Use Caution with Antihistamines and Kids

Many people encourage others to use antihistamines on their small children when flying a great distance or simply when you need your child to sleep well.  During travel this need arises more than during other times but I urge you to seriously consider this practice before adopting it as your own. It may seem like a great way to avoid jet lag but there can be a host of issues that arise and usually it doesn't even help.


Another time people use antihistamines is with allergies. Small children are naturally active and vibrant, but when it comes to allergies – kids need to be looked after closely. If you are thinking about giving an antihistamine to your child, always use caution. It is very easy to give too much of these drugs to kids, and that can be very dangerous.  I know it seems a good idea especially as you know it will improve symptoms but again take a very close look at the following information before deciding.

What are Antihistamines?
These types of drugs help to relieve allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, itching, and a runny nose. They can be purchased over-the-counter (OTC) with or sometimes without a prescription. Below are some antihistamine drugs you might be familiar with:

OTC antihistamines (oral)

-Cetirizine: Zyrtec
-Chlorpheniramine: Chlor-Trimeton
-Diphenhydramine: Benadryl
-Fexofenadine: Allegra
-Loratadine: Alavert, Claritin
-Prescription antihistamine (oral)
-Desloratadine: Clarinex

Prescription antihistamine (nasal)

-Azelastine: Astelin

Too much use of an antihistamine causes excessive drowsiness as a side effect. You should put consideration as children are more vulnerable to this problem. Other times, antihistamine can cause the opposite effect, agitation. This is not a fun outcome when you were hoping for the opposite. And while it’s uncommon, too much antihistamine may also cause breathing problems, which can lead to decreased oxygen and increased carbon dioxide in the blood.

Sometimes antihistamines are indicated and can be a wonderful way to help your child.  Below are some tips to follow when you are considering antihistamine use especially in small children.

Buy from Trusted Sources
Medicine, especially when it’s for children is a serious matter. You have to ensure that what you’re giving is the right type of antihistamines for toddlers or any age child really. It’s equally important to stack up on antihistamines at home and when you’re travelling to other places where a unique allergy is a threat.

My oldest son had a terrible allergic reaction in Chiang Mai, Thailand and we were so happy we had some supplies on hand to deal with it rather than having to run out in the middle of the night. Let's be honest, when the packaging is in a language we do not know can we really be sure of what we are using anyway?!  It certainly feels like more of a risk.

When we travel we like to be sure we have supplies from companies that we trust rather than taking the risk that where we are going either doesn't have what we are looking for or has a sub par quality product.  It takes up very little space and doesn't really add too much to our packing list.

Avoid Double-Dosing
Parents sometimes give cold and cough products to a child who is currently taking an antihistamine for allergies. Understand that some cough syrups or cold medications already has antihistamine as one of the ingredients. The most common form of antihistamine in a drug and cough syrups is chlorpheniramine. A child who is given more than the recommended dose of this medicine increases the risk of problems.

Also be sure that you know when the other parent gave the medication last.  We've done that with Tylenol and even with an antibiotic once.  Write it down if you have to.  Better safe than sorry when it comes to medications and children.

Always Read Labels
Practice reading the label on any medicine carefully. It doesn’t mean when a product is marketed for children that it’s safe for every situation and age. Read the dosage to ensure you’re giving the right amount of medicine to your child.

When your child is currently taking an antihistamine, read the information note inside the medicine as it contains frequently asked questions, over dosage instructions, as well as other important information.

Never give them to Infants
Babies shouldn’t be given antihistamines as they’re most vulnerable to accidental overdoses of antihistamines. In other cases, this can even lead to untimely death. The U.S Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) warns parents never to administer antihistamines to toddlers or infants under 2 years old, except for cold and cough syrups that contains antihistamine, as recommended by a doctor.

I don't always trust in everything the FDA says but when it comes to using caution with medications I always err on the side of caution as well.  I really hate to dole out any medication to small kids but I also know that sometimes it really is quite necessary.

In a nutshell
-Antihistamines are commonly used for allergies. They can be found easily in some cold and cough products that has more than one active ingredient (important).
-Take precaution when giving an antihistamine to a child as it’s very easy to accidentally give more than the recommended dosage, which is dangerous.
-To keep yourself from giving too much of antihistamine, always read the ingredients in a cold or cough product. Also, keep the information sheet of any medicine you give your child, both prescription and OTC.
-Sometimes when you are looking for that drowsy effect when traveling you end up with the opposite effect...NO FUN on a 12 hour flight across the ocean at 2am!

Do you use things like Benadryl when traveling?  Tell us your good or bad stories about it below!

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