The over-the-counter antihistamine diphenhydramine, commonly sold under the trade name Benadryl, has such potent sedative effects in adults that it is marketed as a sleep aid as well as an antihistamine. But new research indicates that it has quite different effects in children. Neither diphenhydramine, nor the non-sedating prescription antihistamine loratadine, sold as Claritin, had any effect on childrens alertness or ability to learn, according to a study done by scientists at National Jewish Medical and Research Center. The study, appearing in the May 2001 issue of The Journal of Pediatrics, reinforces a growing realization that children often respond quite differently from adults to the same drugs. "Kids are not just small versions of adults. Their physiology is different," said Bruce Bender, Ph.D., head of pediatric behavioral health at National Jewish and lead author of the study. "What was learned in adult studies of antihistamines doesnt necessarily apply to children. You really have to do studies with kids."
Numerous studies have shown that diphenhydramine significantly sedates adults and can impair their driving ability as much as alcohol. Several kinds of non-sedating prescription antihistamines have offered safer alternatives for adults with seasonal allergies. However, very little research has been done on the effect of antihistamines on children.
"This is the first study of this kind done in a school setting rather than a laboratory," said Dr. Bender. "We were trying to recreate the real world as much as possible, to see how the drugs might affect a childs ability to stay alert and to learn in school."
The National Jewish research team enrolled 63 children aged 8 to 10 years old in a simulated school for four days on three consecutive weekends. The students all had histories and positive skin tests for allergies but were not suffering allergies at the time of the test. In a double-blind setting the students were then given eit
Contact: William Allstetter
National Jewish Medical and Research Center