How can I treat my hay fever safely while pregnant?

Q: I always get terrible hay fever in the spring. I usually take allergy medication but don't want to now that I'm pregnant. What can I safely do?  

A: Even women who don't normally suffer from allergies often experience stuffiness or other typical symptoms at any time of year when they're pregnant. Surprisingly, though, you may find your seasonal allergies lessening or even disappearing while you're expecting. This is because a woman's immune system becomes less reactive during pregnancy, in part so that her body doesn't reject the growing fetus. If you do develop your typical symptoms, however, these steps can help: » Try nasal washing with a warm saline solution to rinse out pollen grains and soothe irritated mucous membranes. Using a neti pot can be very helpful. » Limit your exposure to common allergens, including dust, pollen and animal dander, by using a HEPA filter in your bedroom and removing down-filled blankets, feather pillows and even wall-to-wall carpets. » Eat a Mediterranean-style diet; my anti-inflammatory diet is based on this way of eating (get the details at » Try to trace whether stress affects your allergies and, if so, take steps to reduce it. » Explore clinical hypnosis, which may lessen the immune system's inappropriate response to pollen. The safety of the majority of over-the-counter and prescription aids for allergic rhinitis during pregnancy has yet to be assured. If allergy symptoms become difficult, speak with your doctor about the safest medication options for you and your baby.