Cold Home > What Is Diphenhydramine Used For?

Diphenhydramine is a medication that is used for a variety of different purposes. Depending on the particular product, it may be approved for the treatment of insomnia, common cold symptoms, motion sickness, or allergy symptoms. Healthcare providers may also occasionally recommend off-label uses of diphenhydramine, such as for the treatment of morning sickness, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and extrapyramidal symptoms due to antipsychotics and other medications.

An Overview of Diphenhydramine Uses

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®, Sominex®, and many other brand names) is an antihistamine that is used for a variety of different purposes. The approved uses may vary, depending on the particular product, and there are also a number of "off-label" uses for diphenhydramine. Approved uses include the treatment of the following conditions:
  • Sneezing and runny nose due to the common cold (oral products only)
  • Skin itching and pain due to a variety of different causes (for the products applied to the skin only)
  • Insomnia (oral products only).
  • Allergy symptoms due to hay fever or other upper respiratory allergies (oral products only)
  • Allergic reactions, such as food allergies (prescription products only)
  • Motion sickness (prescription products only)
  • Dermatographism, a severe form of hives (prescription products only)
  • Parkinson's disease (prescription products only).
Not all diphenhydramine products are approved and labeled for every use. For instance, Benadryl is not labeled appropriately for treating insomnia, while Sominex is not labeled appropriately for treating allergies, even though they both contain diphenhydramine.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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