When your body reacts to an allergen it can often result in the outbreak of hives. Also known as urticaria and nettle rash, hives are pesky red, itchy bumps that appear on your skin and can often spread and form large patches on one or several parts of your body. When your body reacts to an allergen it produces a protein called histamine that causes the blood vessels in your skin to leak plasma, thus forming the itchy rash.
Normally, you would take antihistamines to relieve the symptoms of the hives, however, if you are breastfeeding, this may not be the option for you. Whether caused by an allergen or the sudden increase in hormones, especially oxytocin, during breastfeeding, treating the hives properly is essential for your health and the health of your baby.
Why not take antihistamines while breastfeeding?
There is an ongoing debate of whether the breastfeeding women should take antihistamines to treat hives. According to the American Family Physician, taking an antihistamine immediately after breastfeeding could minimize the concentration of the drug in the milk in time for the baby’s next nursing. The Merck Manual recommends that nursing mothers should use antihistamines in an inhaled form instead of orally to reduce the concentration of the medicine in the milk.
However, a study published in Canadian Family Physician in May of 2010 finds that all antihistamines are safe to use while breastfeeding and that minimal amounts of antihistamines in the breast milk would not cause any harm to the baby.
Lawrence & Lawrence in their book Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession say that an alternative to taking classic antihistamines is a low dose of antihistamines such as loratadine which does not pass into the milk at levels less than 0.03%. However, this can cause the decrease of milk over time as it dries the mucous membranes.
So, what should I do?
Once you realize you have the hives, you should speak to your doctor as soon as you notice the rash. Make sure to tell your doctor you are breastfeeding. If your doctor prescribes you the antihistamines, definitely discuss the possible side-effects they can cause for you and your baby. Taking an inhalable antihistamine right after feeding the baby can reduce the chances of baby’s exposure to the drug.
Talk to your doctor and see if he can identify the allergen that has triggered the hives and try to avoid the exposure to such triggers. Also, you can try using a cold compress to soothe the burning and itching sensation. If possible, avoid tight-fitting clothing and do not take hot showers while you have the hives.
Try not to stress too much. The stress can be the cause of hives and it can also worsen the condition, prolonging it and making the itching and stinging worse.
Also, you might want to consider using some home remedies to treat your hives. Using organic products will not harm your baby in any way and won’t make the prolactin levels lower. Simple baking soda poultice can help a lot as it assists in soothing the itching and burning, as well as the overall healing of the hives.
Oatmeal or raw organic apple cider vinegar baths can also be of great help if you have time to soak in a bathtub giving your very busy schedule that is motherhood. Try using bergamot, usually present in Earl Grey tea, and applying it to the affected area. Bergamot is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and it is a completely natural product that won’t affect your milk. Some other choices may include fennel, thyme, cloves, eucalyptus, and rose. You can use essential rose oil in your bath to soothe the burning.
If you can, spice up your food with turmeric, a spice known for its deep yellow color and intense flavor. Its anti-inflammatory properties are well known, but because it does act as a mild blood thinner, avoid using it with painkillers such as aspirin. Add a few dashes of turmeric to your food or take it as a tea if you will.
Ginger tea has a load of anti-inflammatory benefits so you can definitely try taking a fresh ginger root and boil it for five minutes. Allow it to steep for a few minutes and have the amazing tea with a teaspoon of honey. If you don’t feel like cooking, there is a wide variety of ginger teas on the market that you can prepare just like your regular tea.
All in all, when you are breastfeeding you no longer have to think only about yourself, but about the health of your precious baby as well. Using organic home remedies combined with the careful dosage of antihistamines should definitely help relieve the symptoms of the hives, and rid you of them altogether. Whatever you choose to do, do not forget to relax, as stress can make your condition even worse. Remember that everybody is different and that each baby is special, so taking your time and finding the remedy that works for both of you is essential for the health and happiness of you and your little bundle of joy.