The difference between kids' allergy medications

Think all allergy meds are the same? Then you're not alone.

Photo by Imgorthand/

While most over-the-counter treatments are very closely related, because of genetic diversity in the population sometimes only trial and error will help you figure out which one works for your kids. But Laura Weyland, a pharmacist at Shoppers Drug Mart, warns that you should consult a doctor before treating babies and small toddlers with medications. “A child under two should be dosed according to a paediatrician’s advice because their bodies are so small.”

Children’s Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is a fastacting liquid antihistamine for children up to 12 years old. It offers fast relief of sneezing, runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, rashes and hives. It can cause drowsiness or excitability and needs to be given every four to six hours. (A cool compress or baking-soda bath can also offer relief for hives and skin itch).

Claritin Kids (loratidine) is a non-drowsy liquid antihistamine that offers 24-hour relief from itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose and skin itch.

Aerius Kids’ Syrup (desloratidine) is another non-drowsy liquid that offers 24-hour relief from the usual allergy symptoms (described above) as well as congestion and coughing.

What’s anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction and a life-threatening condition. “Emergency treatment is essential,” says paediatric allergist Janet Roberts. If your child is having trouble breathing, swallowing, talking, or has swelling, wheezing or severe hives that develop rapidly, give epinephrine (an EpiPen) if you have it, and call 911 or bring your child to the nearest emergency department. While you wait for help, remove the allergen, if possible. If your child is having trouble breathing, sit her up, but if she feels faint, she should lie down with her legs elevated above the level of her heart.

A version of this article appeared in our April 2012 issue, with the headline Put Allergies to the Test (p. 38). 

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