Most people, whether they have children or not, are familiar with Benadryl and its use as an over the counter allergy medicine. However, if you are a parent, you might have questions about when it is appropriate to give your child Benadryl and if Benadryl is safe for infants. As with any over the counter medication, you should consult a medical professional before giving it to your child for the first time, even if it’s something as common as Benadryl. Let’s take a look at what this medication is used for and whether or not Benadryl is safe for infants.

What is Benadryl Used For?

Benadryl is readily available as an over the counter medication, used mostly to relieve the symptoms of allergies including watery and red eyes, itchiness, sneezes, and runny noses. Benadryl is the brand name for the drug diphenhydramine. Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine, a type of receptor antagonist drug used to treat symptoms of seasonal allergies, environmental or contact allergies, hay fever, and is even used in many cold medicines.

Benadryl comes in many forms and at different dosages for both adults and children. It is often in solid pill form (non-chewable), liquid-filled gel capsules, liquid suspension, chewable tablets, dissolving tablets, dissolving strips, and powder. There are also dye-free varieties for people who may have sensitivities.

In children, Benadryl should generally only be used to treat allergic reactions under the advice of a pediatrician. Alternative treatments should be discussed for its other uses. And as we will discuss later, Benadryl should only be given to older children and can be unsafe for the very young.

Many people think that because it is a commonly used medication, it is safe to give children Benadryl to calm them down for things like travel because it will make them sleepy. However, it is not as safe as some think. Benadryl carries risks when given to young children so it should not be given when not needed for allergies or recommended by a medical professional. Also, habitual overuse of Benadryl can build up resistance, and 10-15% of children have the opposite reaction and become hyperactive after they take Benadryl.

Is Benadryl Safe for Infants?

While it is true that Benadryl is a common treatment used in adults and older children, diphenhydramine but can be dangerous for children under two years old. And after two it should be used carefully with a doctor’s advice on frequency and dosage. Therefore, Benadryl is not safe for infants as a general rule. This is because the active ingredient diphenhydramine is an antihistamine, which can be dangerous to children younger than two.

Because Benadryl is an antihistamine, it can cause serious or even fatal side effects in infants. These side effects include rapid heartbeat and convulsions. If your child has allergies, then you should talk to the pediatrician about the proper medication to use during a reaction. And if your child has an allergic reaction and you do not have any doctor-approved medication on hand, contact a doctor immediately and seek emergency medical attention.

If your child is between the ages of two and six, then you should still seek your pediatrician’s advice about when it is safe to give them over the counter medication containing diphenhydramine and how much to give them. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has more information on why you should be careful when administering allergy, cough, and cold medications to your child.

From ages six to twelve, children should only be given versions of the medication made especially for children. Not only are these varieties easier for children to take (they may be chewable or a flavored liquid), but it is easier to control the dose and come in dosages safer for children. After twelve years old, adult products are generally safe for otherwise healthy children.
While Benadryl should be only administered to infants with a doctor’s guidance, dosage guidelines should be followed for older children. Carithers Pediatric Group has a dosage calculator on our website to help if you need a reminder.

For Additional Information

If you have questions or concerns about what over the counter medications are safe for your child at any age, Carithers Pediatric Group can provide guidance by contacting us and using our dosage calculator. We have been serving the Jacksonville, FL area since 1941 and we’re committed to providing total care for your child from infancy to the college years. We have two locations to make visiting more convenient. Our Riverside location can be reached at 904-387-6200 and our Southside location can be reached at 904-997-0023. If you are an established patient, you can conveniently request a well visit online.