Using Benadryl for Travel with a Toddler: A Cautionary Tale and a Little Science

I have a parenting confession to make.

Husband and I dosed BabyC with Benadryl during a flight last week.

In my last post, I wrote about what we got right on our trip. Now it’s time to come clean and tell you what we may have gotten wrong.

Before you jump to judgment, let me explain the situation. We were on a red-eye flight from Portland, OR to Newark, NJ. A 5.5 hour flight. This was the first time we had attempted a red-eye with BabyC. At the time that I booked the tickets, the red-eye was the best choice for several reasons, but I knew it was a gamble.

However, as our trip grew closer, I started to feel nervous. What if she wouldn’t sleep? What if the novel situation – being surrounded by strangers on an airplane and being held in our laps (we didn’t purchase her own seat) – was just too much for her?

I know that many frown upon the idea of “drugging” kids for smoother travel. To be honest, it is not something that I have ever considered before this trip. But several parents had told us that it worked for them, and we were feeling desperate. It wasn’t because we were hoping for a relaxing flight with cocktails and an in-flight movie. We just wanted BabyC to sleep for her sake and for the sake of our fellow passengers.

The Goal. BabyC was just 11 months in this photo, and at that age, sleep seemed to come easier on airplanes.

Don’t worry. We checked and double-checked the dosage. We knew that some kids have a “paradoxical reaction” to the antihistamine drugs found in Benadryl – turning hyper instead of drowsy – so we tested it out the night before our trip. We dosed her 30 minutes before bedtime, and she went right to sleep that night without a fuss, as usual, so we figured that either it helped her sleep a bit or had no effect.

On travel night, we gave BabyC the same dose of Benadryl while we waited at the gate to board our plane. It was 10 PM, several hours after BabyC’s bedtime, but she was busy watching the lights on the runway and the people around us. We figured that once we settled into our seats and the engines started, she would snuggle up and sleep restfully for the duration of the flight.

Unfortunately, this was not to be.

Instead, she flipped and flopped around on my lap. She refused to nurse. I tried to rub her back, and she pushed my hand away. I pointed out to her that it was dark outside and that the passengers sitting around us had closed their eyes, trying to sleep. In answer, she cried.

Our foolproof sleep formula in travel situations is our Ergo carrier and a walk. So I strapped BabyC to my chest and walked up and down the aisle a few times. Now, going from the back to the front of the plane wasn’t so bad, except for the fact that BabyC is now big enough to kick the shoulders and elbows of the passengers seated in the aisle. What sucked was turning around to walk back the other direction and seeing the sea of tired faces, some annoyed, but most of them full of pity. I smiled apologetically and patted BabyC on the back, just in case anyone on that plane thought that I wasn’t doing my absolute best to calm my child.

A flight attendant called me out of the aisle so that they could run their beverage service. I stood in the brightly-lit galley of the plane, bouncing BabyC as only a parent knows how, and let the sounds of the plane wash over us: the slamming of metal drawers, ice dumped into cups, soda cans opening, lavatory door lock sliding into place. Thirty minutes later, BabyC’s body had relaxed and she was asleep.

I eased back into my seat and tried to get comfortable enough to sleep myself. BabyC, however, was restless. She shifted around in the Ergo and whimpered. A few minutes later, her back arched and she started crying, full on. We were back to square one.

Husband’s turn. He tried the aisle walk but quickly realized that it only succeeded in waking up the entire plane. With nowhere else to go, he carried BabyC into the tiny airplane bathroom and locked the door behind them. I sat in my seat, listening to BabyC’s faint cries, feeling helpless. The minutes passed, and her cries finally grew quiet, but the lavatory door remained closed. The captain turned on the seatbelt sign and a flight attendant warned us of approaching turbulence. Still no sign of life from the bathroom. It was only after we had passed through the rough patch and other passengers began pulling at the bathroom door that Husband finally emerged.

He told me later that he had drifted off to sleep on the plastic airplane toilet, but not before losing all sensation in his right arm. He was determined not to budge as long as BabyC was sleeping. I knew better than to check the time during the flight, but he must have been in there for close to two hours.

Back in the seat, BabyC slept off and on for the last couple of hours of the flight. Every ten minutes or so, she would try to shift herself into a more comfortable position, but it seemed impossible to find. She would wake, flail around, and fuss, and then usually settle somehow. Husband and I hardly slept at all.

The red-eye was a gamble, and we lost. We vowed that this would be our last. It is one thing to have a crappy flight, but quite another to start the first day of vacation with the entire family in a zombie-like state.

Flying with a fussy child is really one of our greatest fears as parents. We are in a tight space with stale air. We feel extremely vulnerable to the judgment of those around us. Our parenting is on display. Our children are almost always out of sorts in one way or another. Their routines have been disrupted, and surely they feel some anxiety about all the new sights and sounds of the airplane.

Traveling with a toddler is hard enough, but did we make it worse by dosing BabyC with Benadryl? Back at home, I wondered what research and recommendations had been published on using Benadryl to help kids sleep.

In the U.S., the active drug in Benadryl and its generic versions is an antihistamine called diphenhydramine (DPH). According to Wikipedia, Benadryl marketed in the U.K, Australia, and New Zealand contains second-generation antihistamines that do NOT have a sedative effect. The information in this post applies only to the DPH formulations.

DPH is usually used to treat allergy symptoms, but a common side effect is drowsiness. Capitalizing on this effect, DPH is used to treat insomnia in adults. However, according to the NIH, “DPH should not be used to cause sleepiness in children.” Notably, they warn that DPH may have a paradoxical effect, causing excitement rather than drowsiness, particularly in kids.

Despite these official warnings, several studies report that pediatricians commonly condone the use of DPH to help children sleep. In a survey of pediatricians practicing primary care in the U.S. [1], 45% reported recommending nonprescription medications to help children sleep during travel, with antihistamines such as Benadryl being the most common. A study of sleep medication used in pediatric patients in three U.S. academic children’s hospitals found that hospitalized kids were routinely given drug(s) to help them sleep [2] and again, antihistamines were the most frequent choice. The authors of this last study express some concern that there are no FDA-approved medications for pediatric sleep aids and no standard guidelines for use, off-label or not [3].

So does it work? Does Benadryl, or rather the DPH in it, help kids sleep better? There aren’t any studies of Benadryl use in fussy toddlers on airplanes, but DPH has been investigated as a sleep aid for kids who generally have trouble sleeping at home.

A 1976 study tested DPH in kids aged 2-12 identified as having sleep problems [4]. Although small (50 kids), this was a careful double-blind, crossover trial in which kids received a placebo for two weeks and DPH for two weeks. Kids were given a standard dose of 1 mg/kg 30 minutes before bedtime. DPH reduced both the amount of time it took kids to fall asleep and the number of night wakings compared to the placebo.  Importantly, the study reported no paradoxical or otherwise adverse reactions to DPH at this dose.

However, several more recent studies have found different results. The aptly-named TIRED study, published in 2006, tested DPH (1 mg/kg) or a placebo in 44 babies aged 6 to 15 months [5]. However, the trial was stopped after just one week because the DPH did not appear to be effective in improving sleep – either falling asleep or staying asleep. Mild hyperactivity was observed in one child taking DPH, but it was also noted in one of the children taking the placebo. The authors conclude:

“Many in the medical and lay community accept diphenhydramine as effective treatment for sleep problems. Unfortunately, this attitude is based on anecdote and studies of adult physiological interactions. However, the TIRED study results demonstrated that at the most commonly used dose, diphenhydramine may play no role in treating infant sleep problems. Although parents did not report increased hyperactivity in the diphenhydramine group compared with the placebo group, it is also possible that diphenhydramine caused low-level hyperactivity in children, thereby negating the sleep benefits seen in some adults.”

Another recent study on older kids (2-16 years old) with nighttime coughing found that DPH on a single night did not improve sleep quality (or coughing) [4]. It also didn’t cause hyperactivity or insomnia.

So we have one study that found that DPH helped kids aged 2-12 to sleep and two more recent studies, including one on infants, which found no effect on sleep. None of the three studies found a paradoxical reaction of hyperactivity to be a problem. This doesn’t give us much data to work with, particularly since all three studies were rather small. In addition, these studies were conducted in familiar environments of the children’s homes. Hyperactivity may be more likely to occur in a place as stimulating as an airplane. Regardless, DPH seems to be neither overwhelmingly effective nor risky.

That said, all drugs are risky to some extent. Other side effects listed for DPH include dry mouth, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, chest congestion, headache, and vision problems. You wouldn’t wish these on your kids in any circumstance, and especially not on an airplane. Since there isn’t strong evidence that it works to help kids sleep in the first place, why risk it? At the very least, talk with your pediatrician if you are considering it.

We had a rough red-eye flight with BabyC, but we’ll never know if Benadryl made it worse. She’s had these kinds of inconsolable can’t-get-to-sleep tantrums before when we were traveling, just not in flight. Whatever the cause, we aren’t inclined to try using Benadryl again. But then, you won’t find us on a red-eye anytime soon either.

Have you ever tried using Benadryl to help your child sleep for travel? Have you considered it?

REFERENCES

1. Owens, J.A., C.L. Rosen, and J.A. Mindell, Medication use in the treatment of pediatric insomnia: results of a survey of community-based pediatricians. Pediatrics, 2003. 111(5 Pt 1): p. e628-35.

2. Meltzer, L.J., et al., Use of sleep medications in hospitalized pediatric patients. Pediatrics, 2007. 119(6): p. 1047-55.

3. Mindell, J.A., et al., Pharmacologic management of insomnia in children and adolescents: consensus statement. Pediatrics, 2006. 117(6): p. e1223-32.

4. Russo, R.M., V.J. Gururaj, and J.E. Allen, The effectiveness of diphenhydramine HCI in pediatric sleep disorders. J Clin Pharmacol, 1976. 16(5-6): p. 284-8.

5. Merenstein, D., et al., The trial of infant response to diphenhydramine: the TIRED study–a randomized, controlled, patient-oriented trial. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 2006. 160(7): p. 707-12.

49 thoughts on “Using Benadryl for Travel with a Toddler: A Cautionary Tale and a Little Science

  1. I too tried that on a flight to Newark from CA. I had the worst flight with my little guy- I will never know if it was his age, just him, or the benadryl. But one thing is for sure- i’ll NEVER try that again!!

  2. I’m not sure why dosing kids during travel gets such a bad rap. If you dose kids to prevent teething pain or constipation no one would say a peep, does insomnia not count as a medical issue? Sure, I’d agree that diphenhydramine perhaps may not work the best but I’m not sure there is much else out there for kiddos… I’m pretty sure Ambien is a no go for kids and I would think that messing with serotonin in children would be potentially very dangerous, personally I would not even use valerian root on my kids. Pediatricians probably offer benadryl because there are no other alternatives. Also many kids are affected by motion sickness, have any studies looked at those symptoms in regards to diphenhydramine. I’d take a child with a paradoxical reaction over one vomiting all over my lap (and still awake) any day!

    Great post!

    • I agree that we shouldn’t give parents a hard time about using a sleepy medication for travel. As a parent, I now know that this is not a matter of convenience or laziness. It is mainly a matter of comfort for the child and fellow passengers. But as you say, the problem is that there isn’t a really good drug. Like you, I would be more comfortable using an approved drug (even off-label) than an herbal or homeopathic remedy. (And as a side note, I always think it is funny/disturbing when parents try these type of remedies for *everyday* sleep problems at home but balk at the mention of any kind of “sleep training.” That type of drug-use is more concerning to me than using a sleep aid occasionally for travel.) I didn’t run across anything on DPH for motion sickness in my research, but DPH is one of the ingredients in Dramamine (also labeled as Gravol). However, Dramamine contains a caffeine derivative to counteract the drowsiness side effect. (Disclaimer: I learned this last bit from Wikipedia:)

  3. I’ve found benadryl or ibuprofen for that matter makes my little guy extremely restless and uneasy if it’s anywhere but home.

    • Even though it is just an N=1, sometimes the most valuable research is learned from our own kids! I wouldn’t be surprised if the side effects from DPH are impacted by the amount of stimulation in the environment.

  4. I’ve heard that over the counter melatonin zonks them out with no side effects. I haven’t tried it though. I flew with my then 17 month old daughter from Sydney to Seattle by myself (and back). She slept for about 1 hour (no drugs of any type were used). Makes me cringe just thinking about it….

  5. If it makes you feel any better, we had a shocker of a flight (only 3 hours too) during the day with our 2 year old. It felt like he cried the whole time! And we were in business class (sob sob, the first time ever for me)! On the plus side, the complimentary champagne dulled the sounds of our son’s wails. And there was more space in the aisle. We didn’t try Benadryl, but perhaps I should’ve popped some bubbly in his sippy cup.

    • 3 hours is long enough:( I would be bummed about the business class experience being compromised by a toddler, too! I always look longingly at those nice plush seats as we work our way back into coach.

  6. I appreciate the science and explanations you provide at the end. I have never drugged either child or dog to travel (my vet said there would be no way to know reaction at higher altitudes). Perhaps stupidly, I applied that thinking to kids drugs too. The box of children’s benadryl says it’s not for children under 4 (at least the ones I have seen.) Perhaps my expecations of travel are different, as we live in a place that it is minimum 6 hours to get anywhere. I just expect to look and feel like a zombie when I get to the destination.

    • I think you’re onto something – just expect the worse, apologize to those around you in advance, do your best, and be pleasantly surprised if the trip goes smoothly:) I’ve read different things about age limits for Benadryl, another reason to talk with your pediatrician about it. It is certainly used frequently in children under 4, but that may be off-label.

  7. Hi, I’m new to your blog! I know something about this! My mother in law now deceased, was one of the original scientists who developed Benedryl. When I had a fussy baby she suggested, I use some Benedryl to help her sleep, also when traveling……my oldest daughter at 5 yr old woul recommend aloud that her father and I give her little sister some “nigh- nigh medicine!”. This medicine has been around since the late 50s I believe. I still swear by my good experience and it did help that I had a scientist as her grandma.
    Good blog,
    Please visit teachsafety😉

  8. Thank you so much for your post. Very timely as we are flying from Australia to Europe with our 14 month old in two weeks (arghh!!!). He has flown regularly since he was born, but this will be his first long haul flight. Like you I wasn’t keen on the idea of using sedating antihistamines, but as the date draws closer I’m getting a little more nervous and considering my options (people use phenergan/promethazine in Australia). We have been very spoilt by having a little man who has always slept wonderfully in a cot, but the flip side of that is that he will only really sleep in a cot. I think he needs his peace and quiet to relax/wind down as he has never really slept well on us or in carriers etc. He is tall for his age and therefore unfortunately won’t fit in the on-board bassinet. After reading your post I think I will just stick to plan A – take lots of food/distractions, expect no sleep for my husband and I, and keep my fingers crossed!! Thanks again!

    • BabyC is the same way – she sleeps like a dream in her crib and likes having plenty of space to spread out in. It was funny having her sleep across our laps on this flight and watch her try to get comfortable. When she would start fussing, I couldn’t help but reach out and pat her on the back, but she shook me off! I think she really wants to be in her own space. I can’t say I blame her – I’m the same way! I didn’t mention in my post that we basically flew another red-eye – unplanned – on the way home. Our flight from Newark to Portland was delayed. We spent 8 hours in the Newark airport and didn’t board our flight until 11 PM. What saved us on that flight was that we ended up with an extra seat between us. That, and BabyC wanted to nurse, which made all the difference. She mellowed out with nursing and then sprawled out comfortably in her own seat. Husband and I didn’t sleep much – he was getting kicked the whole time and I was preoccupied with making sure she wouldn’t roll off the seat. But the important thing was that she got some sleep and didn’t disturb the rest of the plane too much. This experience made us look forward to buying BabyC her own seat next time we fly very far (she’ll probably be 2 by then anyway.)

  9. I have flown by myself with one or two kids from Australia to Germany a few times now. The trip takes 30 hours door to door. Never once have I considered drugging my kids. I had a Hug-a-Bub and an Ergo and the Mantra: “It will pass. 30 hours may seem long, but it will pass”
    Yes, it was tiring, I will not deny that. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as expected.
    1st trip: DD was 6.5-8 months
    2nd trip: DD was 14 months
    3rd trip: DD was 32-34 months and DS was 7-9 months

    The worst was when on one trip the turbulence light kept coming on whenever DS had fallen asleep so I had to wake him and take him out of the bassinet and ont my lap and had to wake DD to put her seatbelt on properly.
    Same thing happened on DDs first flight. Whenever I had walked her to sleep in the carrier and managed to slide back into my seat, the seatbelt light came on and it meant I had to take her out of the carrier and put the seatbelt on her without a chance of walking again to settle her I was so glad I was breastfeeding her.
    I’m doing the trip again at the end of the year with a 5 1/2 and a 3 1/2 year old. I’m not scared of it anymore.

    • I love your mantra and your attitude! Good luck with your next flight. Surely things get easier as they get older, right? I have to think that this toddler stage is one of the worst. It is certainly harder than flying with BabyC before she was walking. She just hates sitting still now, and her attention for things like books or games is pretty limited.

      • That is exactly right. The first 9-12 months are relatiely easy and then from about 2 1/2 onwards is ok, too. Once they can watch TV with a half decent atttention span it gets much easier.
        Our worst flight ever was a one hour daytime flight to Sydney when DD was about 20 months. She had her own seat but did not want to be buckled up at all for take off and landing…

        On another note regarding the use of drugs for flights. Here in Australia, many people use Phenergan (promethazine) for travel. What concerns me most is that possible side effects are not only hyper-activity and vomiting, which – as you mentioned could be extremely uncomfortable for everyone involved on a plane trip. Another side effect is breathing problems right down to “breathing may stop”. Having something like that happen on a a plane, high up in the air somewhere over an ocean – without access to hospitals and quality first aid – is enough to scare me off from considering giving this to a young child.
        I am glad you at least tried the drug out once before giving it to your child on a plane trip. Most people don’t.

  10. I’m a bit perplexed and disappointed that parents would consider drugging their child instead of trusting that (like Alex said above) this too shall pass and that together (or even alone) you can handle whatever it takes for one night or all day to comfort your child.

    • I am happy to do whatever it takes to comfort my child as we travel (and most times, within reason!). It isn’t really about me. It is about her experience – I want her to be comfortable (because sometimes whatever I can offer is not enough, like this trip when she didn’t want to nurse, have her back rubbed, be sung to, etc) and to get some rest. And I hate the thought of disturbing a plane-full of passengers during the middle of the night. That BabyC cried for several hours total on this flight tells me something. She rarely cries at home unless she is really injured, so she was having a horrible time. If there was a remedy for that discomfort, I would give it to her. Unfortunately, we learned through this experience that Benadryl is not an easy fix, and I wouldn’t try it again. As I said, I don’t think we’ll fly much past bedtime again either. BabyC is much less likely to be this cranky during a daytime flight, and I wouldn’t worry about disturbing other passengers during the day either.

      • I agree with you, SOM. If there was a safe method, that doesn’t have any side effects, you would want to make your child comfortable. Unfortunately there isn’t. And if you had seen my beautiful friend in an artificial coma, for a month, fighting for her life after taking a “safe” anti-inflammatory drug (which she had taken many times before) with something called SJS/TENS (basically like terrible internal and external burns), then you would probably think twice about whether a few hours of discomfort for you, your child and other passengers is a good idea.
        I think your solution of avoiding red eyes is a good one. I think what has helped me on my laung-haul flights is that we left around lunch time. So the kids had a few hours to settle into the plane environment before it was sleep time. There’s no way they would have gone to sleep straight away. They would have been too excited.

  11. Reblogged this on TheBrabbleRabble and commented:
    I’ve WANTED to dose my kids just to get some peace in my own home! Travelling on a plane with a young one is always a stressful event. I’ve never given my kids Benadryl just to help them sleep, but I wouldn’t judge a parent who did. I have seen the opposite effect of irritability and hyperactivity in my own kids, so I wouldn’t take the chance of that happening on a plane! Luckily, my kids have always behaved well.

  12. I have not tried it. We’ve only flown with Chloe once, and that went well. You seem like such an experienced mommy-traveler, though. I probably wouldn’t have dared go for a red-eye flight (not just b/c of baby concerns… but b/c of my own sleeping concerns)… but I guess you don’t know until you try. Great post. I love reading your blog and I pass on Science of Mom when I can!

    • Thanks! Obviously, I’m still gaining experience as a mommy-traveler. A few people have told me that the red-eye worked for them, but I think they were traveling with younger infants, but it is always a gamble. Also, I think if your kid has her own seat and can sleep in her car seat, it probably makes a huge difference. We weren’t exactly set up for success on this one.

  13. Great post. I haven’t tried gravol yet for my kids, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t consider it for a long-haul flight.

    I could be considered a “bad” mom — I once put a drop of red wine on my teething infant’s gums. Gah! Blasphemy! ;)

  14. When my oldest was a year old I was taking her on a 4 hour flight by myself and asked the pediatrician about Benedryl. She recommended I get slightly schnockered on red wine and then nurse her 30 minutes or so before the flight. She slept through the whole thing, except for a few minutes when she woke up wanting to nurse some more (I guess she liked it). I, on the other hand, had a terrible headache, was sick to my stomach, got a nose bleed that dripped on the baby-hating lady next to me, ended up exposing one breast to half the passengers on the plane – all while trying to manage a limp sleepy sack of baby… which may or may not have been better than a crying one. With the current toddler we just drive. LOL.

    • Oh dear. You just can’t win, can you? I just wish that I had appreciated flying solo in my pre-child days. I used to complain about the tight spaces and dry air. Now I would love to just read my book for a flight or even for 15 minutes of one!

  15. Benadryl or any kind of antihistamine has always had the oppositie effect on me so I’ve always been loathe to give any to my kids who have flown Boston-London-Boston several times since they were kids. We always take the night flight and they always sleep – eventually. In the meantime, I keep them occupied. Now they are older it’s definitely easier. We had some hairy flights in the early days but you plough on through and smile.

  16. I have never considered using Benadryl because I know first hand how it feels to have a reaction to it. I had a rash one evening when I was about 12 and my dad gave me Benadryl. I literally did not sleep and was very jittery and uncomfortable for 2 days! I had to give it to my son when he had an allergic reaction to peanuts and it didn’t seem to have an effect on his sleep (he was very subdued and calm for a couple of hours, but how much of that was a reaction to the stress of the allergic reaction? We will never know.). I have used all natural teething remedies (Gentle Naturals Teething Drops and Hyland’s Teething Tablets) during long car rides. One of the active ingredients is chamomile. I cannot be sure if the good travel experiences at these times were coincidences or caused by the teething remedy, but neither baby had adverse reactions. Might be an option to try!

  17. It sounds to me that overtiredness could have been the prime reason your little BabyC couldn’t sleep. My son was like that as a baby. If you didn’t catch his “window” and put him down, watch out! Great idea for a blog! :)

  18. Personally, I would not give my son meds in the hopes of having a better travel experience for all involved. I would try to schedule the travel around his best times of day–definitely not the red eye. I would pay extra to avoid that one, but unlike some of the people commenting, we are not traveling with him overseas where that could not be avoided. To the person who made the comment that their doctor told them to drink wine and nurse before/during their flight, I am actually appalled by that one and would have promptly found a new pediatrician. Think, people–use your common sense whether travelling or not!

  19. Oh! That sounds like a rough flight. I can’t believe your husband slept in the bathroom for two hours. That’s hilarious AND heroic.
    Thank you for “coming clean” and sharing your experience so honestly, especially at the risk of being judged in a semi-public forum. That takes guts.

  20. Kudos to your husband…for real. I have only flown once with my kids, by myself and I swore I would never do it again…but I may have to. :( It was a flight with a lay-over and I prepared by packing a ton of new activities and food. My oldest daughter had a seat, so my then 1.5 year old would sometimes share with her, or take over her seat. I know that my taking “safe” drugs of any kind has an effect on my daughter when she nurses(or it really seems that way) and I’ve never given them any medicines so it really didn’t occur to me to give them anything. It wasn’t too bad until the very end. I ended up in the bathroom as well, for the last 30 or so minutes and the flight attendants were not happy with me, but I didn’t have a choice. I may have also flashed while nursing and it wasn’t comfortable to do so in such a tight space. I had way too bulky bags that I kept at our seats, but I had to do that. I read story after story and my youngest was really interested in everything my 4 year old said to all the passengers and to herself while looking out the windows. I told them stories about the skies and fairies and clouds, and did you see this and did you see that…I was super-tired but trying to be as animated as possible. It was exhausting, but I know it could’ve been a lot worse, so I am grateful for that experience. If I could do it without being so rushed during my layover and not having to have such bulky bags I’d feel a lot better. A flight that’s not full would be nice too…but does that even happen anymore?

    I’m well-traveled with my kids…but it’s always by driving… everyone told me flying wouldn’t be difficult but I knew it would be and I don’t look forward to doing it again.

  21. I had a different experience, for a very specific reason. I considered taking Benadryl when I flew alone with my child to Daniel, and decided against it. I was very, very sorry. Daniel had a cold before we left. Just a cold, not serious enough to cancel plans for. But it disturbed his sleep in the plane. And it made the trip twice as hard for him, and hence for me. I was very sorry I did not take Benadryl, less for the sleep qualities, more for the decongestant qualities. He was so miserable. I don’t know if he would have slept with it, but I think he would have had less trouble breathing. Sometimes, there are real barriers to sleep.

  22. Thank you for sharing your experience. My husband and I are in the process of adopting our first child (internationally from the Congo, we reside in Colorado) and I am terrified for the return flight. Having traveled often for business I know that many people can be judgmental and annoyed with a crying baby. I enjoyed reading your travel tips post and this one on the use of Benedryl. We have wondered if Benedryl would be helpful on our return trip (estimated to take 36 hours with the layovers), so this was a great post on some of the research that has been done. Not sure what we will end up doing but appreciate your honesty and information that you provided!

  23. I don’t know if your aware, but in larger doses DPH causes very intense and realistic hallucinations (Delirium). In people who are hypersensitive to the drug these effects can occur even at low doses, like the doses that people usually take to go to sleep. I can’t imagine that doctors would recommend giving this drug to babies…

  24. Ok! This settles it! I’ve had 4 friends recommend getting Benadryl for the kids, as I’m about to take a solo-parent flight with them from Chicago to Spain. But then my best friend said: NO WAY! Don’t do it, it caused our son to get totally hyperactive. If there is no evidence strongly supporting the use of Benadryl, then I’ll skip it, to avoid adverse reactions, which would be much worse.

    Thank you for the post! :)

  25. Well I am going to comment as an older mom, now a grandma. When my oldest daughter was 3 months old and on her first flight, she screamed as we were stuck on the tarmat for 1 1/2 hrs. It was awful. It’s not that I am insensitive to other travelers but I paid for my ticket too and my little princess was miserable. I worked at the hospital then and all the drs who were my friends said to use benedryl for her sake,not mine, not the other travelers but you know how you feel after no sleep.. So from then on we used benedryl on all of our trips. We used it and drove overnight to almost all our trips as our 3rd child came along. I can honestly tell you that the kids slept so good in the car with the bendryl and kool aid cocktail. I didn’t feel guilty because the next day , they were ready to go. They enjoyed the trip and became very seasoned travelers. Now that they are all grown up they in the last two years found out that we used cocktails to help them travel. We did not apologize but only said they would understand one day. When my grandson flew last year they all 3 had an awful excuse and so it will be interesting to see if they use something this year. Just had to weigh in , I feel like I did my kids a favor and helped them love to travel. We sure did log a lot of miles and made many happy memories with those happy kids! Kudos to your hubbby and I can understand how he fell asleep for 2 hours. .I have let my leg and my arm go numb when my asthmatic child feel asleep in my arms before. Thanks for the blog!

  26. We are traveling from Denmark to California next spring with our by then 4year old daughter and yes we are thinking on taking phenegan and kids paracetamol with us just in case. It Will be her first time on a plane and we want it to be as stressfree a journey for her as possible. We Will have enough worries to deal with as she has a pacemaker and that can in a worst case scenario lead to some interesting moments at the Security check since she might set off some alarms and be unable to do certain things.

    Now we are a pretty “not scared of medicine” family due to the fact we spend a lot of time at hospitals which has also made us good at reading her needs. Don’t get me wrong we don’t dose her to high heavens at the drop of a hat, but if we see she’s in need of reliefe we give it to her and don’t just tough it out because the World might frown upon kids being given medicine.

  27. I’ve never used Benadryl but once, before traveling, I asked my (rather “crunchy”) pediatrician how to keep the baby calm and she told me to get “a little drunk” 30 minutes before I nursed. I did and it was the best flight ever. The baby and I were both very calm and sleepy! lol I know there are people out there who freak out about this kind of stuff and I wouldn’t recommend doing it daily (that’s the only time I drank more than 1 glass while nursing) but every now and then….

  28. We just flew from the NY metro area to FL, and 2 out of 3 kids (we are elementary and middle school age) had a miserable trip down (their ears) despite the fact that we had gotten them those special ear things that are meant for the plane. On the way back I dosed the 2 who had bad flights with Benedryl, and they were good to go, no issues with their ears at all. So we used Benedryl (even when they were little) and it had nothing to do with knocking them out, it is solely used as an antihistamine to dry out their sinuses so their ears don’t kill them.

  29. My experience is that in a familiar and comfortable situation, Benadryl can be helpful to get a child to sleep, but can cause grogginess and irritability the next morning. But in an unfamiliar or over stimulating environment, it can be disastrous to give a child Benadryl. Their stimulated mind fights the sleepy effects, resulting in a very unhappy child, loudly expressing his discomfort.

  30. Pingback: Tips for holiday travel with young children | Two Peds in a Pod®

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