Is it safe to use nose sprays during pregnancy?

It is important to understand what is going on in your respiratory system during pregnancy.  While you are pregnant, the respiratory tract lining receives more blood.  This is a result of certain hormones that stimulate the blood flow in the body.  As a result, the respiratory tract is often much more congested, which may also lead to nosebleeds.  A second side effect that this increased flow of blood may have is sensitive or bleeding gums.

Ear and sinus conditions are common during pregnancy. Sinus infections may occur up to 3 times more often during pregnancy.  Runny nose may occur through the second and third trimesters in around 20% of pregnant women.  Other unusual ear and nerve problems can also occur.  Sinus infections are usually evident by a greenish nasal discharge or tenderness in the facial bones below or above the eyes.  Fever may also be present.  CAT scans can be done in severe cases to confirm the sinus infection.  However, most sinus infections in pregnancy are diagnosed mostly by what the Mom tells her doctor. This avoids radiation from the CAT scan, which may be harmful to the baby.  Penicillin-type drugs or Erythromycin are sometimes used to treat sinus infections in pregnancy. These are effective drugs and considered safe to use during pregnancy.  As always, you should consult with your doctor ab out what treatment may  be right for you.

Some obstetricians are more likely to use antibiotics early in treating symptoms of a runny nose that doesn’t go away quickly.  Pregnant women may be more susceptible than others to infections in the throat and lungs when they have a runny nose.  A viral infection in the sinuses or throat in pregnant women, for example, often precedes pneumonia.  Not only is the runny nose a nuisance but it probably leads to some sinus infections as well.  However, many times the runny nose is not due to an infection but rather to the pregnancy itself.  It is important to have your physician examine you to determine if it is an infection or merely swelling of the respiratory tract.

Very few scientific studies have been done on the use of nasal sprays by pregnant women.  If the spray is saline-based, it is unlikely that there are any danger in its use.  However, sometimes manufacturers may use other chemicals along with saline or as the primary ingredient in their spray.  It is always best to check with your physician before using nasal spray.  Because data is so limited, it may be best to err on the side of caution and avoid these sprays during pregnancy.

Antihistamines such as Benadryl can sometimes help this problem and are generally considered safe in pregnancy.  Nasal decongestants can be used for a shorter than usual time, under a physician’s care.  Usually these medications are tried after antibiotics if no fever or pneumonia develop despite the runny nose.  The problem then usually goes away after delivery of the baby.

Bloody nose is increased in pregnancy probably because there is more nasal congestion. This is a noticeable problem in Obstetrical practices during the dry winter months. Bleeding usually stops with gentle pressure to the nasal bridge. Humidifiers, applying Vaseline to the inside of the nose at night, using saline nasal sprays, and avoiding “nose picking” can reduce nosebleeds during pregnancy.

Leila Pereira
Leila Pereira
I work in occupational therapy and occupational science. I specialize in early intervention pediatrics for children from birth to three years old; with an emphasis on children with autism. My goals are to support the achievement of developmental milestones in your child while collaborating with caregivers & parents; including play skill development, education, leisure, rest and sleep, feeding, nutrition and social participation. Licensed by the California Board of Occupational Therapy

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