A Prepper’s Guide to Benadryl, by ARNJR

Disclaimer: This article is written for entertainment purposes only. We are not licensed health care professionals, and we have no interest, financial or otherwise, in any company that manufactures or sells any pharmaceuticals. Information contained in this article should only be used as a springboard for doing further research on the efficacy of the ideas presented herein. Usage of any drug, even if it is available over the counter without a prescription, should only be done under a physician’s care. Information and thoughts presented herein are for when our society has completely collapsed and the medical supplies necessary for sustaining our families and loved ones are difficult or impossible to obtain.

Readers of this article will say we sound like snake oil salesmen of yesteryear or those guys on infomercials telling you about the dozens of handy uses for their product, which usually has only one or maybe two practical purposes. However, diphenhydramine, commonly known by its Benadryl trade name, is definitely not a one-trick pony. At least one physician-prepper feels this little pink pill is the most important drug to carry in an emergency kit. While pain relievers from your first aid kit may be used more frequently, Benadryl is one over-the-counter drug that can actually save a life. Anyone can have an allergic reaction to anything at any time. Tylenol can’t help. Benadryl can.

Gather ‘Round – Allergies, Colds, and More

“Gather ‘round, people!” Let’s first begin with the reasons why you want to have a plentiful supply of diphenhydramine or Benadryl, this amazing little wonder drug, in your medicine chest. It’s been around for over seventy years, since it first came into commercial use in 1946. Most of us are quite familiar with the tiny neon pink pill that is mainly used for treating allergies and the common cold. However, Benadryl is also the most commonly used antihistamine for treating acute allergic reactions in emergency rooms around the country. It is used in addition to epinephrine for treating anaphylaxis.

That’s Not All – Sleep Aid

“And that’s not all!” Diphenhydramine is also widely sold as a sleep aid, though usually for a bit more money. Vicks’ ZzzQuil is nothing more than 50 mg of diphenhydramine. Tylenol PM is acetaminophen plus 25 mg of diphenhydramine. Advil PM contains ibuprofen plus 25-38 mg of diphenhydramine. All of these are sold at a phenomenal markup. Save yourself a chunk of change and store straight Tylenol and straight Advil. When you are in pain and need a little extra help falling asleep, then combine them with Benadryl.

Application in Treatment of Other Ailments

The little pink wonder also has application in the treatment of other ailments such as nausea due to motion sickness, vertigo, and other illnesses. And it can be used in the treatment of mild anxiety and mood swings as well as some symptoms associated with Parkinson’s.

Wait, There’s More – Anesthetic

“But wait, there’s more!” And finally, Benadryl is an anesthetic. We see it sold in sprays and lotions for topical pain relief from rashes, insect bites and stings, and contact dermatitis due to poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac. It’s used in treating hives and eczema and other conditions to control itching. In a grid-down scenario, it can become even more critical to stop itching. Why? Because scratching may compromise the integrity of the skin, our most important defense against infection. Scratching that itch may introduce Staphylococcus bacteria that are normally present on the skin into the body. That can lead to cellulitis, which can lead to death if untreated. Diphenhydramine is also used as an injectable or topical local anesthetic, particularly for people allergic to lidocaine.

Step Right Up – Available in Several Forms

“Step right up, folks!” Benadryl is available in several forms—tablet, capsule, liquid, rapid melt, chewable, gel, lotion, spray, and injectable. Which do you want? Well, let’s go over that.

Forms of Ingestible Diphenhydramine

Tablets & Capsules

Tablets and capsules are forms of ingestible diphenhydramine the most common and most inexpensive. These will be just what is needed about 90% of the time, maybe more. They have the longest shelf life, too. Each form has its pros and cons. Tablets have the advantage of being able to be split in half.

Capsules are a little faster-acting than tablets. They can be opened and sprinkled over children’s food or mixed in juice or milk if the kids have difficulty swallowing pills.

The powder inside capsules can be mixed with saline or dextrose solution to make an injectable anesthetic. The powder can also be mixed with cream for a topical anesthetic or mixed with water to make a topical spray or paste. (To be fair, tablets can also be ground into powder, but that’s a little bit of a hassle.) The downside to capsules is that in humid areas, basically any place other than the desert, unless they are well-protected and stored properly, they can begin to melt together and become an unusable mess.


Diphenhydramine syrups have a shorter shelf life, but one of their great advantages is being able to get into the bloodstream faster. The other, of course, is the reason for which they were created in the first place: liquids are easier for children to swallow. One disadvantage is that if it spills, you’ve lost it. If you spill a bottle of pills, you can pick them back up pretty easily with little to no loss incurred.

Rapid Melts and Chewables

Rapid melts and chewables are a compromise between pills and liquids; they get into the bloodstream faster than tablets and capsules, and they store better than liquids. They are a better choice for first aid kits for conditions when getting into the bloodstream quickly is critical. Unfortunately, they are relatively expensive, but keep in mind that you don’t really need very many.

Forms of Diphenhydramine for Topical Use Only

Lotions, gels, and sprays are forms of diphenhydramine for topical use only. As such, they don’t have as much of the drowsiness side effect that oral forms have. Like syrups, lotions and sprays have a shorter shelf life. But these topical forms can be quite the blessing in taming the urge to scratch. Relief is immediate. And not only will these topicals treat insect stings and bites, rashes, and poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac, but they also help with the itching that occurs in the course of the healing of minor burns (including sunburns), cuts, and scrapes.

Injectable Diphenhydramine

Finally, there is injectable diphenhydramine. Naturally, it acts faster than any of the other forms, which is critical when it is used as an adjunct in treating anaphylaxis. It is also useful as a local anesthetic, especially in people who are allergic to lidocaine. Unfortunately, it is only available for purchase by licensed health care providers. But, you can mix it up yourself! Of course, this is only for a grid-down situation, and you should do this under a physician’s guidance. However, having the supplies on hand will be critical. In addition to having diphenhydramine powder from capsules, you will also want sterile saline or dextrose solutions and syringes.

Make Your Own Lotion or Spray

Diphenhydramine powder from capsules can also be used to make your own lotion or spray by simply mixing with lotion or water. Combining the powder with a small amount of water makes a paste that can be applied in and around the edges of a wound to anesthetize it prior to cleaning and closure.

Dosage of Benadryl

An adult dosage of Benadryl is one or two pills for a total of 25-50 mg. Children 6-12 years are prescribed one 25 mg tablet. Prescription strength Benadryl is 75 mg. A physician should be consulted before using oral diphenhydramine products in children under the age of six years. Topical lotions and sprays may be used in children two years and older.

Not Recommended

Benadryl is also not recommended for use in people over the age of 60 without a physician’s care. Because it is excreted in breast milk, it should not be used by nursing mothers (and it can also dry up the milk supply). Drug screens may produce false positive results for methadone use in people who have recently taken diphenhydramine. A typical 50 mg dose can create impairment equivalent to a .10 blood alcohol level, which is why each bottle contains a warning about driving and operating heavy machinery. In some children, Benadryl can have a paradoxical effect, where instead of having a sedating side effect, the side effect is stimulating. This is particularly true with children who have ADHD. Also, diphenhydramine can interact with other medications, so a drug reference should be consulted before medication is administered.

Shop Now – Where You Can Buy This Amazing Little Wonder Drug

“Don’t delay! Shop now!” So folks, now you’re wondering where you can buy this amazing little wonder drug. You can drive on down to your local grocery store and pay snake oil salesman prices for a few pills in a small containers. You may need lots of small containers to see you through to the other side of the apocalypse. Or you can step right up, people, to Sam’s Club. Our Sam’s currently has a bottle of 600 pills for $4.48, which is less than a penny per pill. Amazon Prime Pantry sells 400 pills for $6.09, which is about 1.5 cents per pill. Amazon also looks like the least expensive place to get chewables and rapid melts. And it has 1000 capsules for making your own injectables and topicals for $16.50.

That Many

Do I think I’ll need that many? If things get that bad, even for my large family, I think we’d rather be dead. But I’d have to spend at least $5.00 for a small bottle that might not be enough pills for us. And it just seems like a good idea to have extra for sharing or bartering.

What a Deal

Benadryl, where else on the planet can you find something that alleviates runny noses and itching, anesthetizes wounds, induces sleep, and treats nausea and anxiety in such a tiny pill that stores very well, for less than a penny? What a deal!

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  1. While I agree that it’s a good idea to have Benadryl on hand for specific use, I’m concerned that I only saw one passing reference in the article against use by those over 60.

    Benadryl’s active ingredient can cause severe problems in even a single dose to an elderly person. Please be aware that diphenhydramine, an anticholinergic, can cause extreme mental confusion including psychotic episodes, among other negative impacts. This would include Tylenol PM, Advil PM, Dimetapp, Dramamine, Paxil, Unisom, the opioid pain medication Demerol, and the bladder drug Vesicare.

    At this link is the story of a woman who almost killed her 95 year old mom with one dose. https://www.trendiee.com/articles/almost-killed-mom-simple-anti-itch-pill/ This link provides further information. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/popular-drugs-for-colds-allergies-linked-to-dementia/

    I strongly recommend a review of both links, and sharing this knowledge with everyone in your family. The last thing you need in a grid down situation is your 75 year old dad hollering to get the chainsaw because the trees are walking around outside.

  2. “a woman who almost killed her 95 year old mom with one dose. ”

    Just be aware that lawyers will gloom onto anything to defend their guilty client. Just because it was said in court does not make it true. In fact, sadly, everything a lawyer says should be taken with a grain of salt. It is far more likely that if you looked into this woman’s background she is mentally ill, perhaps merely bi-polar. But very unlikely that benadryl “makes you want to slap your momma”. Reminds me of the Harvey Milk defense.

  3. One other thing to keep in mind is benadryl and enlarged prostate. If you are a male over 50, which I am guessing a lot of you are, you may have BPH (Benign prostatic hyperplasia) AKA enlarged prostate. Use of Benadryl can aggravate symptoms. I Googled “benadryl and enlarged prostate” and the first result that came up was this quote: “Such drugs, known as adrenergics, can worsen urinary symptoms by preventing muscles in the prostate and bladder neck from relaxing to allow urine to flow freely. Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl, generic), can also slow urine flow in some men with BPH.” My urologist told me to stay away from Benadryl and to use Mucinex

    1. There isn’t enough actual study of this issue to answer that. Mostly what you have out there is opinions and assumptions which trend in multiple directions. Here is the take away from this issue. People are different; they have different genetic problems or strengths, because of other medications and different environmental factors that can affect their reaction to any medication or diet. To conflate this simple fact with health effects on everyone/anyone is neither scientific nor logical. But yet it is not unusual for some people, even well educated people, to do exactly that.

  4. I’ve been taking an acetominephen/benedryl combination pill for a few weeks now. My doc said it would be ok to do. I underwent chemotherapy for a year two years ago and have since that time not had a decent nights sleep. Pain and sleeplessness kept me from sleeping more than 6 hours a night. The one little pill has made all the difference in the world. I hesitated to take it, not wanting to take any medicines. I am already starting to feel better in the days since I’m finally getting enough sleep to heal too. I get a generic bottle from walmart.com, but there could be better, cheaper places to get it. I do it this way because I know how. Oh and I’m not affiliated with any drug maker or walmart. I think I should stock up too.

  5. Folks, it’s all about risk vs benefit. As a clinical pharmacist of some 36 years practice, I’ve seen a lot of practice trends come and go. The mention of delirium risk in older patients mentioned by several above is absolutely valid; however, there is no “red line of Benadryl death” when it comes to chronological age. To be precise, diphenhydramine is a first generation antihistamine, which also has anticholinergic effects (this would be considered a “side effect” if you’re taking the med for allergies). It is the anticholinergic (aka, “adrenergic”) effects that cause problems for older/debilitated folks, as well as for men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (i.e., BPH…the “H” stood for hypertrophy until recently). This is why newer, “second generation” antihistamines can generally be taken by older patients without the same risk (meds like Zyrtec (cetirizine), Claritin (loratidine) and others) – they have far less anticholinergic effect. Predictably, they also are less useful for insomnia, nausea, nasal symptoms of colds, and have no topical anesthetic properties.
    Though the risk of delirium in elderly patients is well-documented with drugs like Benadryl, if the SHTF, and you’re a 70 year old, healthy individual who is experiencing intractable vomiting or anxiety-provoked insomnia to the point of exhaustion, a dose of Benadryl may certainly be of more benefit than risk…if it’s the only option you have!
    “You pays your money and takes your chances!”
    Best Regards

    1. I am in my 70’s and have used benadryl for a sleep aid for years. Works great at the 25mg dose. Oh, it hasn’t killed me yet either. As it does make me drowsy I would not take it for much of the other uses unless very necessary.

  6. While I agree Benadryl can be a useful drug to have on hand, it’s worth noting that Harvard did a study a couple of years ago concerning a connection between Benadryl usage and dementia. I had regularly used a Benadryl as a sleep aid but have stopped cold turkey. I’m an RN and honestly took the study with a grain of salt until mentioning it to a doctor. He whole heartedly agreed that there is a connection between this class of drugs and dementia. I’m just mentioning this for those who may use it nightly for sleep. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a pill that I would take for sleep.

  7. A very good article and some extremely good comments. I have Benadryl, Zyrtec and Claritin in my medical supplies. For what it is worth, where I live Benadryl 25 mg is over the counter and 50 mg is by prescription. However the 50 mg can be sold as over the counter if it is going to be used as a sleep aid. (Kind of stupid as if you can pass second grade math you can figure out how to double the dosage) You might be able to find a pharmacy willing to sell medications such as this as a behind the counter medication, as compared to over the counter. It could save you a few dollars as the bottle will typically have 500 or a 1000 doses.

    It might be available in the pharmacies in Mexico for much lower prices than in the states. I doubt that customs will be very interested in you if you are bringing antihistamines. back.

    Very good advice on the Epi-Pen also. We had a ptienat come in to the ER who had accidentally injected her thumb when she was disposing of an old pen. Her thumb was white fro mlack of blood flow. The first thing we did was a hot soak to the area. Epi-Pens have come down in price but are still very expensive. An alternative is epinephrine in glass ampules. Although they not as fast to use they are much more affordable and can be administered with a diabetic type syringe.

  8. I was warned by a nurse that benadryl can spike your blood pressure.
    An internet search confirms this:
    “Antihistamines like Benadryl may not be effective or safe when you have high blood pressure. So, it is not recommended in those with a hypertension diagnosis. “

  9. In addition to all the human uses, it can be used in dogs, not just for allergic reactions. It is one of the better doggie downers we’ve tried, but try it ahead of the need. It can have the opposite affect on some dogs, as we discovered the hard way.

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