If you are suffering from asthma, an allergy or hay fever and want to breastfeed your child, you may wonder if there is anything specific to think about. That is perfectly natural. It may be good to know that breastfeeding while treating asthma or allergies in most cases does not cause any problems, and that you can continue to use your allergy medicine as usual. Even in cases where the medicine is transferred to the mother's milk, the concentrations are usually so low, that any risks the baby may suffer are very small.
There are many benefits to breastfeeding since it protects the child from asthma, eczema, allergy to cows milk and infections of the respiratory tract during the first few years of his or her life.
As you have just become a mother it is important that you feel well and that you are not suffering from any symptoms of your asthma. The treatment of asthma during breastfeeding usually does not differ from the treatment you received during your pregnancy, but speak with your doctor if you are unsure of what to do, or if you think that your dosage needs to be changed. Many of the asthma medicines have been used for a long time by both pregnant and breastfeeding women, without side effects for the baby and are therefore considered safe to use. Even the modern medicines are considered safe to use during breastfeeding, although they have not been tested to the same extent.
When it comes to allergies such as hay fever, it is important that you are receiving a good treatment, as you have recently become a mother. If you use over-the-counter nasal sprays, eye drops or allergy tablets you may, in most cases, continue taking your medicine as usual. It used to be common to recommend the older antihistamine tablets to breastfeeding women, but the disadvantage to them is that they often cause tiredness. In spite of the fact that the more modern medicines have not been tested to the same degree, the risk of the baby being affected is low. Do not hesitate to contact your doctor if you are not sure of what to do. A doctor can also prescribe stronger medication if the over-the- counter medication does not help. Corticosteroid tablets and corticosteroid injections are usually not prescribed to pregnant women if there are no exceptional reasons for it. If in doubt, always read the patient information leaflet of the medicine you are taking.
If you suffer from allergic eczema you can continue to use corticosteroid cream and take UVB-light therapy during the time you are breastfeeding. PUVA-light therapy is, however, not recommended. You should also avoid cream with calcineurin inhibitors and treatments with tar and natural remedies, since there is not enough research on how they affect the mother's milk. Eczemas around or on your nipples may of course be problematic. In such cases, use a softening lotion. It is important to treat eczema on the nipples in order for you to be able to continue breastfeeding.
For the child, breastfeeding is a positive thing for many reasons. Studies show that breastfeeding (and not feeding the child with anything else) during four months can lower the risk of developing asthma or asthma symptoms up to the age of four years old. That is because breastfeeding protects the child from infections, which in turn lowers the risk of small children getting so called viral-induced asthma. Even partial breastfeeding can to some extent protect the child from early asthmatic problems.
Breastfeeding can also decrease the risk of eczema, especially for children to allergic parents, and of allergy to cow milk. It has, however, not proven that breastfeeding protects against other types of allergies.
UK/GEN/15/0057f Date of preparation: December 2015