Last updated on Feb 19th, 2021 at 08:41 am

An allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system that occurs as a reaction to normally harmless substances such as pollen, explains Dr Meryl Lambson, a GP in private practise in Johannesburg. Dr Erika Coertzen, a Tzaneen-based integrated health practitioner, says that one of the biggest misperceptions about allergies is the fact that it’s not the allergen – pollen, smoke or animal hair – that causes the problem. “They’re only the trigger,” she says. “It’s actually your immune response that produces the sneezing, runny nose, hay fever, allergic conjunctivitis, wheezing and itching. This is because your immune system acts as if the allergen is dangerous so it releases histamine to fight it resulting in all those uncomfortable symptoms.”

Allergies are more common when you’re expecting

Thanks to hormone fluctuations, congestion and inflammation of the nose and sinuses are regular occurrences during pregnancy. The severity increases during the last trimester as blood oestrogen levels rise. Luckily, symptoms normally resolve after delivery, says Dr Lambson.

“Allergic rhinitis or hay fever, however, is a very common and annoying condition associated with nasal congestion, sneezing and a runny nose that affects between 20% and 30% of South Africans and obviously does frequently co-exist with pregnancy, given the common nature of both these conditions,” she continues.
Symptoms may be mild and transient or they may be severe and persistent. Extreme conditions may influence your quality of life, like altered sleep patterns or asthma attacks. Dr Lambson says that grass pollens and some tree pollens are the predominant culprits. Since South Africa has an enormous variety of indigenous and exotic grass species and a long-lasting grass season in many regions (up to nine months each year), pregnant moms will most probably sneeze a lot.

ALSO SEE: Nasal congestion in pregnancy – when to see the doctor

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Tips to cope with allergies during pregnancy

“Homeopathy is a very safe way of treating any symptoms during pregnancy because homeopathic medicines have no contra-indications or toxic side effects,” says Dr Coertzen.
“They work with your immune system, which means they’re highly effective during the acute stages of the allergy and have long-term benefits too.

Avoiding or limiting exposure to allergens are important. For example:

  • Don’t sleep on feather pillows.
  • Limit sugar, dairy and products with yeast.
  • Also, get rid of old newspapers and magazines as they can accumulate dust, and regularly clean carpets and furniture,” she says.

Dr Lambson also advises avoidance tactics as much as possible, together with the use of external nasal dilator strips and humidification. “Nasal saline drops or sprays are safe and useful options to help clear the nose – particularly before sleeping or eating.” In more serious cases, you need to consult your GP or obstetrician for a proper diagnosis to ensure you get the correct, baby-safe medication.

“There’s always a prevailing concern during pregnancy that medical treatment may have a harmful effect on your unborn child, which is why caution is always advised. However, medication is often unnecessarily avoided because of alarming information on drug labels or info picked up via Dr Google,” she says. Dr Lambson explains that it’s important that this is always balanced against the fact that if uncontrolled upper airway disease has a significant negative effect on quality of life and leads to complications. This may adversely affect the outcome of a pregnancy. “That’s why you should always seek the advice of your healthcare practitioner,” she notes.

Natural remedies to help relieve allergies

Jaymati Kunvar, a natural health advisor and Ayurvedic health practitioner in Benoni, offers the following natural choices for safely combating allergies while pregnant:

  • Colloidal silver in both liquid and gel form is highly effective. Small oral amounts support the immune system. This can help limit allergic reactions, while rinsing your sinuses will work wonders too (a nasal spray bottle or neti pot will do the trick).
  • Homeopathic antihistamine or hay fever combinations, together with nose drops and sprays, will help combat sinus problems, sneezing, as well as itchy eyes, nose and palate. A calming combination will help in any situation. It’s important to choose a product from a reputable company, so chat to your natural health practitioner or registered homeopath about what will work best for you.
  • Tissue salts (essential minerals) come in a range of 12 combinations and can be safely used for all allergy intolerances and sensitivities including sinus, hay fever and allergic rhinitis.
  • Air purifiers eliminate airborne viruses and bacteria, remove contaminants and animal dander, as well as neutralise odours and fumes.

ALSO SEE: Safe homeopathic remedies to treat common pregnancy niggles

Homeopathic remedies to treat allergies

Dr Coertzen suggests trying these homeopathic remedies:

  • Allium cepa (red onion): Use this for a runny nose and tearing eyes, violent sneezing and a burning nose.
  • Euphrasia (herb eye bright): For burning, tearing eyes and bland nasal discharge that’s worse at night.
    Sabadilla (cevadilla seed): For continuous spasmodic sneezing that exhausts you, with itching and tickling in the nose and upper palate.
  • Other useful remedies are Apis Mellifera, Gelsemium, Ars Alb, Nux Vom, Nat Mur, Pulsatilla and Dulcamara, Histaminum, Kali Bich and Arum Triph. There are various effective combinations of these remedies on the market.

With acute symptoms, Dr Coertzen advises using the remedies every hour until they improve. She says chronic allergy sufferers should consider having an auto-vaccine where your blood is drawn and centrifuged to obtain the plasma. A homeopathic vaccine is then created with your plasma. This will contain the immune cells that are attacking the allergens. The vaccine will help to balance the immune system and desensitise you.