Allergies cause a variety of undesirable symptoms. A runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes can ruin your day. Going outside becomes a painful experience, nothing like you would expect on a perfect sunny day. Dealing with hay fever and other allergies may be even tougher when you take care of a baby.
Every mother’s first concern is the safety of her child. While breastfeeding, women should be cautious while taking any medicine as it may pass through milk. We highly recommend you ask your healthcare provider first!
If you previously used Claritin to treat your nasty allergy symptoms you may wonder: can I continue using this medicine while breastfeeding? And we have an answer for you.
Regular Claritin is proven to be safe for breastfeeding women and their infants. Even though Claritin molecules are found in milk, the amount is so small that it would not affect your baby in any way. The adverse effects were never observed in infants.
On the other hand, Claritin-D with added decongestants may have a negative effect on your milk supply. Be cautious and consider other options!
What Claritin is Used For?
Claritin soothes the symptoms of an allergic reaction caused by various irritants such as pollen, dust, plants, and foods. This drug belongs to the antihistamine medications. Its generic name is loratadine.
Like the other H1 blockers, Claritin specifically inhibits activity of the H1 receptor to which histamine binds. Histamine is a compound responsible for the immune response in general. Blocking the H1 receptor reduces the amount of histamine involved in the allergy reaction, and consequently eliminates its symptoms.
Claritin is used to relieve a runny nose, sneezing, puffy, watery eyes, hives, and itching throat or skin. This medication is prescribed to patients who suffer from allergic rhinitis or urticaria.
Caution: regular Claritin soothes allergy symptoms only. It is not effective for treating a runny nose caused by a cold or flu, nor is it effective for a fever or a headache.
Claritin-D, on the other hand, is also used to treat sinus congestion and pressure, and nasal congestion due to colds.
Claritin-D is a compound of two medications:
- loratadine, an H1 antagonist that treats your allergy symptoms (the only component of regular Claritin)
- pseudoephedrine sulfate to help relieve nasal congestion.
Pseudoephedrine sulfate belongs to sympathomimetic drugs. It activates the narrowing of the blood vessels in the nose and paranasal sinuses, which results in relieving the congestion. But it also affects the milk supply.
Is It Safe to Take Claritin While Breastfeeding?
Yes! It is safe to take regular Claritin while breastfeeding. According to the research, Claritin transfers into breast milk in such a minor amount that it would not affect your baby. It is estimated to be about 1% of a mother’s dose. 
Be cautious! Unlike regular Claritin, Claritin-D would affect your milk supply. It is recommended to avoid using Claritin-D while you are breastfeeding your baby. Taking this medication is shown to reduce milk production while breastfeeding. We suggest you ask your medical provider about other options.
How to Take Claritin While Breastfeeding Safely?
Follow these safety precautions in case you take Claritin when breastfeeding your infant.
Ask Your Doctor First
Everyone — you and your baby too — has a specific clinical situation. Before taking any medicine, prescription or over-the-counter, it is recommended to check with your healthcare provider. Safety of Claritin while breastfeeding depends on your past medical history and the other prescribed drugs (if any).
Take a Look Into Drug Facts
Claritin with no added ingredients, containing loratadine only, is a safe option for you and your nursing baby. Avoid taking Claritin-D and other antihistamines containing decongestants such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine. These compounds may affect your milk supply.
What If I Have Cold or Flu symptoms too?
Claritin-D may be seen as a better option for treating allergy manifestation with cold symptoms, but while breastfeeding, it is best avoided.
For nasal congestion, you can use Afrin nasal spray . It contains oxymetazoline, a safe compound for breastfeeding women. A topical medication Afrin does not affect the milk supply as much as oral decongestants. Note that Afrin and other oxymetazoline nasal sprays should not be used for more than 3 days in a row.
Congestion can also be relieved with natural decongestant remedies such as:
- consuming hot fluids (water, tea, soup)
- applying hot or cold packs to the sinuses
- rinsing with a saline solution.
Does Claritin Dry Up Breast Milk?
Regular Claritin does not affect your milk supply. However, decongestants contained in Claritin-D can cause decreased lactation. Check with your healthcare provider before use!
What Antihistamine Can I Take While Breastfeeding?
Other second-generation antihistamines are fine for breastfeeding women. These include:
- cetirizine (Zyrtec)
- fexofenadine (Allegra)
- levocetirizine (Xyzal).
According to Laura Kearney, Regional Principal Medicines Information Pharmacist, Midlands and East Medicines Advice Service (Midlands site) & UK Drugs in Lactation Advisory Service , loratadine and cetirizine pass through breast milk in low quantities. It makes them the preferred choice of H1 blockers for a breastfeeding woman. Fexofenadine is also an acceptable choice.
First-generation H1 antagonists such as Benadryl and Avil often cause side effects besides relieving sneezing, itchy throat and eyes. Drugs of this group may dry up your breast milk if you use them at high doses and for a long time. It is recommended to avoid them while you are breastfeeding your baby.
Side Effects of Taking Claritin While Breastfeeding
Claritin is a safe medication whilst breastfeeding. Your breastfed infant may experience drowsiness and irritability, though it is not an indication to stop taking your medicine. There are no reported cases when a baby needed medical care due to Claritin intake.
Infants are generally sleepy so it may be hard to tell if it is Claritin’s impact or a coincidence. If your baby exhibits unusual behavior when you take Claritin, be sure to contact your pediatrician and share your concerns.
If you notice any negative side effects, get help from your healthcare provider immediately.
Even though Claritin transfers to your breast milk, this amount is insignificant. You can safely take this medication to treat the allergy symptoms without worrying about your breastfed baby.
Claritin-D has, however, an adverse effect resulting in decreasing your milk supply. While breastfeeding your infant, it is highly advised to avoid taking Claritin-D. The ingredient responsible for this side effect is a decongestant. You should avoid taking oral decongestants while breastfeeding — consider other options. Use a nasal spray to help your nasal congestion.
Contact your doctor in case you have concerns or any questions about your health.
- Hilbert J, Radwanski E, Affine MB et al. Excretion of loratadine in human breast milk. J Clin Pharmacol. 1988;28:234-9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2966185/
- Anderson PO. Decongestants and milk production. J Hum Lact 2000;16:294. Letter. PMID: 11155604.
- Which oral antihistamines are safe to use whilst breastfeeding? Laura Kearney, Regional Principal Medicines Information Pharmacist, Midlands and East Medicines Advice Service (Midlands site) & UK Drugs in Lactation Advisory Service · Published 10 May 2018 https://www.sps.nhs.uk/articles/which-oral-antihistamines-are-safe-to-use-whilst-breastfeeding/