Benadryl has been used for decades as a medicine to treat everything from bee stings to mysterious baby hives, but a growing number of doctors now say the antihistamine is less effective and less safe than the latest alternatives.
A 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 urticaria.
It strikes us that people still want to use it
The group of doctors say the drug is being overused because it is easily available and should be restricted to pharmacy counter access.
"It surprises us that people still want to use it," says David Fischer, a clinical allergist in Barrie, Ontario, and an author of the CSACI position statement, says about the group of antihistamines including Benadryl.
Fischer says the medicinal ingredient in Benadryl, diphenhydramine hydrochloride, "makes you drowsy and irritable and if you take too much or overdose, you will end up in the hospital."
In comparison, Fischer says new-generation H1 antihistamines – like Reactine, Claritin and Aerius – are safer, more effective and work faster.