Posts Tagged ‘allergies’

Allergies and pregnancy – can you get relief safely?

Monday, May 1st, 2017

allergies2It seems that everyone I know is struggling with allergy symptoms right now. The chief complaints are itchy eyes, sneezing, congestion, and generally feeling like a marshmallow invaded your head. Spring looks so beautiful but taking a deep breath outside can make you miserable!

There are many over-the-counter remedies and prescription medications available to help with symptoms, but if you’re pregnant it may not be wise to use any of them.

Here’s the low-down…

Pros and cons of possible allergy relief remedies during pregnancy

First of all, check with your health care provider before you take any over-the-counter medicine, supplement or herbal product to make sure it’s safe for you and your baby. Your provider will weigh the risks and benefits of taking any medication during pregnancy.

  • As a general rule, nasal saline (salt water) is good to use as it keeps your nasal passages moist and helps you blow away the allergens that accumulate in your nose. Avoid nasal steroids though, unless prescribed by your prenatal provider.
  • Decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, usually should be avoided, especially during the first trimester, as there is a possible association between its use and certain birth defects in babies. There are too many brand name decongestants to list here. Your best bet is to ask your prenatal provider about a medication before you take it.
  • Antihistamines, such asdiphenhydramine, doxylamine and chlorpheniramine, block your reaction to an allergen. You may know them by their brand names, such as Benadryl, Nytol, Unisom, Triaminic, and others. Some are considered safe to use during pregnancy, with the ok of your provider.
  • Read labels. Many symptom relief medications contain more than one ingredient. Also, these meds are meant for short-term, not long-term use. Your prenatal provider is the perfect person to ask if/when/how long you should be on any particular medication.

How about allergy tests and shots?

  • If you’re thinking about being tested for allergies, either test before you become pregnant, or wait until after your baby is born. Allergy skin testing is not done during pregnancy due to a small risk that a severe reaction can occur. Reactions such as hives, swelling of your tongue and throat and even loss of consciousness may occur. During pregnancy, a severe reaction may be harmful to your baby.
  • If you are currently receiving allergy shots (known as immunotherapy), be sure you let your allergist know you are pregnant or hoping to become pregnant. He may decide to continue the shots, adjust your dosage or stop them entirely during your pregnancy.

Other suggestions

  • Decreasing exposure to allergy triggers is key in helping you breathe easier. Some allergy healthcare providers recommend keeping windows and doors shut and running an air conditioner to keep the indoor air as free from outdoor allergens as possible. You may find it helpful to run a small air purifier in the bedroom at night to help you sleep.
  • Breathing steam or taking a warm shower may also help to decongest your nasal passages.

Bottom line

Every woman and every pregnancy is different; your provider will know the remedy that is best for you. The good news is that once you give birth, you will have more options available to you to combat Mother Nature’s pollen parade.

Have questions? If you are wondering about taking a specific medication during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, you can text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Breastfeeding and your diet

Monday, August 29th, 2016

mom breastfeedingWe received a question from a new mom asking if there are certain things she should eat while breastfeeding. Or more importantly, are there things she should avoid? The answer is that most likely, your milk will be just what your baby needs, even if your diet isn’t perfect. But eating healthy foods is still important in order to take care of yourself and your new baby.

The dietary restrictions you had during your pregnancy will not apply while you are breastfeeding. But you will still need to limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine and foods containing mercury.

What about allergies?

Most breastfed babies do not have allergic reactions to their mom’s milk. However, the proteins from foods such as cow’s milk and peanuts do pass through breast milk so if your family has a history of food allergies, you may want to discuss this with your Lactation Consultant. If you have a family history of food allergies, be sure to watch your baby for any allergic reactions such as green, mucus-like stools with signs of blood.

So what should you eat? The La Leche League International has these great ideas:

  • A well-balanced diet – choose meals with whole grains, vegetables, fruits, milk products and proteins (eg. lean meats, fish and eggs)
  • High-calorie foods – breastfeeding burns calories, so add in peanut or nut butters, olive or canola oils, whole-milk cheeses and yogurts
  • Easy to handle meals – with your baby in one arm you may find yourself only having one hand available to use for feeding yourself. Simple finger food types of meals will be easier to manage.
  • Large recipes – make or ask your family and friends to provide large dishes or casseroles so you can freeze leftovers.

Bottom line:

By breastfeeding you are providing your baby with the best start. And by maintaining a healthy diet you will be better able to take care of yourself, as you tend to your new bundle. if you have questions about your diet while breastfeeding, reach out to a Lactation Consultant.

Pregnant? Have young kids? Learn how to stay safe during the holidays

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

Holiday babyWith a little planning and a few tips, your holidays can be healthy, safe and bright.

Fireplaces

Roaring fires in your fireplace are a beautiful sight in the winter, especially during the holiday season. But, it is essential to take simple steps to ensure your home is safe.

Keep your fireplace curtains or door closed when the fire is lit and be sure the damper is open. After the fire dies down, wait until the ashes are completely cold before disposing them. It is best to place the ashes in a metal trash can to ensure that a smoldering ember does not cause another fire. Have you had your fireplace flue cleaned recently? If not, consider having it done, to help prevent smoking.

Live Christmas trees

Christmas trees are beautiful and fragrant, but should be kept far away from your fireplace or any burning candles. Be sure all electrical connections are in perfect working order, and water your tree daily so that it does not dry out and become tinder.

If you have asthma, or anyone in your family has allergies or breathing problems, a live tree may cause irritation to the airways. Check with your health care provider to see if a live tree will cause any difficulty. If so, an artificial tree is a great alternative.

Candles

No one loves the sight of flickering candles more than I do, but the risk of a candle tipping over and causing a fire is real. Since I switched to battery operated candles, I no longer worry about accidents. They look so realistic and create the same effect. Do yourself a favor and take one more worry off your mind by using battery operated candles, especially if you have curious toddlers or children at home.

In addition, sometimes scented candles cause allergic reactions in people with breathing problems. Look for unscented versions or use battery operated candles.

Got any tips for this holiday season? We’d love to hear them.

 

Before Rover meets Junior

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Bella sleepingAs you bring your baby home from the hospital for the first time, you want to keep her safe and healthy around your pet. You may feel anxious about how your pet will respond to your family’s newest addition.

Here are some tips to think about before bringing your baby home.

 

Before your baby comes home

  • If you are still pregnant, it may be helpful to teach your dog some basic obedience skills, which will help his behavior when your baby comes home. Introduce new rules as needed. If you don’t want your dog on the furniture, or to jump on you when you walk in the door as you hold your baby, introduce that rule now.
  • Your schedule will drastically change once your baby is home and you may not be able to feed or walk your pet when he expects. Try changing your pet’s feeding or walking schedule beforehand. For example, if you regularly feed your pet at 7am sharp, try feeding him at a different time in the morning. Or it may be easier to purchase an automatic feeder which will dispense food at a certain time every day.
  • Take a piece of clothing or a blanket with your baby’s scent on it and put it in your pet’s bed so he can get used to the smell.

Once you and your baby are discharged

  • Have everyone else go in the door first so your pet can express his excitement at seeing people. Then put a leash on him just in case he does not have a good first reaction to your baby.
  • Slowly introduce your pet to your baby. Try holding your baby and allowing your pet to sniff her feet to get her scent.
  • Never leave your pet unsupervised near your baby.
  • Keep your pet out of your baby’s sleeping area to reduce the risk of hair or pet allergens irritating your baby’s airway.
  • Once your baby is old enough to lie outside of her crib, place her on a blanket or mat to keep pet fur and dust from irritating your baby during playtime. Keep your pet away from your baby during floor time.
  • Watch for aggressive behavior from your pet. Get help from an animal behavior expert if you see your pet acting out toward your baby.

Health Benefits

Besides your pet being a loving companion, some research suggests that a baby living in a home with a dog has fewer colds, ear infections and the need for antibiotics in their first year of life than babies raised in pet-free homes. The research suggests that homes with cats may have health benefits for babies too. However, researchers think that dogs provide more exposure to dirt and allergens, which strengthen a baby’s immune system.

Allergies

Although there may be health benefits, you need to keep the negative health effects in mind, too. Furry pets and even short-haired animals are the most common and powerful causes of allergy symptoms. And cats tend to be more allergenic than dogs. My brother was mildly allergic to our dog, but he loved him so much that my parents did not want to give away our dog. We made sure to brush our dog’s fur often and vacuum frequently to decrease my brother’s exposure to the allergens.

If your child has an allergy to your pet, keep the animal out of her bedroom, sweep, dust and vacuum frequently. You can also fit your forced-air heating or air-conditioning system with a central air cleaner, which will remove a lot of the pet allergens from your home. If you are not sure whether your pet is the cause of your child’s allergy, ask your child’s pediatrician about allergy testing.

Do you have any tips to share? How did it go when you brought your baby home?

Have questions? Text or email us at Askus@marchofdimes.org. A Health Education Specialist is available to answer your questions.

Is it an allergy or a cold?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

blowing a child's noseWhen cold symptoms last more than a week or two, or develop about the same time every year, it may be due to an allergy, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, (AAP). Typical cold symptoms accompanied by an itchy throat, eyes, ears, mouth or skin are usually signs of an allergy. Other allergy symptoms may include coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing, as well as rashes, hives and an upset stomach.

I know that allergies are no fun. Runny nose, itchy eyes, feeling like a marshmallow has invaded my head – these are a few of the annoying things that plague me at this time every year. In my case, I know I am allergic to pollen, grass and trees. Going outside can be a challenge (especially if I insist on breathing). Carrying a tissue pack everywhere I go is an absolute MUST for me. I have learned to live with my allergies and can tell the difference between when my symptoms are due to an allergy or a cold.

When your child has any of these symptoms, how do you know if it is a cold or an allergy?

To know for sure if it is an allergy or not, let your child’s pediatrician determine the cause of the symptoms. He may be able to tell in just one visit, or he may recommend that you take your child to a pediatric allergist (a doctor with advanced training in allergy and asthma). To make the most of your visit, try keeping a diary of your child’s symptoms, along with factors such as where you were (eg. a home with a cat or outside on the grass). Also, keep track of issues such as lack of concentration or attention. The more information you can give your child’s health care provider, the easier it will be to determine if your child’s symptoms are due to an allergy or not.

If it is an allergy, the doctor may recommend medications that can make your child more comfortable. Usually, some lifestyle changes can help, too.

What can help keep allergies at bay?

The AAP suggests:
• if your child is allergic to pollen, keep him indoors in the early morning when pollen levels are at their highest
• bathe your pet frequently to keep him from spreading pollen around your home
• keep windows closed, especially at night, and run your air conditioner to help remove allergens
• do not let your pet sleep in your child’s bedroom.

In addition, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology has a section on their website that guides you through allergy symptoms, types, and treatments. It includes info on managing allergies at home, school, and the importance of knowing triggers.

What happens if allergies are severe?

In some cases, a child may have an allergy severe enough to warrant carrying an EpiPen, a pen-like inject-able needle that provides epinephrine (a hormone) to halt an allergic reaction. In other cases, allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be suggested, to gradually desensitize your child to the allergen, and lessen symptoms. Your child’s health care provider will be able to evaluate him and make specific recommendations.

Allergies can affect your child’s life in a negative way, so early and continued monitoring of his symptoms by you and his health care provider will help to give him the best outcome possible.

See other topics on how to help your child, here.

 

Fall allergies

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

allergies2The air is cooler and makes for good sleeping at night. The pollens and molds, however, make some of us suffer during the day.

If this happens to you and you’re thinking of being tested for allergies but hope to become pregnant soon, either test before you become pregnant or wait until after you have your baby. Allergy skin testing is not done during pregnancy because there is a small risk that anaphylaxis may occur. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can include hives, swelling of the tongue and throat, possibly loss of consciousness. During pregnancy, a severe case of anaphylaxis might decrease blood and oxygen flowing to the uterus, possibly harming the fetus.

If you already are taking allergy shots, tell your provider you’re thinking about pregnancy. Depending on your personal situation, your doc may choose to continue the shots full strength, dilute them to 50% or discontinue them. It’s good to have a plan in place before you conceive.

In the meantime, what can you do? Always ask your provider what’s safe for you before taking something. As a general rule, nasal saline (salt water) is good for keeping your nasal passages moist and helping you blow away the nasties. Nasal steroids should be avoided unless prescribed by your doc. Many antihistamines generally are considered safe to use. Decongestants, however, should be avoided during the first trimester due to a possible association with an intestinal defect in the fetus.

If you have a question about the safety of a medication during pregnancy or breastfeeding (over-the-counter or prescription), contact MotherToBaby, a service of OTIS, the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists.

What is eczema?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Eczema is a long-term skin condition that involves red, scaly, itchy patches and sometimes blisters. Eczema isn’t really one thing – it’s actually a number of different skin conditions in which the skin is red and irritated. The most common cause of eczema is atopic dermatitis, sometimes called infantile eczema, although it occurs in older children as well as infants.

Children who get eczema usually are overly sensitive to allergens in their environment such as pollens, molds, dust, animal dander, and certain foods. They often have a family history of allergies. Although eczema may not be caused by allergies, their hypersensitive skin reacts when exposed to an irritant.

The most common place for eczema to first show on an infant is on the cheeks or forehead. From there it may spread to behind the ears and down the neck. The skin can have tiny blisters or look dry and scaly, almost as if there were a salty crust to it. As a baby ages, the most common places to find eczema are creases in the elbows and behind the knees.
 
Eczema is a chronic disease. You can prevent some types of eczema by avoiding irritants, stress, and the things you are allergic to. Use soap as little as possible because of its drying effect on the skin. Keep bath water warm, not hot. The most important thing to do to help the skin irritation is to apply a plain skin moisturizer (no alcohol, fragrances or dyes) several times a day. Your pharmacist can recommend a good one.

In older babies and children who are eating a variety of solid foods and have severe eczema, a health care provider may want to experiment by eliminating foods and tracking reactions. (You shouldn’t withhold foods on your own, however, without coordinating this first with your child’s provider.) For very rough, raw patches, a mild hydrocortisone cream may be prescribed. Sometimes an antihistamine is helpful in reducing the itchiness.

If you’re having trouble getting your child’s eczema under control, take a look at this interactive Eczema Health Check.

For photos of eczema and more information, click on this link.

Allergies and pregnancy

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

allergies21I can play tic-tac-toe in the pollen that’s covering my car. I have to admit that I love looking at the trees while their leaves burst forth, but the green and yellow tumbleweed they generate gets blown around by traffic and makes my morning commute the beginning of a pollen-producing head pounder.

If this happens to you and you’re thinking of being tested for allergies but hope to become pregnant soon, either test before you become pregnant or wait until after you have your baby. Allergy skin testing is not done during pregnancy because there is a small risk that anaphylaxis may occur. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can include hives, swelling of the tongue and throat, possibly loss of consciousness. During pregnancy, a severe case of anaphylaxis might decrease blood and oxygen flowing to the uterus, possibly harming the fetus.

If you already are taking allergy shots, tell your provider you’re thinking about pregnancy. Depending on your personal situation, your doc may choose to continue the shots full strength, dilute them to 50% or discontinue them. It’s good to have a plan in place before you conceive.

In the meantime, what can you do? Always ask your provider what’s safe for you before taking something. As a general rule, nasal saline (salt water) is good for keeping your nasal passages moist and helping you blow away the nasties. Nasal steroids should be avoided unless prescribed by your doc. Many antihistamines generally are considered safe to use. Decongestants, however, should be avoided during the first trimester due to a possible association with an intestinal defect in the fetus.

If you have a question about the safety of a medication during pregnancy or breastfeeding (over-the-counter or prescription), contact OTIS, the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists.

Dogs, cats and kids

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Best friendsWorried that having a dog or cat around your baby might predispose her to allergies? Well, worry no more.  Recent studies indicate that the opposite appears to be true. Several studies are showing that children raised with a dog or cat in their first year of life are less likely to develop a pet allergy as they age.

The most recent study in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy collected information on 566 boys and girls from birth to age 18. They were particularly interested in the children’s interactions with indoor pets.  At the end of the study, lab results from blood samples taken from the children indicated that kids raised with a cat during their first year of life were half as likely to become allergic to cats as those who were not raised with them.  A lower risk was seen with kids raised from infancy with dogs, too.  Apparently, it’s exposure during that first year of life time period that proved crucial to the sensitization of the children.

So if you are pregnant, concerned about allergies and wondering if you should keep Fluffy or Fido around when your little one comes home, check with your child’s doc, but the answer seems to be yes.  Let your pet become your child’s first friend.

You can read more about pets and other animals during pregnancy on our web site.

Asthma during pregnancy

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

inhalerAny illness that affects breathing can be more serious during pregnancy. If you have asthma, it may stay the same, worsen or improve during pregnancy. If you have moderate to severe asthma, you’re at increased risk of an asthma attack during the third trimester of pregnancy and during labor and delivery, so you and your doc need to keep a careful eye on it to keep it under control.

Poorly controlled asthma can deprive the baby of oxygen, increasing the risk of premature birth (before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy), poor fetal growth and low birthweight (less than 5½ pounds). Babies who are born too soon and too small are at increased risk of newborn health problems, such as breathing difficulties, and lasting disabilities, such as mental retardation and cerebral palsy. Women with poorly controlled asthma also are more likely to develop preeclampsia, a pregnancy-related form of high blood pressure that can result in poor fetal growth and other pregnancy complications.

About 70 percent of people with asthma have allergies. Fortunately, if a woman is already receiving allergy shots, she can safely continue them in pregnancy. However, women should not start allergy shots for the first time during pregnancy because of the slight risk of a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.

Luckily, most asthma medicines are safe in pregnancy. A pregnant woman should never stop her asthma medicine without the advice of her health care provider because persistent or worsening asthma symptoms can pose a risk to her and her baby. Want to know more?  Read our info on asthma and pregnancy, symptoms,  common triggers and how to avoid them, treatments, and medications during breastfeeding.