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.

A child with a pacifier in mouth with eczema rash on neckShare on Pinterest
Getty Images

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:

  • tablets
  • capsules
  • chewable tablets
  • liquid solutions

Topical forms are also available, such as:

  • creams
  • gels
  • sprays
  • sticks

Does it work for eczema?

Despite Bendrayl’s widespread use in treating hives, rash, and itching, a 2019 study found insufficient evidence that oral antihistamines were effective for eczema itching.

Similarly, researchers explored the effectiveness of topical antihistamines for treating eczema but found limited evidence to support their benefits.

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.

As this medication causes sleepiness and drowsiness, it could, in turn, reduce the itching from eczema that a person experiences once they have gone to bed.

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.

Learn more about stopping eczema from itching at night.

Most adults and young people aged 16 years and older can take diphenhydramine. Learn more about eczema in adults.

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.

Learn more about eczema in children.

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.

Researchers do not recommend topical or oral diphenhydramine due to the risk of systemic toxicities, particularly in children. These include toxic psychosis, which involves hallucinations and delirium.

Other possible treatments for eczema include:

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:

Learn more about natural remedies for eczema.

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.

Possible triggers include:

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.