Giving My Child Benadryl: What’s The Right Dosage Of Benadryl For My Child?

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Benadryl can help with your child’s mild allergy symptoms, as long as you give the right dose. Learn how to identify and give the safe dose of Benadryl.

If your child has mild food allergy symptoms, or mild environmental allergy symptoms, the right dose of Benadryl can help relieve these symptoms. But if your child doesn’t receive the right dose of Benadryl for their age, or takes the wrong type of Benadryl for their age, the medicine could harm your child. Today, we’ll cover what your family needs to know about Benadryl, including how to identify the safe dosage (and safe type) for your child’s age. 

The Basics of Benadryl: What is it?

Benadryl is a brand-name medication that can be used to relieve adults’ and children’s mild allergy symptoms. Its generic name is diphenhydramine (DYE-fen-HYE-dra-meen).

Diphenhydramine is also the name of the active ingredient in Benadryl. It is a type of antihistamine.

Antihistamines like Benadryl’s active ingredient stop the body from releasing a chemical called histamine. 

When someone with an allergy is exposed to one of their allergens, histamine gets released, and causes allergy symptoms (like itching, hives, and congestion). Taking antihistamine blocks the release of histamine and relieves those symptoms. 

How To Safely Give Benadryl To Your Child?

In children, it’s only safe to use Benadryl for mild allergy symptoms, like redness, mild congestion, and hives concentrated in one area. 

To safely give Benadryl to children for mild allergy symptoms, always follow your pediatrician’s advice and dosage recommendation. Also, always ensure that you’ve chosen the right dosage and type of Benadryl for your child’s age group.

Remember, though: Antihistamines like Benadryl will not work to treat a severe allergic reaction. Epinephrine (an Epi-pen injection) is the only medicine that can stop a severe allergic reaction.

Also, Benadryl is generally not recommended for longer-term allergy symptoms (seasonal allergy symptoms) in children. Rather, it’s usually only recommended if your child has  shorter-term allergy symptoms, due to potential side effects. 

As pediatrician Dr. Kristi Redlich, M.D. (Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital) told Parents, “It is not recommended to use [Benadryl] as a long-term allergy medication [for children]. There are other types of antihistamines that would be preferable for long-term use because they have fewer significant side effects, like Claritin and Zyrtec.” 

Most importantly, it is never safe to use Benadryl as a sleep aid with children, no matter how old they are. It is also never safe for keeping children, of any age, calm on long trips. An overdose of Benadryl may be fatal.  Even though Benadryl causes drowsiness as a side effect, it is not meant to calm your child or help them fall asleep.  Many children have died from Benadryl overdoses when the medicine was used as a sleep aid.

If your child is already taking another medication that can cause drowsiness, or if your child has asthma, use caution when giving Benadryl.

Now that you know that Benadryl is only safe for mild allergy symptoms, let’s break down the safe dosage for each age group.

Infants and young toddlers (under 2 years of age)

Only give Benadryl to baby if your doctor recommends it. 

Benadryl is not safe for babies under two years of age, unless your doctor explicitly recommends it.

A doctor may give Benadryl to your baby in their practice, to treat mild allergic reaction symptoms, and then closely supervise your baby.  Or, they may recommend a specific dosage for you to give baby at home. 

But those are the only two scenarios where it is safe for your baby to have Benadryl. 

Benadryl could potentially cause severe side effects in infants when not used properly, including seizures, convulsions, trouble breathing, rapid heartbeat, reduced or lost consciousness, or even death.

Remember that only children’s liquid Benadryl for allergies is safe to give babies. “Cough and cold” Benadryl is never recommended for babies, because any cough and cold medicine is unsafe for babies.  And Benadryl chewable tablets are a choking hazard.

Also, your pediatrician or allergist may recommend a different antihistamine for your baby, such as Zyrtec. This is because Benadryl can cause mild but undesirable side effects, like significant sleepiness or restlessness, even under doctor supervision. Meanwhile, other antihistamines cause fewer side effects than Benadryl. 

If your doctor does recommend  liquid Benadryl for your baby, always follow their recommended dosage exactly. Use the cup, syringe or dropper that comes with the medicine to properly measure it out.

Older toddlers and young children (2-5 years of age)

Only give Benadryl to your 2-5 year old if your doctor recommends it.

Children’s Benadryl is designed for children 6 years of age and older. (This is true of both the chewable children’s tablets and the liquid children’s syrup.) 

But your pediatrician or allergist may still recommend chewable or liquid Benadryl for your 2-5 year old. 

Only give Benadryl to a 2-5 year old if your doctor recommends it. And always follow the exact dosage that your doctor recommends. 

(If your doctor has prescribed children’s liquid Benadryl, always use the cup, dropper or syringe that came with the bottle, to make sure you’re measuring out the right dose.) 

Older children (6-11 years of age)

 Use children’s Benadryl, not adult Benadryl, with 6-11 year olds.

Since children’s Benadryl is designed for 6-11 year olds, it’s generally safe to use children’s Benadryl with a child 6-11 years of age on your own.

Always follow the dosing instructions on the box or bottle of medicine. These doses are based on a child’s age and weight. If giving liquid Benadryl, measure out the dose using the cup, dropper or syringe included with the medicine.

Still, it’s recommended that you consult your doctor before giving your child Benadryl. They may recommend a different type of children’s allergy medicine instead. 

Never use adult Benadryl with a 6-11 year old. The standard (adult) Benadryl tablets and capsules are only safe for people 12 years of age and over.

Teens (12 years of age and older)

Once your child is 12 years of age or older, it’s safe for them to take adult Benadryl. 

Follow the recommended dosage on the box, based on your teen’s weight.

As always, though, only use Benadryl with infants and  young children if your doctor has recommended it. 

 

Benadryl Doses For Children

When a doctor recommends Benadryl, they will recommend a safe Benadryl dosage and medicine type based on the child’s age and weight. 

Always follow the guidance and dosage recommendations of your doctor.

The dosages we’ve listed below are based on amounts suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and listed by a child’s weight. 

As always, though, only use Benadryl with infants and  young children if your doctor has recommended it. 

Benadryl Cannot Stop Severe Allergic Reactions 

Remember: Antihistamines like Benadryl cannot treat severe allergic reactions.

An epinephrine injection (an Epi-pen)  is the only medicine that can stop a severe allergic reaction or life-threatening anaphylaxis.

If your child is experiencing severe allergic reaction symptoms in more than one organ system, they are experiencing anaphylaxis and require emergency attention. Inject epinephrine right away, then immediately call 911.

Benadryl cannot stop anaphylaxis. Only an Epi-pen can stop anaphylaxis. 

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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.  

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