Dear Flying on Friday,
Though it may not get as much press as some of the biggies, to drug or not to drug is quite a polarizing issue among parents. There’s certainly a long history of antihistamine use for travel – Dramamine both prevents nausea and causes drowsiness. Some frequent travelers swear by Benadryl to ensure smooth flights with young kids. There are even those who think that traveling drug-free is outright unfair to other passengers. But some people think medicating kids for the sole purpose of shutting them up is unethical, or at the very least, bad parenting. We think it all depends on your own idea of right and wrong and tolerance for sleep deprivation.
Personally, we see no major crime in an occasional extra dose of antihistamine if it’s a choice between that and a miserable flight for everyone. We asked our own pediatricians about this before transatlantic flights, and they were fine with it, as long as the dosage was correct. Hell, we know medical professionals who so stand by the harmlessness of Benadryl, they give it to their kids to get them to sleep on a regular basis – even at home.
But even though it may be safe, it’s not necessarily the thing to do, especially if your partner thinks it’s a bad idea. If you two don’t agree, you may be better off suffering through the bad plane flight than dealing with the residual guilt and bad feelings that might result if you do go ahead with the dosing. Better to have everyone else on the plane hate you than for you to hate each other. It also may not work. Sometimes antihistamines have little or no visible effect and can even cause a hyperactive response in some kids. If you do opt for doping, have a conversation with your pediatrician and a be sure to do a pre-flight test.
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