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The dangers of medicating your child to sleep

In the summer, we reported on a Canadian study that found those who took sleeping pills had a higher mortality rate than those who avoided them. These 'sleeping pills' ranged from tranquilizers such as diazepam, to antihistamines such as diphenhydramines. It's the latter that we want to talk about today.

In September, a five month old boy died in Florida after an overdose of diphenhydramine. This drug is a common ingredient in many brand name medicines, including Nytol, Benadryl, Sominex, Advil PM, Sudafed PE Severe Cold and Robitussin Night Time. The labels on Children's Benadryl and Children's Tylenol state that they should not be used to induce sleep, yet many doctors will prescribe medications such as antihistamines to treat childhood insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Ironically, some of these drugs can actually end up exciting children, since many of them contain decongestants which can act as stimulants. Diphenhydramine shouldn't be consumed by anyone under the age of two, however it's generally considered safe when taken in recommended doses for older children.

What makes the risks particularly frightening is the fact that in a survey of 26,000 mothers, nearly one in five admitted medicating their child to get through an event such as a flight or a long drive, whilst one in twelve did it just to get some peace and quiet on a regular night.

Glenn Whelan, a doctor of pharmacy and assistant professor at the University of South Florida doesn't recommend parents use diphenhydramine for its sedation properties. We agree.

Source: Tampa Bay Times

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Last updated: November 1, 2011

This Article Was Written By

Martin Reed

Leave a Comment

  • A. Marina Fournier
    November 2, 2011, 4:08 am

    The only reason we gave our son Benadryl as an infant was to combat nausea on trips, before he was allowed dramamine.

    Every so often, Benadryl would make me drowsy, but not sleep–while it knocks out others completely for a full night! Oh, that my allergies and colds were so amenable to letting me sleep! I don’t *really* need to breathe at night, do I?