Parents warned against using Benadryl to help their children go to sleep

ABC News' Dr. Jennifer Ashton discusses the dangers of using Benadryl or other antihistamines to keep children quiet or to go to sleep.
2:52 | 05/10/17

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Transcript for Parents warned against using Benadryl to help their children go to sleep
Back now with that warning for parents about using drugs like benadryl to help your babies go to sleep. Connecticut is now issuing a public health alert linking at least four recent deaths of children to these drugs and our senior medical contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton is here with us and, doc, most people associate benadryl with allergy season but, you know, what should we know about it as a sedative. This is a drug we use all the time in the hospital, of course, it's available over the counter, the brand name is benadryl, the generic is diphenhydramine and has its benefits and is a strong sedative and like any drug it has its risks when you talk about the risks of benadryl, you're talking about respiratory depression or breathing problems with potentially high dose, a rare but potentially fatal abnormal heart rhythm and there is the chance for improper dosing especially when you're talking about children. So these deaths make it seem like it's just improper dosing, parents may be using a little too much, not knowing exactly what to give their child. Exactly. In medicine and pediatrics we have a saying kids and babies are not just small adults. When you talk about the medication they're given it's always dose based on their body weight and the smaller the baby, the less margin of error you have for making a dosing error. That's why we've been hearing warning after warning from the academy of pediatrics about over-the-counter meds making sure the right doze is given. Take a look at the recommendations specifically for benadryl and babies under the age of 2, really not recommended when you're talking about kids 2 to 12 then you want to dose based on the weight and over the age of 12 in general, they can tolerate an adult dose. The most important thing for any caregiver or parent, have a question about the dose check with the pediatrician or pharmacist. Absolutely. We reached out to Johnson & Johnson that makes benadryl and told us this, we advise that parents and care givers only use medicine as labeled and that they talk with their health care provider as you just said if they have any questions so what other tip do you have for parents. Well, look, we're both parents. Any parent can relate to that frustration or panic that sets in when you want your child to go to sleep, need your child to go to sleep or they're agitated. I think you have to find what works for you and that child. But I like to take a five senses approach. If you start by what that baby or child is hearing or seeing, maybe a soothing music or video will help. Movement, my daughter would fall out cold if you put her in the car so a lot of parents are familiar with that. Rocking mechanism or massage. Warm tea or warm milk can help but I think the most important thing, Michael, you have to ask why. In medicine as in life, don't just put a band-aid on something. If your child is agitated or won't uleep ask why before you start treating hit. What about earplugs. That works too. Just checking. Doc, thank you very much for all that advice and parents out there, please, please listen and protect your children.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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