Conditions such as itchiness or other allergic reactions (like skin conditions) may be an outcome of an exposure to allergens or pollutants. Medications belonging to a class of drugs called as antihistamines are used for treating such allergies. These meds inhibit the actions of histamines; these are chemicals which your body releases upon being exposed to an allergy-causing agent. Such agents can be dust particles, pet dander, mites, pollen grains, etc. In this milieu, hydroxyzine is an antihistamine that is used for a wide range of allergies. But, can women who are pregnant and those who are breastfeeding use this antihistamine med? It becomes essential to know more about this before commencing your treatment plan.

Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine used for skin conditions, itchiness, etc.; as an extended use, it is used for reducing tension or restlessness among children as well as adults. This drug also finds its use as a sedative which is commonly administered prior to a surgical procedure to calm down your mind. Its sedative properties work well for people in all age groups – i.e., right from children to elders. This drug is available in multiple versions namely, tablets (pills), capsules and also as a liquid suspension.

Can pregnant women take hydroxyzine?

This antihistamine drug is known to cause a few birth defects / fetal damage if taken by women who are pregnant. Animal studies (mostly done on rats and mice) have revealed incidence of birth defects while hydroxyzine is administered onto them. However, these studies are done at dosage levels that are significantly higher than those prescribed for normal human consumption. Owing to such fetal damages, tests are seldom done on pregnant women; this is one of the reasons why inadequate evidences are available in this realm. As likely birth defects cannot be fully ruled out, intake of hydroxyzine among pregnant women is considered as a dangerous practice. As a net result, this drug is contraindicated in case of pregnant women.

Before getting pregnant, you are advised to use a non-hormonal contraceptive while taking this drug. Your doctor may advise birth control techniques such as vaginal rings, skin patches and other safe alternatives to prevent unplanned pregnancies. During the early stages, the active chemicals of hydroxyzine may breach the placenta and may build-up concentrations inside your fetus. If you have become pregnant while you are using this medication, your physician will explain about the potential risks your fetus may encounter. In case of women at a later stage of pregnancy, this drug may cause several acute reactions; these include mood shifts, drop in blood pressure levels, retention of urine as well as loss of coordination or impairment of motor function.

Talk to your treating doctor / pharmacist about antihistamines that are considered safe for pregnant women. There are of course a few allergy-reducing drugs which can be taken during times of pregnancy. These include meds such as cetirizine, fexofenadine, diphenhydramine, etc. Your pharmacist may also suggest a few safe alternatives such as nasal sprays; in case of acute allergies, steroid-based sprays are recommended in very rare instances. The key advantage of a nasal approach to inhale these meds is the active chemicals may rarely reach the fetus; hence, the odds of birth defects / fetal conditions are limited. However, prior to using any of these sprays, you are advised to consult with your treating doctor.

For pregnant women, the best way to manage allergies is to try medications-free approaches. These approaches work well when your allergic reactions are not severe. Homemade / drug-free remedies include washing your nasal regions with saline water, making your home clear of allergens and pollutants. These measures may however have a very limited effect if you are living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease / disorder (COPD) – such as asthma, bronchitis or other respiratory conditions. Talk to a qualified chest physician if you encounter serious breathing difficulties – especially while you are pregnant.

Can breastfeeding mothers take hydroxyzine?

The active chemicals used in the making of hydroxyzine may enter into mother’s milk. Hence, it is not recommended to take this medication while you are feeding a newly born infant. Upon witnessing an allergic reaction (due to exposure to pollutants or allergens), talk to your treating doctor about safer alternatives. Clinical studies do not rule out possible side effects when babies are fed with mother’s milk that may have active chemicals of hydroxyzine. Infants who took such milk may cry more frequently, develop sleeping disorders and may also encounter feeding difficulties.

Other precautions needed prior to taking this antihistamine

It is a wise thing to tell your caregiving team if you are having any prior allergies or hypersensitivity to this drug. Also, if you are already taking other forms of antihistamines (and, also a few types of antidepressants), you need to make your caregiving team aware of such medication plans. Those living with a prolonged QT interval must also keep their treating physician informed of such conditions. It may often show up in the form of pain in chest or angina, erratic heartbeats, passing out and in some cases, may also result in a fatal outcome (i.e., death).

Patients with low level of magnesium or potassium must also keep their caregiving team updated of their health conditions. Also, elderly people – with or without cardiac ailments – must stay away from using this antihistamine. Drowsiness is one of the common side effects of this med. Hence, you are advised to shift postures in a slow manner, refrain from driving and also stay away from sporting activities like cycling, jumping, etc. Last but not least, it is highly recommended to stay away from working on heavy machinery. Flouting any of these precautions may result in accidental falls or near-fatal / fatal outcomes.

In sum, hydroxyzine may trigger damage of your fetus and may also cause birth defects in a newly born infant. Hence, intake of hydroxyzine by women who are pregnant is regarded as an unsafe practice; in fact, this drug stands contraindicated during times of pregnancy. One of the better ways to manage allergies is to wash your nasal region with saline solution, and to keep your homes safe from pollutants or allergens. However, pregnant women who have a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease like asthma and any other serious allergic reactions need to consult with a qualified medical practitioner or a chest physician.

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