Benadryl® is the brand name for the antihistamine diphenhydramine. It is often prescribed for allergic reactions and also as a sleep aid. In fact, diphenhydramine is the active ingredient in some over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids. My first exposure that I recall was when it was prescribed after I had an allergic reaction to penicillin. Since then I have taken it for allergies and to help with sleep. But, no more!
Most of the time, diphenhydramine had only the desired effect on me – either to relieve allergy or to help me sleep. One time, though, I took one diphenhydramine and one Tylenol together. I’m not sure the combination had anything to do with it, but shortly after taking them I literally passed out. I could feel it coming and eventually just had to lie down. That was strange.
That incident didn’t deter me, though. I continued to take it for a number of years after that. My father’s doctor also prescribed it for him to help him sleep. At the time he was over 80, had just lost his wife, and had a lot of arthritis issues. The problem was that Dad figured if the instructions said to take 2, then he could take 3 and it would help more. He frequently would take diphenhydramine before bed, wake up an hour or 2 later, and take even more.
To this day, I believe that the diphenhydramine he was taking contributed to the fall that broke his hip. Let me tell you first about my experience that got me totally off diphenhydramine and made me realize what it was doing to my father. One night I had been coping with a migraine and desperately wanted to go to sleep. So I took diphenhydramine – but just one. I could not sleep. I was incredibly restless. I took my book downstairs but I couldn’t concentrate to read. I couldn’t even concentrate to surf the web.
So, I was on the couch watching “I Love Lucy” reruns! It was that incident that made me see what it must have been like for my father. Up in the middle of the night, probably because of the diphenhydramine. Unable to sleep, he was most likely playing solitaire. And then when he went back to bed around 4:30 AM, he tripped, fell, and broke his hip. Easy thing to happen because the diphenhydramine makes you kind of stumbly. Kinda makes you wonder why the doctors kept prescribing it, doesn’t it?
Warning: If you’ve ever had an unhappy experience with Benadryl® or diphenhydramine and want to avoid it, be sure to read the Active Ingredients section of the label of any OTC drugs you’re considering. Diphenhydramine is found in many popular allergy and sleep aid medications.
Oh, by the way, since people ask whenever I tell this story. The episode I was watching was when Lucy was about to have her baby. Ricky, Fred, and Ethyl had been rehearsing what they were to do when it was time to take Lucy to the hospital. Rehearsals went perfect. And, in typical “I Love Lucy” fashion, when it was really time to go to the hospital, pandemonium ensued!
No matter what the drug, we all react differently. Sometimes it depends on our age, or circumstances we don’t even know for sure.