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Dye-Free Benadryl Alternatives

Why Dye-Free Medicine Matters

Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology Profile Photo

Written by Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology on September 29, 2021

Medically reviewed by Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology

If you’ve ever scanned the packing of medicine made specifically for kids, you might’ve noticed tons of dyes listed in the “Inactive Ingredients” section.

In this article, we’ll answer questions like “why is there even dye in medicine in the first place?” and “what effects does that dye have on my kids?” (spoiler alert: there’s nothing good about dye).

From there, we’ll give you a few dye-free allergy medicine options that you can use to get your kids feeling good while you feel good about buying it.

Food and Medicine Dyes: The Basics

Before we dive into the uses and effects of dye in medicine, let's take a look at dye in general.

Artificial dyes in food and medicine are responsible for all the brightly colored products out there, including everything from super orange boxed mac-n-cheese to really pink cough medicine to neon blue M&Ms.

Unfortunately, the majority of dye in food and medicine gets consumed by kids because they’re often put in children’s products to make them more “fun”-looking. But in reality, there’s nothing fun about dye.

The majority of dyes used today in food and medicine are made from petroleum. Yes, you read that right, petroleum. Although dyes are tested to make sure they don’t contain any traces of the original petroleum in the final product, it still doesn’t inspire confidence knowing the toxic origins of these dyes are so common in our kids’ foods and medicines.

Why is dye even in medicine?

Now that you know a little more about how dye is made, you might be wondering why dye is ever put in medicine. Unfortunately, there’s not a really good answer to that question.

The only reason dyes are put in medicines is to make them more appealing looking, especially for kids. They don’t impact flavor and provide no benefits to the texture of food or medicine. The thinking is that our kids will be more likely to accept cough medicine if it’s bright pink, but at what cost?

Why does dye-free matter?

Although kids are drawn to brightly colored things, it’s important that those things are their toys and clothes, not their medicine. In this section, we’ll break down why it’s so important that our kids' medicine remains dye-free.

Allergic Reactions

Even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has to approve all dyes used in food and medicine, there are several people who are sensitive, and in some cases allergic, to these dyes.

One of the most commonly used food dyes is known as Red 40, or Allura Red. The most common allergic reactions to this dye included symptoms such as hives and facial swelling.

Other popular dyes such as Yellow 5 and Blue 1 cause similar symptoms in people who are allergic to them.

Unfortunately, given the popularity of food dyes, it can be difficult to figure out if your kid is allergic to them. If you give them popular over-the-counter medicines such as Benadryl, and it seems like the medicine is doing more harm than good, chances are that your child is having an allergic reaction to the dye.


If your child has no allergies to food dye, it is still a good idea to give them dye-free medications because studies have shown that artificial food colors do have harmful effects on kids. The most notable negative effect of food dyes is that they can cause hyperactivity in kids.

Although dye does not conclusively cause ADHD, if your kid is unknowingly ingesting dyes, they can become more hyperactive.

No Health Benefits

Alongside these alarming effects of dyes, there’s absolutely no health benefits associated with them. Dyes are added purely for visual appeal, and serve no other purpose in medicine or food.


Luckily, there are several dye-free alternatives to Benadryl, one of the most frequently used over-the-counter medications for kids.

For the most part, Benadryl is used to treat allergic reactions and seasonal allergies in kids. In this section, we give you a few dye-free allergy medications for kids and some remedies for infants with allergies.

Medications for Kids

If your child prefers tablets, give Genexa’s Kids’ Allergy Care tablets a try -- it can address symptoms associated with hay fever or other respiratory allergies. These symptoms can include irritated eyes, sinuses pressure, nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and an itchy throat and nose. Plus, this homeopathic blend is non-drowsy.

For a more traditional approach, you can try Genexa’s Kids’ Allergy medicine, which uses diphenhydramine to provide safe, effective relief from common allergy symptoms when used as directed. When using this medication, note that they should not be used to make your kids sleepy, or with other products that have diphenhydramine.

The big benefit of both of these products is that they’re totally dye-free and use clean inactive ingredients such as acai berry flavor and agave syrup to provide flavor, meaning no added sugary junk.

Remedies for Infants

Given that our allergy medications are not recommended for kids under the age of two, there are a few other remedies you can use if your infant is struggling with allergies.

The best thing to do, if possible, is to just remove the allergen from their environment as much as possible. There are plenty of filters with a MERV rating of 9 to 11 that can filter out allergens such as pet dander and pollen.

Another way to help ease the symptoms of allergies in your baby is to use Genexa’s Infants’ Saline Nasal Spray and Drops. These drops can offer your baby relief from nasal congestion, sinus congestion, and nasal dryness. If you use these drops, make sure to clean the dispenser after every use to ensure that germs don’t stay on there.

Additional Tips for Giving Your Child Allergy Medicine

Most allergy medications are helpful at the onset of allergy symptoms. These symptoms often include sneezing and an itchy nose and eyes. Allergies can also cause a cough, chest tightness, or wheezing. Depending on the allergen, an itchy, red rash can also appear. Signs of a more severe allergic reaction include swollen lips, tongue, and eyes.

The best time to take allergy medication is before bed because allergy symptoms tend to get worse between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.

If your kid seems to have allergies all the time, it can be a good idea to talk to your doctor about what allergy medication they should take and other possible solutions to get to the root of the allergy.


Unfortunately, so many popular medicines for kids use dyes to make their products more appealing visually. Although they might make food and medicine more “fun” looking, these dyes are harmful and can cause allergic reactions and hyperactivity in kids. Not to mention, they offer zero health benefits!

For that reason, it’s a good idea to give your child dye-free alternatives when they’re sick or experiencing symptoms of allergies.

We believe you shouldn’t have to choose between good medicine and products without dyes, and with Genexa’s clean kids’ allergy medication, you don’t!