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Stupid human tricks: The FDA says don't swallow topical Benadryl

May 12, 2010 |  9:49 am

It's the latest edition of Stupid Human Tricks. The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday warned consumers about swallowing Benadryl Extra Strength Itch Stopping Gel, a product meant to be applied to the skin. The agency said it had received several reports of adverse effects from people who had mistakenly swallowed the gel. The problem is the topical form of the drug contains the active ingredient diphenhydramine in an amount that is dangerous if swallowed. Adverse effects include confusion, hallucinations and unconsciousness.

The agency also warned that many stores carry their own brand of the product that consumers can also confuse with Benadryl tablets or caplets.

Because of the danger, the drug's manufacturer, Johnson and Johnson, has changed the product label to add a new, prominent statement, "For skin use only."  A sticker on the cap now says the same thing.

The company is also initiating studies to determine why consumers may mistakenly swallow the drug. Apparently, they are not satisfied with the simple answer: stupidity.

-- Thomas H. Maugh II