Is Diphenhydramine Really Safe?

Diphenhydramine, also known as Benadryl, is used to combat pesky allergies. Pregnant women who suffer from severe morning sickness or anxiety are also encouraged to take it as diphenhydramine can help with nausea and anxiousness. Diphenhydramine has been on the market for so long that often time people don’t have a second thought about taking it. However, is this medication really all that safe?

Recently, both acetaminophen and ibuprofen have been found to negatively impact health. Acetaminophen has been shown to dull positive emotions and cause apathy. As for ibuprofen, even taken at small doses, can increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, and liver damage. I personally know people that pop these medications like they’re candy. There is this shared mentality that as long as it’s over the counter and it has been around forever then it must be safe. The truth is we don’t really know how safe these medications are or will be until the damage has been done, which can sometimes take decades.

In the case of diphenhydramine, it has been linked to the early onset of dementia.

Via Beverly Merz at Harvard Women’s Health Watch:

A team led by Shelley Gray, a pharmacist at the University of Washington’s School of Pharmacy, tracked nearly 3,500 men and women ages 65 and older who took part in Adult Changes in Thought (ACT), a long-term study conducted by the University of Washington and Group Health, a Seattle healthcare system. They used Group Health’s pharmacy records to determine all the drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, that each participant took the 10 years before starting the study. Participants’ health was tracked for an average of seven years. During that time, 800 of the volunteers developed dementia. When the researchers examined the use of anticholinergic drugs, they found that people who used these drugs were more likely to have developed dementia as those who didn’t use them. Moreover, dementia risk increased along with the cumulative dose. Taking an anticholinergic for the equivalent of three years or more was associated with a 54% higher dementia risk than taking the same dose for three months or less.

If you have allergies don’t be discouraged by this news, you still have other options. Diet, supplements, and vitamins can have a great impact in combating allergies.


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