Medical News Today: Is it safe to give infants Benadryl?

Doctors and pediatricians do not usually recommend Benadryl products for babies or infants. However, in some circumstances, they will recommend supervised use of Benadryl for infants younger than 2 years old.

Benadryl is a medicine used to relieve allergy symptoms including sneezing, itchiness, and skin rashes.

Benadryl is available in several forms, some of which contain doses suitable for children aged 6 and over. In the United States, there are no specific products available for babies, infants, or children under the age of 6.

There are, however, some formulations, such as creams, gels, and sprays, that are suitable for infants aged 2 and over.

Read on for more information about the safety and risks of giving Benadryl to infants.

Is Benadryl safe for babies or infants?

Benadryl
Antihistamines cause serious side effects for children under 2 years of age.

Over-the-counter Benadryl products are only intended for some age groups:

  • Benadryl is generally not safe to give to babies or infants under 2 years old at home.
  • Sometimes, people can safely give infants aged 2 to 5 small doses of Benadryl, but only when directed by a doctor.
  • Specific child-friendly Benadryl is available for children aged 6 and above.

However, a doctor or pediatrician may recommend giving Benadryl to very young children for certain conditions, such as an allergic reaction. It is essential to follow the doctor’s direction and dosage recommendations.

Uses of Benadryl

The active ingredient in Benadryl is an antihistamine called diphenhydramine. This ingredient is also found in many cough and cold products.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cough and cold products containing decongestants or antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, can cause severe and potentially fatal side effects in children under 2 years old, including convulsions and a rapid heart rate.

Doctors or pediatricians would never recommend giving a very young child a Benadryl-containing product for a cough or cold, although they might recommend it for an allergic reaction.

These cough and cold products do not help very much and can cause potentially dangerous side effects.

If your child has a cold, consider using other methods to relieve symptoms instead.

Benadryl may cause drowsiness in children, but caregivers must never use Benadryl to make a child sleepy.

Benadryl products for children

There is a variety of Benadryl allergy medications formulated for children aged 6 or over.

Products include Children’s Benadryl Dye-Free Allergy Liquid, Children’s Benadryl Allergy Plus Congestion, Children’s Benadryl Chewables, and Children’s Benadryl Allergy Liquid. These are usually safe to give to children aged 6 and above.

Never give children any medications, including Benadryl, designed for adults. Dosages in adult medicines are higher than in children’s medicines, so giving adult dosages to children might lead to an overdose.

It is usually safe for children aged 12 onwards to take adult Benadryl products, but always check the directions on the labels.


Benadryl dosage for infants

The appropriate dosage for children depends on their age and the type of medication required. Doctors or pediatricians will often recommend specific doses for a child depending on their weight.

Each Benadryl children’s product has a different recommended dosage, so always follow the instructions on the package label. See Benadryl’s dosage guidelines for information on the recommended dosages for different ages.

For example, Benadryl’s dosage guidelines give the following recommended doses for Children’s Benadryl Dye-Free Allergy Liquid:

Age Dosage
Under 2 Do not use
2–5 Do not use unless directed by a doctor
6–11 1 or 2 tsp (5–10 mL) every 4 to 6 hours

Always follow the instructions on the package insert or the doctor’s recommendations when giving medicine to children.

If a child consumes more medicine than recommended, take them to a doctor or emergency department immediately.


Risks of Benadryl for infants

Mother bottle-feeding toddler infant cradled in arms.
Antihistamines pose serious side effects for children under the age of 2.

The FDA warn of serious and potentially fatal side effects for children under 2 years who consume products, such as Benadryl, that contain antihistamines.

Because of this risk, caregivers should never give Benadryl products to children under 2 years of age at home.

Other possible side effects of Benadryl in children include:


Takeaway

Benadryl is not usually safe for infants under 2, but, in some instances, caregivers can give it to infants under the guidance of a doctor.

People should not give cough and cold products, particularly those containing diphenhydramine, to infants or very young children.

Benadryl is an effective medication for relieving symptoms of allergies or colds. However, it can cause side effects.

People should only use Benadryl according to label recommendations and to treat the conditions for approved uses, as mentioned on the label.

People should not use Benadryl to help children fall asleep or other off-label uses.

To make sure a medicine is safe to give to children, always ask a doctor in advance and follow these general rules:

  • never exceed the dose recommended on the label for the child’s specific age or weight
  • always follow the doctor’s recommendations about how much and how often to give a child
  • avoid giving other medications at the same time unless recommended by a doctor

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