Is Benadryl Best?


I am posing a question....What has your allergist recommended for antihistamine? Are you aware of the reason and the alternatives? Have you discussed it with her/him?

I pose this because I continually see members discussing Benadryl and am curious how popular it is for treatment. Our allergist has prescribed Claritin simply because, unlike a traditional antihistamine such as Benadryl, it does not cause drowsiness. Why is that important? Well, in our case, when our daughter (18 mos.) has a reaction we are supposed to watch her for signs of anaphylaxis, specifically an "alteration of consciousness" which looks like drowsiness as brought on by Benadryl.

I would love to hera the experiences of you all and the opinions of your physicians....

------------------ Kristin

On Jul 7, 1999

Kristin - We use Benadryl at least twice a week for minor allergic reactions (we are hoping to identify the triggers at a July 26th appt with a new allergist - we already know about peanuts, eggs and soy). Spencer does not get tired from the Benadryl and functions perfectly. I, on other hand, could not spell my name an hour after taking it because I could not wake up. I know a lot of meds cause different reactions between adults and children. Spencer does not take Clartin so I don't know how he would react with both in his system.

I was a little concern about what you said about watching for signs. I guess to me that means that you are waiting to give treatment. If your little one has eaten something that you know them to be highly allergic too, treat them right away, don't wait. We have seen two anaphylatic reactions in our son since June 15th (one from peanuts, the other unknown) and it was very apparent to me what was happening even with a double dose of Benadryl and Epi meds. I had never seen an anaphylatic reaction in Spencer before this (his first one at 4 mos old was with his grandparents).

You know your child inside and out and probably can tell when they are getting a cold even before the coughing starts. Trust your inner voice.

You asked about other meds...My daughter who gets hives from bug bites just started taking Zyrtec on an as needed basis. It worked wonderfully. In fact it got rid of the hives even after two doses of Benadryl didn't touch it.

I hope this helped some. I think allergies in small children are especially difficult because they cannot talk and tell you what is happening. Spencer is almost to the point where he can communicate symptoms to us (22 mos old) but until then we are relying on the non-verbal (e.g. grabbing the head or throat, swelling, hives, change in behavior).

Good luck and take care!

------------------ Kelly M Another Mom in Michigan

On Jul 7, 1999

This subject was actually brought up a few weeks ago; however, I don't know which thread it fell under. Someone eventually stated that Benadryl is the most rapidly absorbed of the antihistamines. While Claritan and Zyrtec may be stronger and last longer, Benadryl is the most "fast-acting". I think the other two take up to one hour to be absorbed while Benadryl is absorbed within 20 minutes. I don't know if this is "fact"--this is just what was said. I think it is probably safe to use both meds simultaneously in the event of a reaction. The Bendadryl to work right away and the Zyrtec or Claritan to give a long term effect. Christine

On Jul 7, 1999


Kelly - Elizabeth has not had an anaphylactic reaction. Hers has been limited to head-to-toe body hives in cases of ingestion and contact hives in the area of skin exposure when touching peanut. Yes, the watching for signs concerns me too, specifically because she is only 18 months and can't tell me what is happening. Our allergist does not believe Elizabeth will be a likely candidate for anaphylactic shock based on her previous reactions and wants us to monitor any future reactions before administering the EpiPen as he strongly believes the antihistamine is all the treatment she will require.

Christine - I will try to look for that other thread. I have a call in to the makers of Claritin to get the info on exactly how long it takes to be absorbed into one's system.

Thanks again! I look forward to hearing more expriences and treatment options....

------------------ Kristin

On Jul 7, 1999


I am concerned that your allergist told you your daughter would not be a candidate for anaphylactics!! Is anyone else with me? I was under the impression that with a peanut allergic child, you always have to assume the risk of anaphylactics! Do you have epi-pens just in case? Head to toe hives and hives from touch contact only..sounds pretty serious to me! Tammy

On Jul 7, 1999

When our son got hives and vomited upon his first known exposure to peanuts, our allergist wrote down "anaphylaxis" in his report. It doesn't just mean that you can't breath. I think it means that a major organ has been affected by the allergy.


On Jul 7, 1999

Our son only had 8 hives after ingesting peanut butter and had a fairly small reaction to the skin test this last time. The RAST test was negative. We were STILL told to treat any ingestion as potentially anaphylactic. We were told to give the epi, the Benadryl and call the ambulance right away. I agree with the allergist and rather not take the chance. People have had deadly reactions after only having mild reactions previously. We have been reassured multiple times that the epi is not going to hurt him but not using it could.

------------------ Valerie

On Jul 7, 1999

Hi Elizabeth's mom:

I too agree with the others: every reaction is different and just because one may not be classified as anaphylactic, the next one certainly may be. I had thought that our son was only mildly allergic to peanuts when he was a toddler, as he had only had hives, watery eyes, etc. And then we were totally caught off guard one time when we were camping and had to rush him to the hospital. He was in bad shape when we got there,but thankfully we got there in time. As far as we know, that time he did not even "eat" any pb, but there was an open jar in the room. Now, we won't let him anywhere near pb, and are always are prepared for the worst reaction even though he has had to reactions since then (where he did accidentally eat them) and those reactions were not nearly as bad as the other. One thing that I have learned from this board is not just to rely on the advice of one allergist. There seems to be a lot of disagreement from the so called "experts" and it is really the parents that become the most knowledgeable after dealing with it personally and hearing other parents stories. Good luck and be prepared!

------------------ Colleen

On Jul 7, 1999


I appreciate everyone's concern. One of the comforting aspects of this site is that members are secure enough to question treatment plans in order to provide the safest possible course of action for ourselves or our children.

No, we aren't relying on the advice of one allergist - we have seen two allergists (one a pediatric allergist), one pediatrician who referred us to the allergists and then sought the advice of a third allegist specializing in food allergies and all concur with this course of treatment, specifically withholding the Epi IF the reaction only involves hives.

My wording was confusing in my last post. To clarify, our doctors have all said that Elizabeth isn't LIKELY to have an anaphylactic reaction and did not in any way state that she isn't a candidate for a severe reaction. Of course all food allergic individuals have that possibility and we therefore prepare for a worse-case scenario.

Her reactions have been mild. In fact, she enjoyed quite a few peanut butter cookies before we even noticed she was getting hives. Full-strength peanut butter resulted in total body hives but no involvement from other organs. Contact with peanut butter produces hives in the area directly touched. We realize this may change. We have assumed that the possibility of anaphylaxis is there and carry not one, not two but three EpiPens with us at all times, plus Claritin and detailed emergency plans for the locations we regularly visit. As with any reaction we are to take her to the hospital immediately to both monitor the first stage reaction and the subsequent possibility of a second stage reaction as the peanut is progressively ingested.

The difference in courses of treatment perhaps is a result of the severity, or in our case lack thereof, of the past reactions. All three MD's that have seen Elizabeth have informed me that although we take precautions as if each food allergic person's reactions will increase in severity (to err on the safe side), a majority of cases remain stable over the long term.

Therefore, for us antihistamine (Claritin) plus professional monitoring remain a first line of defense when the reaction is apparent as skin-only. We have the option of self-treating with EpiPen on the way to the hospital should the reaction involve more than hives. I should note that in our area a trip to the hospital covers a distance less than one mile and we would safely make it within the window of time to administer Epinephrine to head off a major reaction.

Which brings me back to the original question of the merits of one type of antihistamine over others and which is really the best in treating a reaction. Since it is our first line of defense I am interested in ferreting out the best brand and hearing the reasons others MD's have given for choosing a specific antihistamine.

Your advice is taken to heart and I will be taking several of these issues to our allergist to make sure his original plan was on target.

------------------ Kristin

On Jul 8, 1999

If you are going to use Claritan for your child you may want to talk to the allergist about using the new, rapid dissolving tablets. While they are adult strength, they do prescribe them for children as my son uses them during hayfever season. Especially during a reaction, an adult dose might be good. The benefit of the fast dissolve Claritan is that it is one of the most rapidly absorbed antihistamines. Christine

On Jul 8, 1999

I was wondering about this myself. Our allergist told us not to bother with Benadryl and gave us a prescription for Zrytec. He said it was stronger, but I've since read on here Benadryl is faster acting. This concerns me. He really didn't advise either. He said at the first sign of ANYTHING to give the EpiPen Jr. Then I can give the Zrytec if she is still reacting. This happened last time. They gave her some epi, then after a few minutes she was still itching, despite the hives disappearing so they gave her some Zyrtec. I have noticed she doesn't get drowsy with either medicine. The other day she got a red spot on her face after eating some soup. I wasn't sure about it. So, I gave her some Zyrtec instead of the EpiPen Jr. She was fine. My gut told me to do this. I think I've just become way paranoid and everytime she has one little red spot I freak...By the way, is everyone's child on here have super sensitive skin? Shan [img][/img]

On Jul 8, 1999

Hi Shan,

Sensitive skin seems to go hand in hand with this allergy. My son has what I would term mild to medium eczema. His eczema flared up over the weekend, but the rest of the house had nasal allergy flare ups, so we assumed it was something in the air and this is how Matt is going to react. When his eczema flares up, he has a tough time sleeping at night. This seems to be when his itching is at its worse, so the whole house suffers from sleep deprivation when he has a flare up. It is an extremely hard thing to deal with. We give him Claritin and benadryl, but I don't see that either of these do the eczema a great deal of good. I have heard others mention Zyrtec for eczema - think I'll ask the allergist for this next time.

On a positive note, Connie who posts here on the boards says that her son's eczema became almost nonexistent after the age of 3 so I am hopeful that Matt's will get better also.

Stay Safe, Debbie

On Jul 8, 1999

About the overnight eczema itch - I have this too and for the current flare up I have been prescribed a mild mixture of moisturizer and lidocaine (sp?) - a topical anasthetic. It is mild enough that I don't notice any effect other than that the itching stops.

Benadryl may or may not help me from day to day, but the anasthetic stops me from scratching myself bloody in my sleep.

For the eczema treatment you may also want to see a dermatologist as well as the allergist.

Just my 2cents worth



On Jul 9, 1999

Shan--It is very important for you to try to distinguish a skin sensativity from an allergic reaction. Hives have a very distinctive, "bulls-eye" look. There is usually a welt in the center surrounded by redness. Many young children, with or without allergies, have skin reactions to foods. My friend's daughter used to get some redness around her mouth after eating graham crackers. At first she thought it might be an allergy and she discussed this with the daycare center. The director told her that many of the young toddlers also had this very same reaction to graham crackers. They also had the same type of reaction to a ranch dressing that was used for a dip. None of the older kids had a problem, just the ones that were between 1-2 years of age. My son had the same reaction to the ranch dressing. Debbie--regarding the eczema have you tried Elocon cream/ointment. My son has suffered with eczema since he was about 2 days old. For years we tried the OTC hydrocortisone creams, the Benadryl, the Atarax, and various other antihistamines. Finally, when he was 3 his pediatrician prescribed Elocon which is a very strong hydrocortisone cream. It is used very sparingly. This works like a charm. We eventually made an appointment with a pediatric dermatologist to make sure we were doing all that we could for his skin condition. The ped derm agreed that Elocon was the best approach. The antihistamines do not "fix" the itching with a single dose. You almost have to be on it constantly during flare ups to see any effect. During the "learning" years it is probably not best to be groggy or sluggish due to antihistamine use. I know I feel pretty bad when I'm on them. The Elocon cream works so well. Usually with a few seconds. Christine

On Jul 9, 1999

Christine, once again, our family unites...Elocon is absolutely the best cream we used on Cam's eczema, which was prescribed by his allergist.

As Debbie mentioned in her post, Cam hasn't had a flare up of eczema in 2 years and what a relief! My husband uses Elocon for his own Atopic Dermatitis. Not too many things impress me, but I swear by Elocon!

Stay Safe!

On Jul 9, 1999

Debbie - I wanted to tell you, you are definitely not alone on this eczema thing. We have been to countless doctors to try and make it better but because of his age (22 mos) treatment options are limited. We do our best to keep Spencer comfortable with Benadryl and different creams but nothing seems to help. I am looking forward to his 2nd birthday because I believe that will open up options for treatment for him. 2 years old and then 6 years seem to be the magic ages for being able to receive different treatments.

Hang in there!

------------------ Kelly M Another Mom in Michigan

On Jul 9, 1999

Thanks everyone for the great advice and sympathy about the eczema. This we site does wonders for the soul!

I'll definely be asking the allergist about the Elacon.

Thanks again, Debbie

On Jul 9, 1999

Shan asked if everyone (w/ PA) suffered from sensitive skin and many have responded positively. Dhumphries noted that the two seem to go hand in hand. I just wanted to cast my voice in and say that it might not be a problem for everybody. My 8 year old PA daughter has never had sensitive skin of any kind; I guess that we are very fortunate!

On Jul 10, 1999

Hi all....As I sit here and read your post, I am discussing our course of action with my husband. Sean's peanut/egg anaphylaxis and has previously gone unconscious. His reactions seem to be the same minus the unconsciousness (just first time). His eyes become red around the outside and swell, the blood vessels in the eyes swell and become watery, hives on his neck, and a coughing/cranky crying. For the first anaphylaxis reaction the emergency room administered epinephrin and benadryl (he kept reacting). Subsequent reactions, my husband and I give him Benadryl immediately. After about 30 minutes, he seems to clear up. We are aprehensive about using the Epi-pen (allergist said judge the reaction) but I ofter pray that I did the right thing and didn't waste precious time. So far I have been lucky. After reading these post and post on another board, we have decided that it may be best to administer Epi immediately. As I said on another board, I rather be "Safe than Sorry". Thanks to everyone for enlightening me. Lynda

On Jul 12, 1999

Kristin, After a visit to our allergist today I thought I would share some of what he has told me. The first is that hives are considered an anaphalatic reaction, something that surprised me. The other is that Benadryl has the fastest time before peeking, 20-30 minutes and the longest (in terms of over the counter) peek duration, 4-6 hours. My daughter's allergist is saving the Benadryl for the hives and immediate needs and is using Zyrtec syrup for the daay to day allergy reactions to non food items.

Good Luck and Stay Safe,

Mary Lynn

On Jul 24, 1999

Hi Mary Lynn:

I want to second your doctor's advice. I asked my son's allergist a week ago about the Benadryl/Zyrtec/Claritin debate and he told me Benadryl is definitely the fastest acting of all and should be the antihistamine of choice during emergencies. Zyrtec and Claritin, he considers, maintenance drugs.


On Jul 24, 1999

Hi, I pulled out my pharmacology book and looked up the info on benadryl, claritin, and zyrtec: -Benadryl(orally) [img][/img]nset 15-45 min; peak 1-4 hrs; duration 4-8 hrs. -zyrtec [img][/img]nset 15-60 min; peak 1 hr; duration unknown. -claritin: onset 30 min; peak 4-6 hr; duration > 24 hours.

We have been told to reserve epi pen only for any signs of respiratory distress; such as swollen tongue, shortness of breath, cough, gaging, and scratching the throat/neck.

I am a nurse practitioner and have worked with many physicians. Depending on their training background and personal experiences, each physician will give different answers to the same situation.

On Aug 12, 1999

HI PA friends,

I am brand new to this site and this allergy. I have been searching for answers since my 19 month old son was diagnosed as highly allergic to peanuts. What a scary allergy and my heart goes out to all of us!!

I can finally add something of value for my new friends. My son, Christopher, has had known skin sensitivities to milk, eggs, wheat, rye, strawberries, and tomatoes other things since 3 months. When he eats these items, his excema flares up.

The good news is that some infants grow out of excema. If your children are already allergic to peanuts (which you have eliminated) and they are still scratching away at their itchy skin then there is probably a chance that they are still having other food allergies/sensitivities that may be flaring the excema. You might want to more tests done.

In order to keep your children comfortable, I advise finding those additional allergens. Also, use Aquafore or Eucerin on a daily basis or even twice a day. YOu can buy Eucerin by the tub at Costco or Sams club but my allergists suggested Aquafore as the best creme. Keep them protected from the sun and sweating in these summer months.

Regarding Elocon. It does wonders but it can thin the skin. It is a very strong stearoid cream that I use only in extreme cases. (Usually when Christopher has had some milk or wheat product.) Mother's with young children should go very sparingly with the Elocon. I never have to give my allergy son benedryl unless he eats PEANUTS and you really shouldn't have to either unless your child has a terrible case.

My son's skin is now beautiful since I have finally decided to stop letting him eat pizza with cheese.

Stay safe and I hope this works for the excema. LoriD

On Aug 12, 1999

I have a PA (among other food allergies), and when I feel mild allergic symptoms coming on, I take Benadryl, and maintain with Reactine (an antihistamine pill available in Canada, and I would assume, the U.S.). I find the Reactine somewhat sedating, but less so than the Benadryl.

Of course, on the rare occasion that my reaction is severe, Epipen comes first, dialing 911, then Benadryl. [img][/img]

On Apr 11, 2004

What about pirition???? we used that when i had my first severe reaction (We were lucky ! it was EXTREMLY SEVERE but mum didn't no what was going on! we were about to dial 999 but pirition stablised it! )LUCKY ESCAPE! (Now we no what was going on we would only use it for hives and the EPI (gulp! NEEDLE!) would be the first treatment for servere reactions!!

On Apr 12, 2004