Georgia Child Fatality Review Panel issues antihistamine medication warning for parents, caregivers

Published 5:20 pm Wednesday, July 5, 2017

DECATURThe Georgia Child Fatality Review (GCFR) Panel is issuing a public awareness statement for parents and caregivers to never use antihistamine medications for the sole purpose of making children sleep or calm down.  The danger of such misuse is acute diphenhydramine intoxication that can result in rapid heart rate, confusion, hallucinations, convulsions, and even death.

Since 2013, the Georgia Poison Control (GPC) Center has received 940 reports of this condition involving children age 5 and under.  In Georgia, four infants have died because of the toxic effects of diphenhydramine since 2015.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration advises that children under age two not be given any kind of cough and cold product that contains a decongestant or antihistamine, because serious and possibly life-threatening side effects could occur.  National polling data has shown that as many as one in five mothers have given such drugs to get through a “big event,” such as a long car ride or plane trip.  In some cases, it is dosing errors that cause the acute intoxication of the diphenhydramine.  The difference between a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon can mean life or death for an infant.

Not sure which antihistamine is best for your child? Call your doctor or pediatrician.  If you think you gave too much medication to your child, immediately contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 or start a LIVE CHAT with a poison information specialist at

 The main purpose of the GCFR Panel is to prevent child deaths.  The mission of GCFR is to serve Georgia’s children by promoting more accurate identification and reporting of child fatalities, evaluating the prevalence and circumstances of both child abuse cases and child fatality investigations, and monitoring the implementation and impact of the statewide child injury prevention plan to prevent and reduce incidents of child abuse and fatalities in the state.

The GPC mission is to provide high quality poison center services to healthcare professionals and residents of Georgia. GPC goals are: provide 24-hour-a-day prompt and accurate poison information, educate Georgia residents on poison prevention and first aid, and educate healthcare professionals in the areas of clinical toxicology, poisoning epidemiology, poison prevention, toxicological diagnosis, and care.