Have you ever had a cough so ugly, so persistent, or so annoying that you wish it would just go away already? Odds are, you’ve had several of those. Because a cough is just that common. And since you’ve wished that your cough (or maybe your kids’ coughs) could magically disappear, you’ve probably wondered if you can use Benadryl for cough to make your days, nights, and any other time that much better.
Well, in addition to the best Cough remedies for kids, here is what you need to know about using Benadryl to manage your coughing spells – answered by a nurse with 8 years’ experience in the Emergency Department setting.
Ask a Nurse: What You Need to Know About Benadryl for Cough
Before we dive in, an important note: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Benadryl for a cough.
First of all, it’s important to note that there are many forms of Benadryl out there. They’ve got some great products, but the specific one we’re talking about today is “regular” Benadryl, or diphenhydramine. And really, that’s a mouthful. Which is why everyone just calls it Benadryl.
Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine. It works by blocking histamines, hence the term “anti-histamine.” Histamines are a chemical compound (neurotransmitter) that your body releases when you’re having an allergic reaction.
Wait – so if this is an allergy medicine, is it going to help a cough??
Will Benadryl Help a Cough?
Look, I get asked this a lot – that or its sister question of “is Benadryl a cough suppressant?” The answer is yes, no, and it depends.
Here’s the long, science version.
The first generations of antihistamines (like diphenhydramine) are officially labeled by the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as antitussives (cough suppressants). That means that yes, they help suppress some types of coughing.
And in a 2015 study (titled Inhibition of cough reflex sensitivity by diphenhydramine during acute viral respiratory tract infection) researchers finally showed that Benadryl actually does alleviate coughing caused by a viral infection like the common cold.
Here’s the short version.
Despite Benadryl having helped relieve countless coughs for decades, in 2015 somebody finally did a study that showed it actually helps with some types of coughing.
So if you’ve got a common cold or seasonal allergies, then yes. Benadryl can help your cough. And yes, it’s a cough suppressant.
However, if you’ve got a cough caused by a chronic lung disease (like asthma or COPD), then it won’t help very much – if at all. That type of a cough needs a different type of medicine – and regular evaluation by your physician.
Got a Nasty Night Cough? Is Benadryl Good for Cough Like That?
If you’re coughing at night, Benadryl can probably help with that, too. Of course, that depends on what’s causing that cough.
If it’s caused by hay fever, allergies, a common cold (or cold symptoms), or post nasal drip, Benadryl may help.
On the other hand, us asthmatics need our inhalers. And maybe some Benadryl, too, if we’ve got a nasty cold.
However, make sure you’re talking to your doctor and pharmacist about what medicines you may be taking throughout the course of a day. They’ll be able to help you make sure you aren’t aiming for disaster.
Can I Give My Kids Benadryl for a Cough?
Having sick kids is no fun. And with your toddler coughing at night, it could be very tempting to just give them a quick dose to temporarily treat the cough. Unfortunately, that’s actually NOT a great idea in this scenario.
That’s because the FDA decided that it’s better to be cautious when giving cough and cold products to kids.
In fact, the FDA says that kids under the age of 2 should never be given cough suppressants that contain decongestants or antihistamines in their active ingredients. There have been so many problems with accidental overdoses that the pharmaceutical manufacturers voluntarily relabeled all those medicines to say “do not use in children under 4 years of age.”
Once the FDA came out with that recommendation, doctors stopped prescribing cough suppressants to kids. In fact, the doctors I worked with wouldn’t prescribe them for anyone under the age of 6. Instead, they recommended more natural remedies, like a teaspoon of honey just before bed or using a humidifier. And, always remember to sleep elevated (as long as it’s safe).
But if your child’s cough is associated with an allergic reaction, then that’s a whole other ballgame. In that scenario, Benadryl is just fine for children. I’ve given Benadryl (under a physician’s order) to children as young as 4 months in the hospital setting. And in those instances, Benadryl helped manage the allergic reaction – and any associated coughing.
Just make sure you’re seeing your doctor for that allergic reaction, because there is real potential for badness there.
Summary: Yes, Adults Can Take Benadryl For Cough
So if you’re tired of coughing and hacking from your cold or seasonal allergies, go get some Benadryl. As long as you’re headed to bed anyway, take an appropriate dose and get the rest your body needs to recover.
If it’s for your kids? Do not use it for kiddos under the age of 2. For kids 2+, ask your doctor if there’s any issue with it. Then, ask for the exact right dosing for your child. They should be able to guide you in the right direction.
Feel better soon.
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- Want more tips and tricks? Get all of my Health Resources, Tips, and Pointers from an ER Nurse, via yours truly, Kimberly C. Starr RN (BSN)