Doctors do not usually prescribe Benadryl for eczema symptoms due to the risk of side effects. However, several other oral and topical treatments are available.
Healthcare professionals prescribe several creams or ointments to soothe the affected patches of skin and prevent eczema flares.
Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines usually relieve itching due to insect bites or allergies. Some antihistamines, such as Benadryl, also contain sedatives, preventing eczema-related itching during sleep. However, experts consider this a preventive short-term measure rather than a long-term treatment for the symptoms.
This article provides more information about Benadryl, including its use as an eczema treatment, its potential side effects, and its uses in children. It also looks at other types of antihistamines and additional treatments for eczema.
Benadryl contains the active ingredient diphenhydramine. As a type of antihistamine, this medication works by blocking the effects of histamine, a substance in the blood.
This medication comes in many different oral forms, including:
- chewable tablets
- liquid solutions
Topical forms are also available, such as:
Does it work for eczema?
However, diphenhydramine is a sedating antihistamine, so doctors use it to treat short-term sleep issues. If itching during a flare-up affects a person’s sleep, a doctor may suggest taking this type of antihistamine.
However, this is not a long-term treatment option, and it does not resolve the underlying issue, so a person should speak with a doctor about suitable ways to stop the itching.
Parents or caregivers can also give this medication to children over the age of 6 years for coughs and colds and to children over 12 years of age for allergies.
Doctors may recommend Benadryl when an intense eczema itch keeps a child awake most nights. A sedating antihistamine will help with sleeping and prevent itching, but it will not treat eczema.
Parents or caregivers should consult a doctor to learn more about long-term treatment options and ways to reduce nighttime itching.
As with all medications, Benadryl can cause side effects for some people.
Common side effects of the active ingredient in Benadryl, alongside drowsiness, include:
Topical diphenhydramine may worsen a rash and make a person’s skin sensitive to sunlight.
Other possible treatments for eczema include:
- OTC moisturizers to prevent loss of water from the skin
- OTC or prescription steroid creams, such as hydrocortisone, can reduce inflammation
- prescription oral or topical corticosteroids
- prescription topical calcineurin inhibitors, such as pimecrolimus (Elidel), for the relief of mild to moderate eczema
- prescription systemic medications and biologics
- prescription oral or topical antibiotics to treat skin infections
- phototherapy to relieve skin inflammation
A person should consult a doctor for advice on the most suitable treatment for eczema flares and symptoms. People can also explore alternative remedies using natural ingredients that are softer on the skin, such as baths and ointments.
Ingredients in creams
People should aim to buy hand creams and body lotions that are anti-itch and contain eczema-friendly ingredients. These include:
Doctors may advise people with eczema to try to identify the triggers for their symptoms. Avoiding known triggers can help people prevent symptoms from occurring or worsening.
- dust mites
- animals and pet dander
- certain foods
- cold and dry air
- a cold or the flu
- rough materials, such as wool
- emotional factors, such as stress
- fragrances or dyes in skin lotions or soaps
A person should also try to avoid scratching where possible. Instead, they can gently rub the skin with their fingers. If a child has eczema, anti-scratch mittens may stop them from scratching their skin.
Other options include keeping the nails short and clean and covering the skin with light clothing to minimize damage.
Doctors do not generally recommend Benadryl for treating eczema in adults or children. Although this medication does help treat itching and rashes resulting from hives, it does not have the same benefits for relieving eczema-related itching.
However, as this drug has sedating effects, it will make a person tired, potentially preventing them from itching at night.
OTC and prescription drugs are more effective treatments, and they are available in topical and oral forms. People may also wish to explore alternative and home remedies that can soothe affected skin areas.