QUICK STUDY : A weekly digest of new research on major health topics

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


An antihistamine doesn't seem to help fussy infants sleep.

· THE QUESTION Fussy babies who have trouble sleeping are not uncommon. Parents yearning for a way to help a child fall asleep -- and not awaken repeatedly during the night -- sometimes try giving the baby an antihistamine, which acts as a sedative. Does this work?

· THIS STUDY involved 44 infants, 6 to 15 months old, who awoke an average of three times a night. They were randomly assigned to take liquid Benadryl (diphenhydramine hydrochloride) or a placebo 30 minutes before bedtime for a week. Among babies taking Benadryl, one child (5 percent) woke less often during the night, according to their parents, compared with three of the children (14 percent) taking the placebo. When asked how happy they were with their child's sleep during that week, the parents' responses were nearly identical: Both groups rated their happiness as a 4 on a scale of 0 to 10.

· WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? Babies who have trouble sleeping, and their parents. Studies have reported that 71 percent of parents give their infants medicine in hopes of helping them sleep and that 49 percent of pediatricians recommend antihistamines for this purpose.

· CAVEATS Babies were given a standard dose of Benadryl (1 milligram per kilogram of weight); whether a higher dose would be more sedating was not tested. The researchers intended to enroll more participants but said they stopped the study early "because of lack of effectiveness" of the drug compared with the placebo.

· FIND THIS STUDY July issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine; abstract available online at http://www.archpediatrics.com .

· LEARN MORE ABOUT children and sleep at http://www.sleepfoundation.org and http://kidshealth.org .

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