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article imageBenadryl's availability over-the-counter called into question

By Karen Graham     Nov 14, 2019 in Health
For decades, Benadryl has been the most popular over-the-counter allergy medication in Canada and the United States. Used according to instructions, the medication has helped relieve allergies, hives and hay fever.
"There are many other safer options that work as well or better' than Benadryl and other older antihistamines," says Dr. David Fischer, one of the authors of a recent position paper from the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, according to CBC Canada.
The position statement from the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology published in early October warns against Benadryl and other first-generation H1 antihistamines as first-line treatments for hay fever and hives. They claim the medication is overused because it is easily available.
The group also claims that Benadryl should be relegated to " behind-the-counter access" in pharmacies. “It dumbfounds us that people still want to use it,” says Dr. David Fischer a clinical allergist in Barrie, Ont., and an author of the CSACI position statement says of the group of antihistamines that include Benadryl.
What are the H1 antihistamines?
Commonly, H1 antihistamines are a class of medications that block the action of histamine at the H1 receptor, helping to relieve allergic reactions. H1-antihistamines are clinically used in the treatment of histamine-mediated allergic conditions.
H1 antihistamines that are approved for over-the-counter sale, at least in the United States, include:
*Brompheniramine (Dimetapp, Dimetane)
*Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton)
*Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine, Gravol) – a combination of diphenhydramine and 8-chlorotheophylline
*Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
*Doxylamine (Unisom)
The H1 antihistamines are considered First Generation medications and are relatively inexpensive and widely available. In the United States, a package of 24 generic Diphenhydramine 25 mg. tablets can cost about $2.00.
Pollen is a bad news for allergy sufferers
Pollen is a bad news for allergy sufferers
The active ingredient in Benadryl is diphenhydramine hydrochloride, and it "makes you drowsy and irritable and if you take too high a dose or an overdose, you will end up in the hospital," Fischer said. According to the CSACI statement - there are more side-effects that can be dangerous, too.
Other serious side-effects include breathing problems, coma, and seizures, according to the CSACI statement. There is also the potential for fatal heart rhythm disturbances when combined with other medications.
Fischer and his colleagues are recommending the newer generation H1 antihistamines, such as Reactine, Claritin, and Aerius, which make liquids or tablets for children as well as adult products. These medications are not only safer, but they act more quickly and do not cause sedation.
There are side-effects using antihistamines.
Using a medication containing diphenhydramine hydrochloride does have side-effects. They can include sleepiness, dry mouth, weakness, dizziness, and headaches. And you need to keep in mind that your body can build up a tolerance to the medication.
Microscope image of grass pollens.
Microscope image of grass pollens.
Charles Sturt University
People who use pain relievers with diphenhydramine hydrochloride, like Tylenol PM or generic Acetaminophen PM, have found that with continuous use, the two recommended tablets don't work as well to put them to sleep.
There are also some very serious side-effects associated with the use of medications with diphenhydramine hydrochloride, including decreased memory, impaired thinking, dementia, confusion, a fast heartbeat, and seizures. Just remember that Benadryl is not recommended for long-term use and like all medications, instructions for its use should be followed carefully.
Health Canada is reviewing the statement from the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. In a statement to The Canadian Press, Benadryl's maker, Johnson & Johnson, said, "Benadryl products have been trusted by doctors and moms for more than 60 years to provide effective symptom relief from allergies and allergic reactions."
Jennifer Gerdts, executive director of Food Allergy Canada, told CBC News, "With this statement from CSACI, it's crystal clear that Benadryl does not have a role in the treatment of allergic reactions. Parents need to understand that epinephrine is the first line and only recommended treatment to stop a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)."
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