, Volume 265, Issue 5, pp 499-508
Date: 12 Feb 2008

Treating common problems of the nose and throat in pregnancy: what is safe?

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Although all kinds of medications should be avoided during pregnancy, the majority of pregnant women receive at least one drug and 6% of them during the high-risk period of the first trimester. The aim of the present paper is to discuss the appropriate management of rhinologic and laryngeal conditions that may be encountered during pregnancy. A literature review from Medline and database sources was carried out. Related books and written guidelines were also included. Controlled clinical trials, prospective and retrospective studies, case–control studies, laboratory studies, clinical and systematic reviews, metanalyses, and case reports were analysed. The following drugs are considered relatively safe: beta-lactam antibiotics (with dose adjustment), macrolides (although the use of erythromycin and clarithromycin carries a certain risk), clindamycin, metronidazole (better avoided in the first trimester), amphotericin-B (especially in immunocompromised situations during the second and third trimester) and acyclovir. First-line antituberculous agents isoniazid, ethambutol, pyrazinamide, and ciprofloxacine in drug-resistant tuberculosis can be also used. Non-selective NSAIDs (until the 32nd week), nasal decongestants (with caution and up to 7 days), intranasal corticosteroids, with budesonide as the treatment of choice, second generation antihistamines (cetirizine in the third trimester, or loratadine in the second and third trimester), H2 receptor antagonists (except nizatidine) and proton pump inhibitors (except omeprazole) can be used to relieve patients from the related symptoms. In cases of emergencies, epinephrine, prednisone, prednisolone, methylprednisolone, dimetindene and nebulised b2 agonists can be used with extreme caution. By contrast, selective COX-2 inhibitors and BCG vaccination are contraindicated in pregnancy. When prescribing to a pregnant woman, the safety of the materno-foetal unit is considered paramount. Although medications are potentially hazardous, misconceptions and suboptimal treatment of the mother might be more harmful to the unborn child. Knowledge update is necessary to avoid unjustified hesitations and provide appropriate counselling and treatment for pregnant women.