Allergies in pregnancy

Certain foods may trigger allergies in some pregnancies.
Certain foods may trigger allergies in some pregnancies.

How an allergic reaction occurs

An allergic reaction occurs when the body is over-sensitive to a substance that is normally harmless, such as airborne pollen or wheat. Antibodies build up in response so that the next time you come into contact with the allergen, your body releases inflammatory mediators such as histamines and prostaglandins, causing inflammation, itching and sneezing.   Research shows that there is a global increase in the amount of people suffering from allergies. This has been attributed to environmental factors such as pollution, as well as modern lifestyles which keep people in sterile air-conditioned interiors, eating processed convenience foods.  

Pregnancy's effect on the immune system

While pregnancy does not cause new allergies as such, it does have an effect on the immune system that may cause new allergies to appear. Ironically, some existing allergies may temporarily disappear due to pregnancy hormones that suppress the immune system so that your body will allow a “foreign body” to grow inside it. However, the allergy-triggering potential of the body may be simultaneously heightened. 

Allergies that can affect pregnant women

Asthma attacks

Asthma attacks may become more frequent and may even occur for the first time during pregnancy, but they also become less severe and easier to control. Good asthma control is important to ensure that the developing baby gets enough oxygen. Steroidal asthma medications may be prescribed because they are the most effective and act locally so that they don’t affect the foetus. 

Nasal allergies

Nasal allergies often occur for the first time in pregnancy due to the rush of hormones thickening the nasal mucous and causing a stuffy or runny nose.  

Pruritic urticarial paules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) syndrome

The skin, an organ of excretion, is affected when the liver and kidneys are over-stressed by an overload of toxins. All the organs in the pregnant body are working double time to support 2 lives, but especially the liver and kidneys. As a result, a common rash particular to pregnancy is pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) syndrome.  This manifests as intensely itchy eruptions, particularly on the lower abdomen and upper thighs. The rash clears up after the baby is born, but can be quite debilitating during the last few months of pregnancy. It is best treated with natural oils and not mineral-oil-based lotions. Try rubbing natural yogurt into the skin or take oatmeal baths by hanging a bag of oatmeal under the tap. Eat foods rich in omega oils and try a kidney-cleansing tea such as dandelion herb as well as drinking plenty of water.


Eczema often improves in pregnancy, which may be due to the increase in natural cortisone-like steroids produced by the body during pregnancy. These natural anti-inflammatories can make some allergies disappear for a while. 

Treatment and prevention of allergies

Alternative practitioners recommend preventing and treating allergies by eating more alkaline-forming foods, such as raw nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables and cutting down on foods such as wheat, dairy and processed foods. However, if you do cut down on dairy products ensure that you are getting enough calcium from other sources. 

Preventing allergies in your baby

The best way to prevent allergies in your baby after birth is to breastfeed while following a bland diet. Also, delay the introduction of potential allergy-forming foods such as peanuts, shellfish, citrus and wheat (gluten) and introduce them one at a time to assess whether there is any reaction.

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