Most experts agree -- using cold and allergy medicine to sedate kids is wrong. But that doesn't stop parents.
If flying is a hassle, flying with kids is a nightmare. As seats get smaller and in-flight amenities fewer, more and more parents are dosing their kids with sleeping aids to make it though long flights hassle-free. According to a poll on the website lilsugar, a whooping 58% of parents think it's okay to use Benadryl, an allergy medicine or other medicinal sleep aids to help kids sleep on a plane.
"Benadryl is not intended as a sedative," warns pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson. "It is an antihistamine meant to help treat allergic symptoms. It is not a convenience for parents to help with an "extended nap" on airplanes. Additionally," says Dr. Cara, "The FDA came out with a warning earlier this year to change the labeling on many cough and cold medications warning parents "should not give to children under age 4."
And the risks can be deadly.
"I'm against Benadryl used for anything other than allergy treatment, and so are most pediatricians and sleep experts," says Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Regardless, many parents insist drugging kids is "the only way to fly." Some even go further and use the method when they simply need a break.
"Parents do it who are tired and stressed out," explains, Dr. Gwenn. "I hear parents [in my practice] tell me 'she doesn't sleep so I give them Benadryl." Apparently, it's a very dangerous habit. "There is a safety window that can be easily exceeded messing with your kid's clock -- which is what makes us sleep."
At what point does the use of sedatives become a form of child abuse?
"You could argue it's always abuse," states Dr. Gwenn. "There's a very fine line. But a 'normal' parent will call 911 if there was a problem relating to the dosage, a parent who has done something suspicious won't."
There is mounting evidence the high-profile saga of accused murder Casey Anthony is just one of those cases. Momlogic reported last month Casey Anthony's defense team said if Anthony's daughter, Caylee was indeed dead, "it was almost certainly a tragic accident," and she was possibly poisoned by chloroform or she could have died while she was sedated. Basically, they claim it could have been an accident.
While anyone would be loath to compare their own practice of sedating a child on an airplane to Casey's alleged use of chloroform, there are some similarities. As one momlogic reader put it, "I don't think I know any moms who haven't at least considered giving their kid(s) Benadryl for a plane ride, *If* the chloroform story is indeed what happened, it's only a difference of degree. Either action is still drugging your child to make your life easier."
In the last three years, ten daycare centers tried to make their lives easier by workers allegedly sedating children with cold medicines and cough syrups. Four babies died in those cases. Sabine Bieber, former owner of Tiny Tots Day Care in Montana, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for giving one-year-old Dane Heggem a fatal dose of generic allergy medicine (without the parents permission) to manage their nap times.
"Sadly, it could happen to anyone," cautions Dr. Gwenn. "If you're going to use something off-label -- for a purpose other than its intended use -- you could easily be accused of wrongdoing. Benadryl is used for allergies. A lot of parents don't know how to give these drugs properly -- they misjudge their child's weight, for example."
A parent needs to be prepared to answer that if something goes wrong. "Essentially," concluded Dr. Gwenn, "You're taking your child's life in your hands."Is It OK to drug kids for airplane rides?