- Side Effects
- Drug Interactions
- Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
- What Else to Know
Generic Name: diphenhydramine topical
What is diphenhydramine topical, and what is it used for?
Diphenhydramine topical is a medication applied on the skin for the temporary relief of pain and itching (pruritus) from insect bites, sunburns, and other minor skin irritations. Diphenhydramine topical is available over the counter (OTC) in the form of gels, creams, sprays, and sticks that can be applied locally on the affected area.
Diphenhydramine topical is an antihistamine drug that works by blocking the activity of histamine.
Diphenhydramine binds to and inhibits histamine H1 receptors, protein particles on cell membranes that initiate an inflammatory response when activated by histamine. Histamine is an inflammatory compound responsible for reactions such as swelling, itching, redness, and pain, and is released by the immune system in response to injury or exposure to allergens or other irritants.
Uses of diphenhydramine topical include temporary relief of pain and itching from:
- Do not use diphenhydramine topical if you are hypersensitive to any of the compounds in the formulation.
- Do not use OTC diphenhydramine topical on children below 2 years of age.
- Do not apply on large areas of the skin, particularly in children.
- Do not use concurrently with other drugs containing diphenhydramine, including oral diphenhydramine.
- If you have chickenpox or measles, check with your healthcare provider before using diphenhydramine topical.
- Some formulations may contain propylene glycol which may be toxic in large amounts.
What are the side effects of diphenhydramine topical?
Common side effects of diphenhydramine topical include:
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms or serious side effects while using this drug:
- Serious heart symptoms include fast or pounding heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, shortness of breath, and sudden dizziness;
- Severe headache, confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness, vomiting, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady;
- Severe nervous system reaction with very stiff muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, and feeling like you might pass out; or
- Serious eye symptoms include blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, or seeing halos around lights.
This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug. Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What are the dosages of diphenhydramine topical?
- 2% plus zinc acetate 0.1%
- 1% plus zinc acetate 0.1%
- 2% plus zinc acetate 0.1%
- 2% with menthol 1%
- 2% plus zinc acetate 0.1%
Adult and Pediatric
- Indicated for temporary relief of pain and itching associated with insect bites, minor skin irritations, and rashes due to poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac
- Children below 2 years: Safety and efficacy not established
- Children above 2 years and adults: Apply 1-2% topically to the affected area; not to exceed 3-4 times daily
- Not for use on large areas of the body
- Diphenhydramine overdose is more likely to occur with oral use, however, prolonged topical use over extensive areas of the skin can result in sufficient systemic absorption to result in an overdose.
- Overdose can cause drowsiness, high body temperature, and anticholinergic effects such as dry mouth, urinary retention, constipation, increased heart rate, reduced sweating, dilated pupils, and blurred vision. Massive overdose can cause hallucinations, convulsions, coma, and cardiovascular collapse.
- Overdose may be treated with symptomatic and supportive care.
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What drugs interact with diphenhydramine topical?
Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
- Diphenhydramine topical has severe interactions with at least 24 different drugs.
- Diphenhydramine topical has serious interactions with at least 19 different drugs.
- Diphenhydramine topical has moderate interactions with at least 46 different drugs.
- Diphenhydramine topical has no known mild interactions with other drugs.
The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.
It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider about all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions about the medication.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Diphenhydramine topical should be used in pregnancy only if clearly needed. Pregnant women should avoid applying it on large areas of the skin which can result in significant systemic absorption.
- It is not known if diphenhydramine topical is present in breastmilk, however, oral formulation is excreted in breastmilk. Regularly applying on large areas of the skin is likely to result in sufficient systemic absorption for the drug to be present in breastmilk. Avoid diphenhydramine or use sparingly with caution if you are a nursing mother. Avoid applying on the breast region.
- Check with your healthcare provider before using any OTC drug, including diphenhydramine topical, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
What else should I know about diphenhydramine topical?
- Use diphenhydramine topical exactly as prescribed or as per label instructions.
- Avoid contact with eyes.
- Stop use and contact your healthcare provider if:
- The condition does not improve within a week and symptoms persist
- The condition worsens
- Symptoms clear up and reoccur after a few days
- Store safely out of reach of children.
- In case of oral ingestion or overdose, seek medical help immediately or contact Poison Control.
Diphenhydramine topical is a medication applied on the skin for the temporary relief of pain and itching (pruritus) from insect bites, sunburns, and other minor skin irritations. Diphenhydramine topical is available over the counter (OTC) in the form of gels, creams, sprays, and sticks that can be applied locally on the affected area. Diphenhydramine topical is used to relieve pain and itching caused by insect bites, sunburn, minor cuts and scrapes, minor burns and other skin irritations, and rash caused by poison oak, ivy, or sumac. Common side effects of diphenhydramine topical include skin sensitivity to light (photosensitivity), rash, and hives (urticaria).
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