38 answers

Have You Ever Used Benydryl to Help Your Child Sleep in the Car on Trips?


I have two children who have never been car sleepers and needless to say, road trip vacation are always a nightmare! My kids are now 6 and 2 and I have heard of some parents giving them a shot of Benydrl to make them drowsy enough to sleep when going on a trip. Have any of you ever done it and if so, have you ever had any reprecussions from doing it? Does it work? We're going on a drive from Albuquerque to Phoenix on Thanksgiving and I dread these trips due to the fact that our kids don't sleep in the car. Thanks for your advice.

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Hi D. -

You might consider using Chamomile or Lavender over Benedryl. Both herbs are relaxants and very gentle for children - plus no side effects. I realize the active ingredient in Benedryl is the same ingredient in OTC sleep aids, but for a child, the drying out of the Upper Respiratory System may cause more problems than it's worth.


M. M. Ernsberger, HHP
Certified Herbalist

1 mom found this helpful

I would never give my girls any unnecesaary meds. When we went on road trips we would leave late and drive at night when they are most likely going to be going to sleep......my husband doesn't mind driving at night while I sleep. Try to get a dvd player for them and have lots of games to play.....maybe sit with them in the back do they don't get so bored.

HA! We tried it once on a red-eye flight. NEVER AGAIN! It just wired my child up and none of us got any sleep!

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You know, at the risk of being too frank, I think that's a terrible thing to do to your children. All drugs have side effects, all drugs change a body's chemistry...Benadryl is not harmless or completely safe. What if one of them has a reaction? Dealing with their little bodies working it out of their systems will probably be just as hard.

Albuquerque to Phoenix is not that long. Maybe you can sit in the back with them for part of it. Maybe they'll be great! Maybe leave at a different time or give them ample stopping time for exploration. Drugging your kids for your convenience...nope. Not okay.

5 moms found this helpful

I'm sorry, maybe its just me, but....are you asking and are other mothers advocating drugging your children JUST so they'll be sleepy for a car trip?! If you can't figure a way to keep your kids occupied on a long car trip, maybe you shouldn't be going.
Giving the kids Benedryl so it will be easier on you! Give me a break!

4 moms found this helpful

Please do not drug your kid for no reason. You're not supposed to give ANY kids under 4 medicine ESPECIALLY if they don't need it for medical reasons. Benadryl backfires anyway, it will put them to sleep (maybe) and then they wake up wired and crankier than ever. Please don't do it. Phoenix to ALb. is not that far and you can stop a lot if they get antsy.

3 moms found this helpful

Please DO NOT give your child Benedryl. Never never never should you give your child medication unless it's medically necessary. I can't believe all the responses of people saying they have done this; it's absolutely absurd! I have and never would drug my child for a plane ride or road trip. I know several people that travel with children and none of them drug their children. I would suggest bringing or buying a DVD player so they can watch movies, bringing books, toys, snacks and pull over to stretch as needed. The kids will probably sleep some as well.
Best of luck.

2 moms found this helpful

Hi! We too, are traveling to Phoenix from ABQ for Thanksgiving. We have made this trip by car once before with our son, who is almost 2. I admit I don't like the idea of giving medication to help my son sleep, so I put a lot of time and thought into what I could pack, that would keep him occupied. Someone loaned us a portable DVD player that we brought out AFTER we had been on the road a while, and had gone through music, books, and toys. I also had packed an assortment of snacks and drinks. For this trip I bought a soft tray he could have in his lap to put his toys on. Lots of stops to let him run and move about helped too! Needless to say, we didnt make good time, but not stopping was out of the question! Hope you guys have a fun and safe trip! Us too! Good luck! Hope some of this helps!

1 mom found this helpful

I believe that people are way too quick to drug their children. I agree with another mom who says to plan to take your time. If people know you are bringing kids they wil hopefully understand that you may be a little later than planned. I travel on occasion with my 3 kids and have been for 15 years. It just takes really good planning and lots of snacks and potty breaks.

on another note, my son was once ordered benadryl by a respiratory therapist and pediatrician. he was a ordered 1/4 of a childrens benadryl. I gave him 1st dose and he spent several hrs. literally running circles on my living room rug.

please if you feel the need to use something checkout the available herbal rmedies. calm forte is one Ive heard of.

1 mom found this helpful

be careful with givign benadryl. i am a nurse and i once saw a baby brought in dead because the mom had givne him benadryl to help him sleep. it does slow the respirations. also with boys a very common side effect is that it stos the bladder form working. sad to say but i have also had to put in many catherters into little boys because of bandryl. it would probably be a good idea to check with your doctor. sometimes benadryl does the opposite and makes them hyper

1 mom found this helpful

Hi D. -

You might consider using Chamomile or Lavender over Benedryl. Both herbs are relaxants and very gentle for children - plus no side effects. I realize the active ingredient in Benedryl is the same ingredient in OTC sleep aids, but for a child, the drying out of the Upper Respiratory System may cause more problems than it's worth.


M. M. Ernsberger, HHP
Certified Herbalist

1 mom found this helpful

I would call your pediatrician and ask for suggestions. Not all children react the same way to Benadryl-- I gave the dose my ped recommended to my 2 yr old this summer when he was sneezing a lot after playing in the grass. He became hyperactive, not sleepy. He was bouncing off the walls!!! If you really must go the Benadryl route, make sure you try it ahead of time to see how your own children respond. Personally, I would try something else instead of medicating them.

If your children are tired enough they might fall asleep anyway. Maybe let them have extra time to run and play outside before you hit the road or get them up extra early the day you plan to leave and forgo naps until they're in the car. You could also try driving at night when they'd be more apt to sleep naturally. Be prepared with games ahead of time that they can play while they're awake like "I Spy..." or songs they can sing. My 2 yr old loves to use a Magna Doodle in the car to draw. Your 6 yr old might like to play a GameBoy or something like that. I'm familiar with what you're going through-- I have 1 and 2 yr old sons that can be really challenging on car trips even just from Phoenix to Tucson and that's only 2 hrs. Best of luck! :)

Just be careful about using benadryl because it can cause hyperactivity in small children and then you will be more miserable. Just make sure you pack plenty of things to entertain them. In April we drove from Phoenix to Northern California (bay area) which is 700 miles away and our sons were 2 1/2 years & 9 months old at the time. We survived, even with two dogs in the back of our SUV. We brought a portable dvd player and plenty of kids movies for our toddler and made sure we had bottles at the ready for our 9 month old. Lots of rest stops and breaks made it a lot easier for all of us so we could get out and stretch our legs. But they survived, no drugging required. I would not recommend giving your children anything like that unless they need it for allergies. Talk to you pediatrician to see if there is anything they suggest.

Hi D.,
I am a flight attendant and have heard of people doing this on airplane trips. One of my friends tells me she used to give it to her kids when they got on the plane and they were usually asleep by takeoff. I tried it once since my oldest was not the best traveler when he was a toddler. A word of caution: it has the opposite effect in some children. It only wired him up. I also would caution against giving them medication that is unnecessary. You never know if there will be any side effects.

I know how frustrating it can be to travel with two small children. Do you have a portable DVD player? If not, see if you have a friend who has one you can borrow. You can check movies out from your local library if you want something different that your kids haven't seen. I also try to bring activity books and small toys to keep them occupied. I sometimes read to them or we play games like I spy. Good luck with your trip and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

For a long plane trip, I have used a homeopathic sleep aid called Calme Forte, which is available in an adult strength and a child's strength. Our family always tries to find non-drug solutions to our health and wellness needs. Please consider giving it a try; it has worked effectively for us!!

Hi D.
Dont do it dont even think about doing it. There has been some studies that have occured after a little girl died because of an overdose from it. (she was given it over a period of time) I dont remember what all came of it but i remember it wasnt anything good now this was only if you give it to your children when they do not need it. of course if they are sick that is different but i would definatly do some research before you give them medicine when they do not need it. other suggestions would be pack a bag of activities color book/ crayons, dvd player with some favorite movies, books, and snacks i spy games. There was all those stories of those nannys that were giving the children they babysat doses of benadryl to make them sleep during the day and there were charges filed against them. I dont think its a good idea. but I am not riding in a car with them across the state either so good luck.

I used benadryl per dr when my son was 15 months old to help him sleep on a plane trip. it worked. when he was 3 i did it again, but be careful not to give too much. I either gave too much or he just had major jet lag cause he got sick the next day after we got there.
Your drive so one normal dose wont' hurt.

I've used benydryl on planes, but that is to help their ears when going up on the plane. I don't know that I would in a car? You should get new toys, last longer for the attention span...cause they have never been seen before...There are probably cool car games out there...look on line...you can make a list of things to look for in the car...at least for your older one...and see how many you can find..etc..
Good luck!

Hi D.,

I have heard that benydryl can possibly make children hyper instead of tired. That would be brutal on a road trip.

If you are not driving alone, maybe you could leave really early so the kids will still be sleepy. We live in Yuma and my parents live in Santa Fe, NM. We try to leave at 5am so the kids will still be asleep (have a 5year old and a 1 year old). We also have the dvd player that works well for my oldest.

I have also allowed a couple of extra hours in our trips for stops. We average about 75 minute stops so the kids can run around, eat, burn energy etc. It helps us to extend drive times.

Good Luck. Hope it works out for you.

I gave my son tylenol when he was a baby to help him sleep on an airplane but I have not tried it since. He is 5 now. That is one of those things that is totally up to the parent.

We go on a lot of road trips bring a lot of books and have a portable dvd player also we check out audio books from the library and these things keep the kids quiet for hours.

Good luck!

I have never done that but over the summer my girlfriend and I took our 4 kids to WY and we did well by borrowing dvd players for each kid. The kids would watch their video and fall asleep naturally. There are adapters that can give you multiple plugs for the lighter plug. We were surprisingly not driven to insanity during this trip!

It is not something I have tried but I have been told that my parents use to give us medicine for car sickness I think it called Dramaine (sp)) for our long trips when we were little and I have a friend who does this and she swears by it. I have not done it with our own boys we just pack the vehicle with tons of activities and we make stops for strech and play. Gameboy and leappads work great and movies are perfect. They sale really cheap DVD players for the cars now. We also bought a older RV to make the longer trips even easier. I do not have side effects from what my parents did that I know of and we would travel from New Mexico on to Kansas and even went to Arkansas. Hope this information helps. Have a safe trip and a great day.
M. in Arizona with boys 6 and 8 years old.

I tried using Benydryl on my daughter in 2005 when she was 23 months old on a flight from Phoenix to London. The flight left at 9 p.m. and the pediatrician suggested trying Benydryl to relax her so that she would sleep and not get too caught up in everything happening around her that was a new experience. Unfortunately we didn't try it before we left on the trip. It was on the plane that we discovered Benydryl makes our daughter awake and hyper. (Turns out, she's ADD... don't know if that had anything to do with it though) Should you choose to try Benydryl, you may want to try it before-hand... just in case you get the same reaction as I did! You may end up with 2 kids bouncing around in the car!

We live outside Cloudcroft and understand you have to take
long trips! Having traveled a great deal with my grandchildren, can tell you first hand that benadryl won't
hurt them at all....just give small dose (read on label)...
too large a dose can have the opposite effect...Also, something else I learned from my pharmacist, benadryl is also
good if they get an upset stomach! So it is handy thing to
have on a trip....he said it is one of the safest things to
use for little ones (like I said as long as you don't overdo)
G. Henderson
(wife, Mom, Grammy)

I would never give my girls any unnecesaary meds. When we went on road trips we would leave late and drive at night when they are most likely going to be going to sleep......my husband doesn't mind driving at night while I sleep. Try to get a dvd player for them and have lots of games to play.....maybe sit with them in the back do they don't get so bored.

I have never used Benydryl however, we have gone on road trips from Phoenix to Idaho (16 hour drive). What we do is buy some new coloring books and some colored pencils (crayons will melt in the Phoenix heat). Don't forget to get a little pencil sharpener. I also try to buy a book on cd so they have something to listen to.

The coloring things are only allowed to be used in the car so it is always a new or special thing for them. We also do snacks for them.

The ages of my children are 9,7,6 and 2 years old.

Hope this is helpful to you.

I used to give my girls a little Benedryl on airplane rides, per their doctors suggestion, and it always worked like a charm. I would give them half of what was suggested. You can get disolvable ones that taste like grape. I just drove to Mexico with my four kids last month and didn't give anything to the two babies (2 and 4 months) and they cried and screamed about half the time...nightmare!!! My husband and I were totally regretting no Benedryl :)

Oh, and don't feel bad about any judgemental comments from other mommies....everyone has their own opinions!

As the previous responder said, I would ask your pediatrician and/or search the web for dosage guidelines (depends on how comfortable you are with it), and then I would try it out ahead of time. I've never given my son Benadryl unless he's REALLY needed to sleep (i.e., several sleepless nights due to illness, a bout of coxsackie, etc.), and in those cases, we've given it about half-an-hour before bedtime. He sleeps hard when he takes it and is often groggy in the morning. Do you have a portable DVD player? We've found that our 3 year old handles our road trips to and from southern California well when he's entertained by his favorite movies/videos. We also make stops so he can run around for a few minutes before we get back in the car. Good luck!

Yes, we have given our kids Benydrl many times as we drove 14 hours from CA or OR and they were 1 and 3. It worked well. Also you may want to look into some sort of special pillow for traveling to keep their heads from falling over. I haven't found the perfect one yet, or I would recommend mine. Benydrl can affect certain children the opposite way, so you may want to experiment at home first, one evening.
Have a good trip!

I also have a strange reaction to Benydryl, it's like speed for me. They have some strange fancy name for the reaction but I forget what it is. I also gave some to one of my boys, the amount the dr suggested, when he had an allergic reaction to something, and we went to the pharmacy to get the rest of his medicine. He was standing in line and passed out cold on the floor. If this isn't something you have given them before, make sure they don't have a reaction to it first.

I took my 2 yr old daughter to my best friends wedding last month, we drove 1900 miles, just the two of us. I took quite toys like magnadoodles, coloring books, stickers and a few toys with music that I can stand to listen to for a while. Anna also loves music so I had her cd's in the car and she was happily making up her own words to the songs for hours. Since I wanted her happy, I let her put the stickers on the window in the car, I am still scraping them off, so you may not want to do that. But she was happy. We stopped at playgrounds and I made a point of gassing up before her nap time so I didn't wake her up when I stopped. We had a small cooler full of snacks and drinks. I put it on the floor in the front seat so I could reach it. It saved stopping for food which is a time saver considering all the playgrounds we saw :) I also had her little potty in the back of the car since she is still learning.

I would also separate them with a little space of their own so they don't drive each other nuts, and in turn you, if that is at all possible in your car.

Another thing I did when the boys were little was to drive at night. Let them eat a huge meal so they are stuffed to the gills and put them in the car in their jammies with their pillows and they crash eventually. Once they were asleep I was able to get those miles in peacefully.

YES!! I love it!! I have used Benydryl to relax my son on car and airplane trips. I use the Benydryl easy dose for my 2 year old. If he doesn't sleep he is more relaxed and it makes the trip for me alot less stressful. After the Benydryl wears off he is back to normal.

I have heard of it used for airplane trips. Some of my girlfirends swear by it in fact.

However I have also heard a co-worker mention about how they used to give the daycare kids nyquil every day at nap. Plus when I was a cashier I had parents come in and buy the little bottles of peppermint schnappes or (insert fav liqueur here) because their baby was teething. Like my brother mentioned.."Sure get them drunk and they dont cry anymore."
To me at least it seems to be over-medicating. Just my personal opinion I know.

One solution that might work, I had a car trip to Denver with a 4 and 6 yr old. We dont have the video system that some parents have now that lets the kids watch movies from the back seat. Instead we brought along my husband laptop and played movies in that. We bugie corded it to the armrests of the front seats. We also drove for 2 hrs and stopped for a min. (bathroom break strech legs etc)
Also plan activites, google kids and road trips and you get a ton.

I have tried this on an airplane~ the oldest, 10 yr old now almost 6 at the time, fell asleep i think 2 or 3 hrs before we landed, then 1/2 hr later the next and the littlest, under 2 at the time did not pass out till 1 hr before we landed at 6am!!! Sometimes Benydryl will knock them out~ sometimes it will jazz them up~ bring lots of activities for the car~ make up some car bingo cards~ but i don't think benydryl works!

I would try other techniques. When my girls were 6 mo old we had a four hr flight and gave them a little benadryl... I don't know if we didn't give them enough or what but it didn't make them sleep at all. For car trips if you can afford a dvd player (we got one with two screens for about $150 at target) that would help pass the time. I always have some snacks on hand which usually calms them down. And as someone else said, frequest stops to stretch their legs always make a big difference.

HA! We tried it once on a red-eye flight. NEVER AGAIN! It just wired my child up and none of us got any sleep!

I wouldn't use the drugs if I were you. My cousin tried it with her son during a trip and it did make him tired, but he didn't sleep. He was just tired and cranky the whole way!!! I'd just pack them some activities...maybe even a new toy. When I was little, my family traveled by car all the time and I remember my mom playing us a tape with traveling songs. We would sing them over and over. I'm sure it wasn't great for my parents but it was probably better than unhappy kids. Joe Scruggs has a CD that is all traveling music for young kids. Good luck and have a safe trip!

Have you ever tried just leaving in the evening when it's getting closer to bedtime? Of course the kind of seat they are in makes a difference. Make sure they have a place to lay their head & it's comfortable.

Hi D.,
I know how you feel! My youngest also gets car sick so I use the chewable dramimine (sp?) And the one kind has something in it that makes my little one sleepy as well as taking care of her tummy. I put chamomile tea in her water bottle and that also helps calm her.
Good luck. I love to travel. Marlene

We have four young kids (9-4 yo)and we took a cross-country trip from AZ to GA this summer. It went very smoothly - surprisingly! But, we planned very well for it. We stopped at McDonalds playgrounds to give them time to stretch and play for 20 min about every 2 hours, and they each had movies, music, and activities throughout the trip. There are great mini MP3 players for kids (cheap) at Toys R Us. We got our for $9.99 each and downloaded free music at www.download.com (MP3 ROCKET- free version) so they had Disney tunes and songs they like. We borrowed DVD players from family and friends and went to our local library to check out free DVD's - and some friends with Disney movies, lent us a bunch as well.

Dramamine for kids is what our doctor recommended (if they need to sleep) but be cautious about using meds. With enough activities, rewards for good behavior, and full tummies (bring snacks!) you may be amazed at how well they do.

P.S. I found some AWESOME soft travel trays that hook up to the carseat, so they can eat, color, and place their toys on them: www.travelingwithkids.com (Snack & Play Travel Tray)


Yes I have given my son benydryl on a 17 hour road trip. My peditrication is the one who suggested it to us. my son was only 10 months he slept most of the trip and i only gave it to him when he got to restless. So my suggestion to you would be only use it if nothing else keeps them entertained. i hope this helps. good luck and have fun. Oh i aslo wanted to mention A friend of mine works at a Whole Foods store which is like a health store and she gave me this Calming Kit for kids. it has two things to help calm childern and help them sleep plus a stomach soother. The great thing about this kit is that it all made from herbs like chamomile and other herbs. Please check this out if your not comfortable giving them benydryl.

Lordy I knew this was going to be a mine field! LOL

We used to live in ABQ, far NW area next to Rio Rancho. We've both driven and flown ABQ-PHX-LAX. We haven't had to resort to dosing either kid (3 yrs and 9 mos) and they're expert flyers now. They sleep okay in the car...better at night. Since we're lucky that we got them trained to be good travelers, the baby doesn't need much entertainment, maybe a new chew toy. Our toddler though gets a new $1 picture book or maybe a coloring book. We did get a portable DVD player and I (shhhh) downloaded some kid cartoons (Handy Manny, Little Einsteins, Bug Life, Bee Movie) to keep him busy for about 6 hours.

As Catherine mentioned, I'd first look into the homeopathic sleep aids first. If you want to go OTC meds then check with your doc/nurse about the right amount to administer and then do a trial run using a little less than that amount the week prior to see how they react. Turns out Benadryl amps up our son! Cleared up his allergy but he was bouncing off the walls...he's on Singulair instead.

As an aside, not sure of your planned route but our mapping/GPS system showed the "direct" ABQ-PHX route as I-25 to I-40 to AZ-377 in Holbrook then to AZ-260...DON'T go that way! 260 is essentially a mountain/canyon road! GPS said 7 hours for the trip...it took us 10 hours!!! Trust me, you're better off taking 40 into Flagstaff and then I-17 down to PHX. That was our route when we moved to AZ.

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