Benadryl For Babies: Is It Safe, Dosage And Alternatives

Image: Keith Homan / Shutterstock


According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), children less than two years should not be administered cough and cold medicine consisting of decongestants ephedrine, phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine, and antihistamines diphenhydramine (found in Benadryl), chlorpheniramine, or brompheniramine (1).

Also, parents should not modify dosages intended for older children and offer them to younger ones. MomJunction explains in detail why Benadryl can be harmful for your baby and if you should use the drug to put your baby to sleep.

What is Benadryl?

Benadryl is an antihistamine with sedative effect, intended to treat allergies. The popular allergy brand is known to help relieve itchiness, hives, common cold, cough and also induce sleep. However, it may or may not relieve the cold or cough.

There are different formulations for Benadryl, including pediatric and adult, and it comes in the form of tablets, cream, chewables and liquid.

The medical ingredient present in the allergy medication is Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride, 6.25 mg/5 mL, while the non-medical ingredients include Benzoate, Citrate, Glycerin, Sorbitol and Saccharin sodium as sweeteners, Carboxymethylcellulose, and flavors.

When the drug is meant to treat allergies, and also available in a pediatric formulation, why is it not suitable for infants?

[Read: Treating Allergies In Babies]

Why Is Benadryl Not Good For Babies?

The medication makes babies drowsy (2). In some conditions, this may be dangerous. Benadryl can have an opposite effect too! Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., MBE, a doctor at Seattle Children’s Hospital, says that Benadryl could increase the energy, making them hyperactive. The baby may become irritable and cranky.

Other side effects of Benadryl in infants include:

  • lower respiratory rate
  • irregular heart rate
  • dry mouth
  • stomach upset
  • vomiting
  • seizures

As there are no studies available on the effects, there is no standard recommended Benadryl dosage for babies. Moreover, the label on Benadryl anti-itching cream clearly indicates that ‘the cream is not intended for use in children under age two unless as directed by a doctor’ (3).

[Read: Hives In Babies]

Can You Use Benadryl To Make The Baby Sleep?

Some parents use the over-the-counter medication to create drowsiness in their babies, especially when they are traveling. You may want to use a few drops of it to make your infant feel sleepy. However, this should never be done.


  • Get your baby accustomed to long rides, carry some healthy snacks during long journeys and take along your darling’s favorite toys or books. You may also take breaks every two hours to give some rest to the baby.
  • If your little one has sleep issues, try a bedtime routine. You may also consider sleep training. If your baby goes to a day care center or is under a caretaker, make sure they do not give Benadryl to put him to sleep. The risks are just not worth a few hours of sleep!

[Read: Home Remedies To Treat Cold In Babies

Do not buy any OTC medicines for a baby younger than nine months, before you talk to a pediatrician. If your baby has an allergy or a cold, home remedies may be the best solution, but only after you confirm with your doctor.

What are your solutions for allergies in babies? Share your tips and opinions in the comments section.

Recommended Articles:

The following two tabs change content below.

Dr. Mubina Agboatwalla

Dr. Mubina Agboatwalla is a well-known pediatrician, practicing paediatrics since the last 20 years in Karachi Pakistan. She is the head of the department of Pediatrics in Karachi Liaquat Hospital, as well as her private practice in three specialist clinics in Pediatrics. She is also a Public Health Specialist specializing in preventive health including nutrition, breastfeeding and infectious diseases especially... more

shreeja pillai

Shreeja holds a postgraduate degree in Chemistry and diploma in Drug Regulatory Affairs. Before joining MomJunction, she worked as a research analyst with a leading multinational pharmaceutical company. Her interest in the field of medical research has developed her passion for writing research-based articles. As a writer, she aims at providing informative articles on health and pharma, especially related to... more