A decongestant (or nasal decongestant) is a drug that relieves discomfort and congestion in the upper portion of the wind pipe. The two most common OTC decongestants found are pseudoephedrine (component in Sudafed), and phenylephrine (component in Sudafed PE and other medications). For lactating mothers, both of these can be harmful as they narrow down the blood vessels in the nasal passages.
The milk production is also decreased by Pseudoephedrine and can cause irritability symptoms in nursing babies. Pseudoephedrine is the commonest ingredients in decongestants and its side effects are mentioned below –
- If you take single dose of pseudoephedrine 60 mg orally, almost 24% decrease in milk production takes place. After taking pseudoehedrine, serum prolactin decreases by 13.5% and this contributes to the decreased milk
- Small amounts of pseudoephedrine in breast milk are unlikely to harm the nursing infant though it may cause irritability occasionally.
- Repeated use of pseudoephedrine interferes with lactation. Avoid Pseudo ephedrine while breastfeeding, especially in the first 4-6 weeks postpartum. Combination products with first-generation antihistamines may have even worse effects.
What are the Safe Decongestants for Nursing Mothers?
Avoid broad spectrum drugs which handle more than a single symptom. Most decongestants are considered safe in breastfeeding except pseudoephedrine. This drug minimizes blood supply to breast by obstructing blood vessels and as a result milk production is hampered. Dextrometharphan is considered a good choice during breastfeeding.
The Best Natural Decongestant Medicines While Breastfeeding
- Use of a nasal spray of saline is beneficial.
- Neti pot should ideally be used for rinsing..
- Eucalyptus oil applied under the nose with a piece of cotton helps in clearing the nasal blockage.
- About 15 drops of Eucalyptus oil or balsam oil can be used in a humidifier for best results.
- To facilitate mucous drainage and help in dialation of blood vessels, consume Cayenne pepper.
- Prepare a drink of honey with hot lemonade and have it as it helps to relieve congestion.
- Fenugreek tea works wonders in cough, chest and head congestion.
- Gargling with warm saline water (8 ounces of water containing 1 tablespoon of salt) gives fantastic results. It should be done multiple times throughout the day.
Safe Drugs as Decongestants While Nursing
- You can take Actidil Seldane or Claritin. These drugs do not have any adverse effect during breastfeeding and they are safe and have no effect on lactation. Benadryl is also safe in small quantities. Never the less your baby should be continuously monitored for drowsiness.
- Avoid broad spectrum drugs which treat a variety of symptoms along with congestion. These drugs contain many active ingredients.
- Oxymetazolie or Phenylephrine are safer than oral drugs as they are absorbed slightly and are only found in traces in breast milk.
Thus on a final note, if you are a nursing mother, be careful while using decongestants especially pseudoephedrine which have an adverse effect on breast milk production. You can use natural decongestants as they are the safest. In case if you have to take drugs, antihistamine group of drugs, is safe. But always make sure to consult your doctor before taking any medicine.