 80% cocoa butter / 20% coconut oil (or similar oil to firm plant butter ratio)
Find a small, clean glass jar (individual jam jars, or tiny glass cosmetic jars work well), put 16 grams of cocoa butter and 4g of coconut oil in the jar, then melt the coconut oil and cocoa butter together very gently in a shallow hot water bath (ensuring no water enters the mix). Once melted, stirred together well. Once cooled enough to handle, but not yet set - stir in your essential oils.
The amount of essential oil you need for this blend is 0.5% dilution.
So if you're making 20mls of cocoa butter/ coconut oil, you would need 1ml of essential oil (approx 20 drops in total). When using my Roman Chamomile / Lavender blend, I use 5 drops of Roman Chamomile (it's very strong) and 15 drops of lavender oil.
For the Lemon and Eucalyptus blend, I use 10 drops of each.
If you need help with how many drops to add to to your total volume please see the
If you simply cant be arsed with all that faffing (I do realise not everyone finds potion making as
exciting as me) - You can always use my absolutely amazing Aromatherapy Nappy Balm as a hay fever allergy balm instead!!
'Smooth As' is my Organic Nappy Balm and contains just the right dilution of Lavender & Chamomile as the suggeted hay fever blend above.
With few additional soothing ingredients for to the blend above, specially formulated for tiny bottoms - Smooth As... is the perfect blend for delicate sore skin.
A buttery soft balm made from pure plant extracts with anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti fungal properties, creating a healing, protective barrier - With calendula flower oil, aloe, jojoba seed oil, sunflower seed, castor oil, shea butter, and Lavender & Chamomile essential oil.
If you have any left, you can save it for your beautiful baby's squidgy bottom too! - Win win!
What if you alerady have symptoms?
If you already have symptoms of itchy throat and ears, streaming swollen eyes, and a runny or blocked nose, or even itchy skin I recommend a different strategy.
For a runny sore, itchy eyes, and itchy nostrils, I absolutely swear by witch-hazel. For me personally, its like a magic panacea. Sore, itchy eyes are my worst symptom by far. To relieve them, I simply soak a couple of reusable pads in witch hazel (you could use cotton wool discs or a cloth too) and lay them on my eyes for 5-10 minutes. This brings immense relief, this goes for my nostrils too, get a pad shoved up them too! Sometimes I soak a whole face cloth in witch-hazel and lay it on my face for a few minutes, It's cheap as chips so go ahead. Result!
I use both alcohol free and distilled witch-hazel and both work really well.
Witch-hazel is a water like liquid made by distilling the dried leaves, twigs and bark of the Witch Hazel Tree (Hamamelis virginiana). It has astringent, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties and is gentle on even broken blistered skin. This amazing potion has many soothing properties to naturally support pregnancy issues you might face, including haemorrhoids, sunburn, swollen legs and vaginal trauma. Readily available in chemists and online - get some in your natural pharmacy cupboard now, you won't regret it!
To alleviate blocked nose, and sinuses, as well as runny noses, I make a blend of eucalyptus and
peppermint essential oils. I suggest putting 1 drop of each essential oil in a bowl of steaming hot water, pop a towel over your head, and breathe in deeply for up to ten minutes.
For when you're out and about, you can dilute the essential oils in a teaspoon of a carrier oil (the olive oil on your worktop will do for this) into an aromatherapy inhaler.
Alternatively make a blend of 2% essential oil in 98% carrier oil (approximately 2-3 drops of essential oil in 10mls of olive oil will work), into a small bottle, the put a few drops of the blend on a tissue and inhale directly.
Safety note: dont let young children smell peppermint essential oil neat, or directly from the bottle - there have been occasional reports of this causing temporary collapse - peppermint is safe to use around children, and even for treating most children but it must be well diluted. The vast majority of essential oils in clinical use have a fantastic safety record, however, it is wise to keep them out of reach of children.
For itchy skin on the body, I suggest putting 3 drops of peppermint essential oil into 5mls of carrier oil in a cool bath, or into a light natural body lotion. Peppermint has a lovely cooling effect which can soothe redness and itching. For facial itching and rashes, a cloth soaked in witch-hazel, peppermint floral water or chamomile floral water works well.
Note: any generalised itching in pregnancy, or itching particularly to the soles of the of the hands and feet should be seen by a midwife to rule out a condition known as obstetric cholestasis.
For headaches, I suggest one drop each of Lavender and peppermint essential oils in a teaspoon of carrier oil, stirred into a bowl of cold water. Soak a clean facecloth in the bowl, wring out and put on your forehead avoiding your eyes. Aternatively in a roller ball and applied to the temples.
Acupuncture & Acupressure for Hay Fever & Allergies in Pregnancy
Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine which has been used effectively for thousands
of years (billions of people can't be wrong!) It involves inserting hair fine needles into specific points along meridian lines in the body that correspond to particular issues. If you're feeling a bit chicken and don't fancy the needles, acupressure works on the same principles but uses pressure instead of needles. Pressure can be applied by the therapist or self applied. For more targetted pressure 'acuseeds' can be placed in the ear and stimulated when you feel symptoms - one great point for this is just under the rim at the top of the ear (see picture). According to several research studies, acupunture has been found to be very effective for treating allergies, in particular the 'Xiaguan point' (see picture) - with improvement in symptoms of sneezing, itchy nose, itchy eyes, runny / blocked nose, and interrupted sleep. To locate the Xiaguan point, so you can apply acupressure yourself - place your finger at the bottom of your ear, trace forward about 2-3cm to the top of your jaw and you will feel a slight dip - bingo! A fully qualified accupuncturist should be fully aware of the areas on the body to avoid while pregnant (please check they are qualified & practised in treatments during pregnancy), therefore acupuncture and acupressure can be a safe and effective treatment for managing allergies in pregnancy. A few sessions might be required to see the full benefits.
Reflexology in Pregnancy
Reflexology is similar to acupressure but tends to focus primarily on points on the feet, hands, ears, and face which correspond to different areas of the body. Reflexology for allergy relief in pregnancy might focus on your specific symptoms, for example the eye area (under your middle toe close to where it joins your foot) and throat area (under your big toe where it joins your foot close to your second toe), as well as general areas felt to boost immunity and reduce stress to provide a holistic approach. Accuseeds can also be used on the feet to stimulate pressure in between reflexology sessions.
So several amazing natural wonders to help you to manage your hay fever and allergies. Let me know what you try, and how you got on with them.
I really hope you find some relief! Love Paris xx