May 4, 2006

Benadryl As A Jetway Drug?

The Wall Street Journal has an article today about some parents' "guilty secret": sedating their kids to get through a long flight.

For the kid's first trip to Japan when she was just five months old, she actually slept like 9-11 hours straight through each way on her own. On the way over, I flew solo with her, too, and as I was wandering around or standing and stretching, several people asked what I'd given her. The assumption was clear: dope kids up a bit, and they'll sleep through the flight. A Swedish dad on the plane talked about the vodka Swedish parents use regularly (I mean, give their traveling kids regularly), but in the States, the drug of choice seems to be Benadryl.

The Journal cites a Babycenter poll on the topic, which actually only talks about toddlers. I've created a similar poll below, but it's for babies and toddlers both. Let's see what DT readers think and do. Thoughts, stories, cautionary tales, or smugly judgmental freakouts go in the comments. Well, except for the last one. Keep those to yourself (unless they're really funny, of course).

A Guilty Secret: Some Parents Sedate Kids for Long Flights
[ via dt reader joan]

update: hm. the poll's server is a little groggy.


Sedate?! Hahahahaha... when my daughter was 10 months old, on the way back from Japan, she practically stood the entire 9 hours. We walked the length of the plane a couple times, and it still didn't tire her out. I think she got a little sleep toward the end of the flight, but I don't recall her actually shutting her eyes the entire time.

I think your poll needs one more option: no, haven't needed to, but would do it in a heartbeat if the situation presented itself.

We held off on using Benedryl for a long time. Then, my daughter (a) got a cold, (b) was teething, (c) was going through separation anxiety.

Even then, we sat on her floor until she fell asleep, or sometimes even slept on the floor of her room because, for the first 5-15 mins, she would keep looking up to see that we were still there. If we weren't, she'd stand up and cry. This happened several times a night.

Yes, we were babying her, but she was going through a lot.

Once she got better, we were able to get back to using the Ferber method (another debate, another time), but she still was waking up many times a night. At least now, we could leave the room right away, and she would sleep.

Finally, after several weeks of this, it was recommended to us that we try benedryl for a few nights to "get her used to sleeping through the night".

It worked. Sort of. At least she was only waking up once a night. Finally, after a couple days of this, we decided to try a night without it. That was last night. Woke up 3 or 4 times. Almost what she was doing before the benedryl, but after the cold.

Now, we aren't sure what to try...

[i'll guess that she woke up once, after about 4 hrs. When the kid gets sick, we suspend some of our regular sleeping rules, too. She'd coughed herself awake a few times, or almost awake, anyway, but of course, we'd be wide awake down the hall, listening to her. I think Brazelton talks about toddlers hitting rough patches where their sleep habits get all out of whack. I'll look it up. -ed.]

I have never needed to, because we have never flown anywhere, but I sure would. Do car trips count, cause that would mean yes!!

you have no idea...when the effects turn out to be the reverse. yup, you heard me.
first time i flew to LA [the OC actually]my cousin who works for a doctor recommended to give him a shot of Dimetapp since i was flying alone AND for relief of ear pressure build up during take off. made sense - the ear pressure thing. WELL! my calm and cool kid, 80% of the time to be honest...went nuts! he was one and a half and outta control. by the end of the flight my arms were so sore from wrangling him for 4 hours, he ended up accidentally head butting me right after we landed and i got off the plane with a black eye. in his words at the time and my thoughts...'Dimetapp bad, mama sad.'.
another time we went to the doctor for a cold, and he recommended Benadryl allergy relief for kids. and the pharmacist warned me it may have reverse effects you never know. and i cringed as i bought it. yup, ended up being awake with him while he jumped like a banshee on the sofa till 3am. no more.
Tylenol for kids is the only thing that is used in this house for fevers and colds, thats it.
is there a 'never again, you have no idea' option on that poll?

[yeah, the article mentions the importance of testing the effects of antihistamines on your kid BEFORE you actually need them in the air. -ed.]

Kaz, my kid is a healthy almost 3yr old toddler and we still stay with her on the floor until she's asleep at night. Never thought twice about it. She's going to ask us to leave her alone soon enough - so why not enjoy it while it lasts :)

Btw, I would suggest to ask the Benedryl question on Urbanbaby. You'll trigger interesting reactions that are similar to "cab w/o car seat" or "cry it out".

[i'll do an urbanbabywatch search later to sift some useful info out of the freakouts. -ed.]

This technique was immortalized in song by singer James McMurtry (yes, he's the son of Western author Larry McMurtry). The song, titled "Choctaw Bingo" (, is about taking the kids on a road trip. It starts out with this wonderful suggestion:

"Strap them kids in
Give 'em a little bit of vodka in a cherry coke
We're going to Oklahoma to the family reunion for the first time in years
It's up at uncle Slayton's cause he's getting on in years"

And at the end:

"He plays that Choctaw Bingo every Friday night
Drinks that Johnny Walker at that Club 69
We're gonna strap them kids in give 'em a little bit o' Benadryl
And a cherry coke we're goin' to Oklahoma Gonna have us a time"

The Jet Set may just now be discovering the effects of violating the label directions, but their poor cousins have known about it for a *long* time.

Myself, I kept my 2-year-old busy on the way from Dallas to eastern Kentucky and back by pretending my hand was a spider. She still likes spiders.

yes, I have done it, and let me tell you--it backfired completely. benadryl with some kids makes them hyper in a crawl over the seat in front kind of way.

strongly suggest trial run at home before trying. or use booze. (uh. kidding. yeah. kidding.)

p.s. Amalah is pimping you guys over at ClubMom

I've travelled all over with our kid and I've found that Benadryl and Vodka work GREAT! First, I pop the Benadryl before I get on the plane. Then, I down 6 martinis. After that? I'm out like a light and the kid is free to do whatever she wants on the plane. Try it. Works every time.

You actually need another option. . . "No, because benadryl has the opposite effect which would therefore send passengers and crew alike jumping from the windows."

The half dozen or so flights we've taken with our baby have been fine. We're fortunate to have a pretty mellow baby, so a bit of Tylenol to help with the discomfort, then nursing through take-off and landing were sufficient. She usually ended up falling asleep during the nursing and slept through most of the 4 hr flights. Our next trip might be a little different, since she's officially entered toddlerhood and has weaned.

What do you mean, "guilty secret"? We adopted our daughter from China, and I can vouch that EVERY SINGLE PERSON on the 13-hour flight from Guangzhou to LA was letting the Benadryl flow freely the moment we got on the plane. I even suggested having the airline pass the stuff out in single-dosage units like ketchup packets. Nowadays we just plan our trips around her nap times, but there's no way I would have done that flight home without sedatives.

Your posting couldn't be more timely. We're traveling non-stop from DCA to LAX next Thursday with our 15 month-old, our first 3+ hour flight since she started walking and copping attitude (such as alternately mumbling-singing-screaming 'no' for 15 minutes straight). Perhaps we'll give the Benadryl a dry run over the weekend. If this doesn't work, the only thing that calms her down is for me and my husband to rap the words to "Barnyard Dance" by Sandra Boynton -- from the perspective of fellow passengers, I'm not sure this is actually better than listening to a screaming toddler.

My son is 20 months old and has been on 2 international trips and 6 flights longer than 6 hours. I had to use First Fevers which makes todds drowsy - but that was once when he was really excited. Generally he is an easy traveler. If I had to, I would use the doc's prescibed phenergan suppositories for sedation.

I've never had to worry about a plane ride, but I took a cross country bus trip with a 2 year old when I was 8 months pregnant. I was the only adult. You better believe that kid got something 'to calm him down'.

He's now a big strong smart Calvary Scout serving his country, so I don't think I did him any permanent damage.

I've always wanted my kids awake on the plane because then they would sleep at the hotel. Better to piss people off at 3 in the afternoon than 3 in the morning.

My oldest son takes a combination of drugs to make him sleep at night. And I would give my youngest son his vitamins at the same time. I told him just once they were sleeping pills. Well, several months later his school tested him for learning disabilities, and when they asked him if he took any medication he told them sleeping pills. And nobody ever said a word to me, I had to read it in the report. I'm just surprised that they never called the police for drugging a six year old. And my mother used to give us hot toddies as children to make us sleep when we had colds as children.

We're fresh from a 3 week sojourn in Europe with our 2 1/2 year old toddler, and have a better (though just as guilty) suggestion to Benedryl: a portable DVD player with loads of discs. On the 7.5 hr flight over (a flight that left at 4 pm), she watched DVDs for a good 4 hours, and slept for 2.5 (would have slept longer, but we landed). Now there is NO WAY we would EVER let her watch that much tv in a day (maybe a week), but needs must.

This strategy worked great for 4 flights, but the 5th one (the longest at 8,5 hours) experienced a glitch: we didn't manage to get the batteries recharged after a 5 hour lay-over (our adapter plug broke, teaching us to always carry a spare), and so there was no DVD on the flight home. She ran for over an hour in the airport (a fairly deserted corridor with a conveyer-belt sidewalk: hubby on the conveyor belt, toddler running alongside), and so by the time she got on, she was pretty zonked (it helped that she only had 4 hours sleep the night before due to an absurdly early connecting flight), and so slept 4 hours. However, the last 4 hours were tough: she ran (stomped) up and down the aisles for at least the last 2 hours (if the airline's media system had worked, whe would have listened to music or watched the inflight movie, so serves them right!).

The silver lining to this hyped state was that when we arrived in the passport control hall, along with at least 500 other passengers, she was running around and wriggling so much,
officials whisked us to the head of the line within 5 minutes. Bad behaviour pays (sometimes).

The only time we used benedryl on the trip was to try to get her to take her afternoon nap one day -- we had tried every other trick in the book for over 4 hours, and nada. Knowing she was headed to a meltdown, we tried benedryl as a last resort. It didn't work, and sure enough, she was over-tired and had a meltdown at bedtime. We think we tried it too late; she had already become wired (we have given it to her before for allergic reactions, and it has always made her drowsy in the past).

Anyways, that is my 2 cents worth on the subject!

I've done Benadryl once for a long car trip. Doesn't really knock my son out, but it doesn't make him hyper either.

The big mistake we made was giving my son Dramamine on a 33-hour train trip in hopes that it would knock him out. He went hyper.

Our family seems to be a Benadryl makes you hyper group. At least it does at home at nights. I was too chicken to try it on the plane for fear that chaos would erupt. I have found through trial and error (mostly from my own use) that dosage matters. Too much makes me jittery. A half dosage for their weight seems to stop the runny nose and allow them to sleep.

Our pediatricain's suggestion was to have a grown-up not taking the flight keep the children up the whole night before a morning flight. Watch TV, play games. Tire them out and not let them sleep.

Our Jack is six month old and he has already flown several intercontinental flights (Japan to the US at 4 months and US to Europe and back at 5 months). Every time every thing well smothly. On Aer lingus on our way to europe they gave us a real crib to place in front of us and Jackaroo slept almost the entire flight in it.


I returned today from a trip to Florida with my 19 month old son. It was his fourth trip on a plane and for both routes (to and from) he got a dose of benedryl. At our doctor's recommendation, we tested it on him first and fortunately he is the type that gets drowsey. On the To leg of the trip he didn't actually fall asleep but he was pretty docile. On the From leg of the trip he did sleep in my arms, but it only lasted about 1 1/2 hours.

The other plane trips he didn't have any benedryl because I never really thought about it. Then he was still pretty compliant and we flew late enough that he fell asleep on his own. But now, during the day and with him being a rather independant little man these days, extra help was needed.

There's no need to use benedryl. You can get your baby to sleep through a flight through exercise and vitamins!

check it out

We are also in the category of Benadryl = crazy hyper. Our doctor actually prescribed Chloral Hydrate for our daughter based on her experiences of our daughter screaming for the ENTIRE time we are at the Doc's office. In the end, I think she thought it was healthier for our daughter to be asleep than scream for 5 hours across the country (which she's done a couple of times).

I think if you just give the Benadryl to everyone else on the plane you'll achieve the same effect, won't you?

I haven't done this deliberately, but I have gotten the dirty looks of other passengers sure that I was doping the child without cause.

I have a very talented baby. She can detect a plane flight in her near future, and manage to get an ear infection within a 48 hour window of our departure time. It's amazing really. As soon as we figure out how to make this a marketable skill ("I'll give my kid her ear infection meds if everyone on the plane pays me $5.00! Otherwise, I'm putting in ear plugs and turning her loose on all of you! Mwa-ha-ha!"), we'll be in great shape. In the meantime, an emergency room visit in the 11th hour and the Evil Eye from my fellow passengers are mine to endure.

18-month-old + Portable DVD player with Nemo, muppets, and elmo + timed flights to correspond with naps/bedtime = not so bad on 18+ hours of flying Texas to Hawaii and back. Awake for only about four of those hours, my kid was quietly transfixed by moving pictures when books and songs became boring.

We dosed our toddlers (age 1 and 2) for a cross-country plane ride - I was also 5 months pregnant at the time. We brought a pocket full of ear plugs to pass out to fellow passengers in case the drugs didn't work. Luckily, we didn't need them. The plane ride wasn't what freaked our kids out - it was going through security where they took their shoes and their blankets. Maybe next time we'll dose them prior to arriving at the airport.

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