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Eczema treatment: Antihistamines

Help for sleeplessness

If itchy eczema leaves your child unable to fall asleep or sleep through the night, your dermatologist may recommend an antihistamine, but only for a short time.

Father holding crying baby

When do dermatologists recommend an antihistamine for a child with eczema?

Your child’s dermatologist may recommend that you give your child an antihistamine when: An intense itch keeps your child awake on most nights.

When your child’s dermatologist recommends an antihistamine, it will be one labeled “sedating.” This will help your child sleep through the night.

A sedating antihistamine will help your child sleep. It will not treat the eczema or stop the itch.

You’ll still need to treat your child’s eczema. Once the eczema is under control, it won’t itch so much and keep the child awake at night.

Safety and effectiveness

Sedating antihistamines help children sleep.

  • If your child has trouble sleeping due to eczema, you should see a dermatologist. The dermatologist can tell you whether it is safe to give your child an antihistamine. If safe, your dermatologist will recommend an appropriate antihistamine for your child.

  • People often take antihistamines to relieve itch. Antihistamines, however, do not effectively treat all types of itch. They don’t seem effective for stopping itch due to eczema.

  • While a sedating antihistamine can help your child sleep, research studies show that antihistamines (both sedating and non-sedating) cannot treat eczema. In one study, children (12 to 24 months) who had eczema were given either an antihistamine or a placebo (looks like the medicine but doesn’t contains medicine) for 18 months. The antihistamine didn’t control the eczema.

How to use

  • Give to your child exactly as directed by the dermatologist.

Possible side effects

Itchy eczema can cause sleep loss

To help your child get much needed sleep, a dermatologist may recommend a sedating antihistamine for a brief time.

sleeping baby

Every medicine can cause side effects. In general, possible side effects of antihistamines are:

  • Drowsiness, even with the non-sedating ones

  • Dry mouth

  • Blurry vision

  • Restlessness or moodiness in children

  • Constipation

  • Rapid heart rate

When should I call my child’s dermatologist?

  • Your child develops any of the side effects listed above.

  • The antihistamine makes your child sleepy during the day.

  • Your child still wakes up during the night.

Related AAD resources

Sidbury R, Davis DM, et al. “Guidelines of care for the management of atopic dermatitis, Part 3: Guidelines of care for the management and treatment of atopic dermatitis with phototherapy and systemic agents.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014 Aug;71(2):327-49.