Although there are many treatments for eczema, you might wonder whether over-the-counter (OTC) options such as Benadryl can help. Although Benadryl is helpful for allergies and itchy skin from hives or bug bites, it is not recommended for eczema and is ineffective for treating it.

But if you are having trouble sleeping because of the itching, Benadryl might be helpful because of its sedating properties.

Talk with a doctor before using Benadryl in conjunction with your eczema treatment to ensure it’s appropriate and safe for you to use.

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is the brand name for an OTC antihistamine. It’s often used to relieve allergy symptoms and itchy skin from bug bites or hives.

Benadryl can be taken orally in pill or liquid form or applied to the skin in a cream, gel, or spray form. There are different formulations of Benadryl, with two allergy formulations, an itch-stopping cream and an itch cooling gel. All of the formulations except the itch cooling gel have diphenhydramine in them.

Diphenhydramine works as an inverse agonist at the H1 receptor. This means it reduces allergic reaction symptoms by limiting the effects of histamine, a substance the body releases to help fight the effects of allergens.

Although it’s effective for allergies, hay fever, and hives, Benadryl is less effective at treating eczema. OTC Benadryl is not approved to treat eczema. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends against using Benadryl to treat eczema, including its topical formulations. They say it might even cause allergic or contact dermatitis in some people.

A 2019 study found no consistent evidence that antihistamines were effective as an “add-on” therapy for eczema.

If you’re having trouble sleeping because of itching due to eczema, talk with a doctor about whether taking Benadryl is appropriate for you. But it should not be used to treat eczema itself.

As with any medication, even OTC ones, Benadryl can cause various side effects. These can range from mild to severe. Before using Benadryl, always talk with your doctor first.

Common side effects can include:

More severe side effects can include:

Call your doctor immediately if you experience any severe side effects or feel as if something is “off” after you take Benadryl.

Sometimes a pediatrician will recommend Benadryl for children with eczema. This is because the eczema is itchy and keeps them awake at night. In this case, Benadryl is used to help your child sleep, not to treat their eczema. In children, other side effects can occur with oral Benadryl, including:

If your child has any side effects, call your pediatrician immediately.

For more information about treatment options for eczema, read this.

Eczema is a common skin condition. It is also called atopic dermatitis. Eczema can be characterized by red, itchy, and inflamed patches on light skin and dark, purple, or gray itchy skin on people with darker skin tones. Eczema can occur at any age, although it’s often seen on babies and young children.

Although there are several types of eczema, the term usually refers to atopic dermatitis or a rash with dry and itchy skin. This is the most common kind of eczema. While it’s not definitively known what causes eczema, it is thought to be caused when an overactive immune system is triggered, causing an overactive response. It can sometimes also be triggered by stress.

Here’s more information on the types of eczema.

The symptoms of eczema involve the skin and can include:

  • inflamed skin that is itchy, dry, and rough
  • intense itching
  • thickened or scaly skin
  • small raise bumps that ooze when scratched

Although there is no single test to diagnose eczema, your doctor may be able to recognize itduring a routine physical exam, especially if other conditions have been ruled out.

Benadryl is not an effective treatment for eczema, but there are treatment options that work. The most common treatment for eczema is corticosteroid creams. Other treatments for eczema include:

Read this for more information about treatment for eczema.

Eczema can be very uncomfortable, but it can be treated and managed. There are many effective treatments available, particularly topical steroid creams. Although Benadryl is often used for itching, in both oral and topical form, it is not recommended for nor effective in the treatment of eczema.

If you are using Benadryl to help you or your child sleep because itching keeps you awake, ask a doctor if this is safe for you or your child. Never take more than the recommended amount, and let your doctor know about any other medications you or your child are taking.