diphenhydramine, Benadryl

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What is diphenhydramine, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine used for treating allergic reactions. Histamine is released by the body during several types of allergic reactions and--to a lesser extent--during some viral infections, such as the common cold. When histamine binds to receptors on cells, it stimulates changes within the cells that lead to the release of chemicals that cause sneezing, itching, and increased mucus production. Antihistamines compete with histamine for cell receptors and bind to the receptors without stimulating the cells. In addition, they prevent histamine from binding and stimulating the cells. Diphenhydramine also blocks the action of acetylcholine (anticholinergic effect) and is used as a sedative because it causes drowsiness. The FDA originally approved diphenhydramine in 1946.

What brand names are available for diphenhydramine?

Benadryl, Sominex, Unisom, Nytol, and several others

Is diphenhydramine available as a generic drug?

GENERIC AVAILABLE: Yes

Do I need a prescription for diphenhydramine?

: No. Yes (Injection)

What are the side effects of diphenhydramine?

Diphenhydramine commonly can cause:

Diphenhydramine also may cause

Diphenhydramine should be used with caution (if at all) in persons with narrow-angle glaucoma, prostatic hypertrophy (enlarged prostate gland), hyperthyroidism, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), and asthma.

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