Is Benadryl Safe For Babies?
September is Baby Safety Month. If your baby has a food allergy, is it safe to give them Benadryl to treat their allergic reaction? Today, we'll cover what parents need to know about Benadryl.
Benadryl is a type of over-the-counter medicine known as an antihistamine. It is used to relieve mild allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, itchy throat, and redness.
Most types of Benadryl are meant for adults and children over 12 years of age. There are also children’s versions of Benadryl, but they’re designed for children 6 years and older.
Even so, some doctors may sometimes recommend Benadryl for allergic reactions in infants, under their supervision. But is Benadryl a safe option for babies? Today, we’ll cover what parents need to know about the safety of Benadryl for infants. We’ve included recommendations from Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan, Board-Certified allergist and Chief Allergist.
However, please always follow the guidance and recommendations of your doctor.
Please always follow the guidance and recommendations of your doctor.
When to Use Benadryl, When Not to, and Potential Side Effects
Benadryl’s active ingredient is an antihistamine called diphenhydramine. Although this ingredient is common in cough and cold remedies, doctors will never recommend a Benadryl product for a baby with a cough or cold. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that you avoid giving cough and cold products to infants under two years of age.
This is because Benadryl could potentially cause severe side effects in babies, including rapid heart rate, convulsions, seizures, trouble breathing, or even sudden infant death.
Other possible side effects of Benadryl in babies may include:
- Restlessness or trouble sleeping
- Sore throat
- Stomach pain
Notable side effects of Benadryl may include drowsiness and sleepiness. But parents and caregivers should also never use Benadryl to make a child sleepy.
However, doctors may still recommend children’s liquid Benadryl allergy medicine to treat a baby’s mild allergic reaction, under close doctor supervision. (Benadryl allergy medicine is different from the Benadryl used to treat coughing and colds.)
Mild reactions that a doctor may want to treat with Benadryl include redness, itchiness, and hives concentrated in a single area of your baby’s body.
As our Chief Allergist and Board Certified Allergist Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan explains, “Benadryl will help resolve mild symptoms of an allergic reaction. I only recommend Benadryl for infants who are having a mild allergic reaction, such as localized hives or redness.”
Under close doctor supervision, at the right age, and in the right dosage, Benadryl is safe for treating mild allergic reactions in babies. But Benadryl is generally not safe to give to a child under 2 years at home, unless your doctor explicitly recommends a dosage.
Recommended Usage for Benadryl In Babies: Only Infants Under 6 Months
Dr. Marks-Cogan reports that she only recommends liquid Benadryl for mild reactions in the youngest infants, due to its potential side effects. For older infants, children’s Zyrtec is a better choice. “I usually only recommend Benadryl for infants and actually only recommend it for infants six months or younger,” explains Dr. Marks-Cogan. “For infants six months or older I usually recommend children’s Zyrtec, which is also an antihistamine. Benadryl is short-acting and can cause drowsiness or hyperactivity in some babies, so I prefer Zyrtec which creates more of a steady state and has fewer side effects.”
A Note About Severe Reactions and Anaphylaxis
Although antihistamines like Benadryl and Zyrtec may help improve symptoms when your baby has a mild allergic reaction, these medications cannot stop severe allergic reactions or life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Epinephrine (an Epi-Pen) is the only medication that can stop anaphylaxis. This is why it’s important to have two Epi-Pens available for your food allergic child at all times, in case of an emergency.
Epinephrine (an Epi-Pen) is the only medication that can stop anaphylaxis.
As Dr. Marks-Cogan explains, “I only recommend Benadryl or Zyrtec for infants who are having a mild allergic reaction, such as localized hives or redness. Benadryl or Zyrtec will not stop anaphylaxis from happening---only epinephrine will. It’s an important thing to educate parents on, because many parents think that Benadryl will actually stop anaphylaxis, but that is not the case.”
“Benadryl or Zyrtec will not stop anaphylaxis from happening---only epinephrine will.”
Liquid Benadryl Dosage Chart: By Weight
The Benadryl dosage that a doctor will recommend to treat mild allergic reactions in a baby or young child depends on the child’s age and weight. Always follow the guidance and dosage recommendations of your doctor.
Always follow the guidance and dosage recommendations of your doctor.
Dosages shown here are for dye-free liquid children’s Benadryl, as suggested by Pediatric Associates NYC. As always, only use Benadryl with young children when your doctor recommends it. Also, don’t give your baby other medications alongside Benadryl, unless your doctor recommends it.
|11 lb to 16 lb, 7 oz||½ tsp or 2.5 ml|
|16 lb, 8 oz to 21 lb, 15 oz||¾ tsp or 3.75 ml|
|22 lb to 26 lb, 7 oz||1 tsp or 5 ml|
|27 lb, 8 oz to 32 lb, 15 oz||1 ¼ tsp or 6.25 ml|
|33 lb to 37 lb, 7 oz||1 ½ tsp or 7.5 ml|
|37 lb, 8 oz to 43 lb, 15 oz||1 ¾ tsp or 8.75 ml|
Using Benadryl Safely for Allergic Reactions: A Review
Here’s what parents should take away, to maximize safety when using Benadryl:
- Only give your baby Benadryl if your doctor recommends it for your baby.
- Only use Benadryl to treat a mild allergic reaction.
- Always follow your doctor’s instructions and dosage recommendations when giving Benadryl.
- Remember that Benadryl can’t treat anaphylaxis---only an Epi-Pen can.
- Consider Zyrtec for babies over 6 months of age.
- Don’t use Benadryl to make your baby sleepy.
Tips for Minimizing the Risk of an Allergic Reaction
How to minimize the risk of an allergic reaction? As Dr. Jonathan Spergel's recent research has shown, "severe FA (food allergy) reactions and mortality increase with age and are particularly low in infants, supporting early allergen oral introduction."
So, don't wait to introduce allergy-causing foods. Delaying the introduction of allergenic foods for a baby’s first 1-3 years of life can actually increase their food allergy risk. But starting introduction of peanut, egg, and milk before your baby turns one, and continuing to introduce them multiple times a week for several months, is the best way to minimize their risk of an allergic reaction
All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.