Benadryl vs Claritin

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For patients with seasonal allergies or chronic urticaria, certain drugs that inhibit the effects of histamine — a compound in the body responsible for allergy symptoms — can be beneficial. Benadryl and Claritin are two such drugs often recommended to alleviate these conditions. They both block the action of histamine but have different side effect profiles due to their pharmacological properties.

Benadryl, also known as diphenhydramine, is a first-generation antihistamine which readily crosses the blood-brain barrier leading to drowsiness - a common side effect. It provides quick relief from allergic reactions but its effects last only about four to six hours requiring multiple doses in a day.

On the other hand, Claritin or loratadine is a second-generation antihistamine. It doesn't cross into brain tissue as easily as Benadryl does hence it's less likely to cause drowsiness making it more suitable for daytime use. Its effects also tend to last longer (up to 24 hours), so once daily dosing is usually enough.

What is Benadryl?

Diphenhydramine (the generic name for Benadryl) was among the first-generation antihistamines, which represented a significant advancement from earlier available remedies for allergies and hay fever. Diphenhydramine received FDA approval in 1946. Benadryl functions by blocking histamine receptors in the body, effectively preventing allergic reactions from occurring. It is prescribed mainly for short-term relief of allergy symptoms and as a sleep aid due to its sedative properties. In contrast, Loratadine (the generic name for Claritin), a second-generation antihistamine approved by the FDA in 1993, also blocks histamine but does not cross the blood-brain barrier easily thus resulting in less drowsiness compared to Benadryl. This makes it ideal for long-term control of allergy symptoms without causing significant sedation.

What conditions is Benadryl approved to treat?

Benadryl and Claritin are both approved for the treatment of different symptoms associated with allergies:

  • Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever
  • Chronic idiopathic urticaria, commonly referred to as hives
  • Other allergic reactions such as itching, sneezing, runny nose or watery eyes. Benadryl is additionally approved for use in the prevention of motion sickness and as a sleep aid due to its sedative properties.

How does Benadryl help with these illnesses?

Benadryl helps to manage allergies by blocking the action of histamine in the body. It does this by binding to H1 receptors, thus preventing histamine from attaching and causing symptoms like itching, sneezing, hives, and swelling. Histamine is a biogenic amine that contributes to an immune response often associated with allergic reactions and inflammation. It plays an essential role in local immune responses as well as regulating physiological function in the gut and acting as a neurotransmitter for the brain, spinal cord, and uterus. People suffering from allergies typically have higher levels of histamine when exposed to allergens such as dust mites or pollen. Therefore, by inhibiting histamine's effects through its antihistaminic properties, Benadryl can limit the negative effects of allergies helping patients manage their condition better.

On contrast is Claritin (loratadine), another antihistaminic drug which also works by blocking H1 receptors but is less likely than older antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to cause drowsiness because it doesn't readily cross blood-brain barrier into central nervous system where it could lead to sedation.

What is Claritin?

Claritin is a brand name for loratadine, which is an antihistamine that helps reduce the effects of the natural chemical histamine in the body. Histamines can produce symptoms of sneezing, itching, watery eyes and runny nose. Claritin was first approved by the FDA in 1993. Unlike Benadryl (diphenhydramine), another commonly used antihistamine, loratadine does not cross into the brain from the blood at high rates; this means it does not cause significant sedation or drowsiness – a common side effect associated with Benadryl. Loratadine's lack of central nervous system impact makes it particularly useful for those who need to continue functioning at their normal pace during allergy season or when experiencing chronic allergic reactions. The reduced drowsiness and minimal other side effects make Claritin preferable for many patients over typical first-generation antihistamines such as Benadryl.

What conditions is Claritin approved to treat?

Claritin, also known by its generic name loratadine, is an antihistamine approved for the treatment of certain allergic conditions including:

  • Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis (hay fever)
  • Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (hives without a known cause) Unlike Benadryl, Claritin has less sedating effects and therefore is generally better tolerated especially for those who need to maintain focus during the day.

How does Claritin help with these illnesses?

Histamine is a chemical compound that plays various roles in the body, including involvement in local immune response and acting as a neurotransmitter. During an allergic reaction, histamine causes inflammation and symptoms such as sneezing, itching or runny nose. Claritin operates by blocking the action of histamine at H1 receptor sites which helps to alleviate these allergy symptoms. Unlike first-generation antihistamines like Benadryl, Claritin doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier as readily thus reducing potential side effects such as drowsiness or impaired coordination. This feature makes it particularly favored when patients need to maintain wakefulness and focus amidst their allergies - whether they are engaged in work, study or other daily activities requiring attention. Since its effect on sleep is less significant compared with drugs like Benadryl, it can be chosen for those who do not respond well to more sedating antihistamines.

How effective are both Benadryl and Claritin?

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Claritin (loratadine) are both antihistamines that have proven effective in treating allergy symptoms. They were approved by the FDA several decades apart, with Benadryl being one of the first antihistamines available starting in 1946 while Claritin came to market much later in 1993.

Both drugs work by blocking histamine receptors, but they belong to different generations of antihistamines. The effectiveness of diphenhydramine and loratadine was directly studied; for acute allergic reactions, diphenhydramine appears to act faster whereas loratadine is longer-lasting. Both drugs showed similar efficacy at managing chronic symptoms like those associated with hay fever or other ongoing allergies.

A study published in Clinical Therapeutics found that while both drugs were effective at reducing allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and itchiness, patients taking loratadine reported significantly fewer side effects than those on diphenhydramine due to its non-sedative properties.

Given this safety profile difference along with a more convenient once-daily dosing schedule compared to multiple doses per day for Benadryl makes Claritin often a preferred choice particularly when it comes down long term usage or daytime treatment. However essential it might be mentioning that Benadryl's sedative effect can serve as an advantage if taken before bedtime especially when nocturnal itching or cough is prominent.

In conclusion both medications remain valid choices today depending upon individual preferences and symptom profiles.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Benadryl typically prescribed?

Oral doses of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) for adults and children over 12 years old range from 25-50 mg every 4-6 hours, but studies have indicated that a dose of 25mg is usually sufficient for relieving allergy symptoms in most people. Children aged between six to eleven may be started on a lower dose of 12.5-25 mg every four to six hours. In either population, the dosage can be increased if there's no response after a few days as per medical guidance. However, in any case, the maximum daily dosage that should not be exceeded is 300mg.

On the other hand, Claritin (loratadine) has different dosing guidelines: Adults and children over six years old are typically instructed to take one tablet or capsule (10 mg) once daily. For younger kids under six years old or weighing less than thirty kilograms (~66 pounds), half a tablet or capsule (5mg) once daily is recommended by healthcare professionals.

At what dose is Claritin typically prescribed?

Claritin therapy typically begins with a dosage of 10 mg/day for adults and children over six years old. For younger children aged two to five years, the recommended starting dose is 5 mg/day. The effects of Claritin are long-lasting, providing relief for up to 24 hours, so there's no need to exceed this daily amount unless directed by your doctor. Unlike other antihistamines, Claritin does not cause drowsiness making it an ideal choice during daytime or when alertness is required. Should symptoms persist past three days or worsen despite taking the medication as directed, consult with your healthcare provider promptly.

What are the most common side effects for Benadryl?

Common side effects of Benadryl include:

  • Drowsiness/sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth, nose or throat
  • Constipation
  • Blurred vision

On the other hand, Claritin is known to cause:

  • Headache
  • Sleepiness/drowsiness
  • Feeling tired and exhausted (fatigue)
  • Stomach pain -Nausea, diarrhea -Dry mouth
    -Sore throat, coughing

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Benadryl?

When comparing Benadryl to Claritin, it's important to note that both are antihistamines used for allergy relief. However, they do have different side effects:

  • Severe allergic reactions: hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of your face or throat
  • Dizziness and coordination issues: these can be severe enough that you feel like you might pass out. This is especially common with Benadryl as it causes more sedation than Claritin.
  • Heart palpitations: fast or pounding heartbeats; this is less likely but if it happens seek immediate medical attention.
  • Low sodium levels in the body - headache, confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness in association with vomiting and loss of coordination may indicate a drop in sodium levels which requires urgent medical intervention.
  • Vision problems such as blurred vision or seeing halos around lights can occur although rarely.

It should be noted that unlike other medications mentioned before (Prozac & Wellbutrin), neither Benadryl nor Claritin typically leads to increased thoughts about suicide/self-harm or serotonin syndrome symptoms. However if any unusual adverse reactions not listed above occur while using these drugs it is advisable to consult healthcare professionals immediately.

What are the most common side effects for Claritin?

When taking Claritin, you may experience some common side effects including:

  • Dry mouth or throat
  • Headache
  • Nausea and lack of appetite
  • Fatigue or feeling drowsy
  • Stomach discomfort Additionally, it is worth noting that unlike Benadryl, Claritin does not typically cause drowsiness. Therefore, if you need to maintain alertness for work or other activities, Claritin might be the better choice for managing your allergy symptoms. However, everyone reacts differently to medication so it's important to monitor your body's response and discuss any concerns with a healthcare provider.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Claritin?

Though Claritin is generally considered safe, it's important to be aware of potential side effects. These can include:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as hives; difficulty breathing; swelling on the face, lips, tongue or throat
  • Fast pounding heartbeats or fluttering in your chest
  • Feeling like you might pass out
  • Jaundice (yellowing of your skin or eyes)
  • Severe dizziness and nervousness
  • Unusual changes in mood or behavior
  • Sleep problems (insomnia)

If any of these symptoms occur after taking Claritin, it's crucial to seek medical attention immediately.

Contraindications for Benadryl and Claritin?

Both Benadryl and Claritin, like most antihistamines, can cause side effects in some individuals. If you notice any severe reactions such as difficulty breathing, swelling of your face or throat, or a fast heartbeat after taking these medications, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Benadryl nor Claritin should be taken if you are using or have recently used monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors. Always inform your healthcare provider about the medications you are currently on; MAOIs will require a period of roughly two weeks to clear from your system to avoid potentially dangerous interactions with Benadryl and Claritin.

How much do Benadryl and Claritin cost?

In the case of Claritin (loratadine) and Benadryl (diphenhydramine), both are widely available over-the-counter medications:

  • For brand-name versions, a package of 30 tablets of Claritin (10 mg each) averages around $20, working out to approximately $0.67 per day.
  • In contrast, a pack of 100 tablets of Benadryl (25mg each) costs about $12 - leading to roughly $0.25 per day if you take up to four doses daily.

So if you're taking only a single dose daily, Benadryl is generally cheaper than Claritin on a per-day treatment basis. However, bear in mind that cost should not be your primary consideration when choosing between these two drugs as they have different active ingredients and can therefore treat various symptoms differently.

For their generic counterparts:

  • Generic loratadine is available in packs ranging from 30 to 365 tablets with costs starting at just under $1 for smaller packs and dropping as low as about $0.03/day if you buy the largest pack upfront.
  • Similarly, generic diphenhydramine comes in packages from as small as 24 capsules all the way up to bulk buys like packs of 600 or even more – again with prices varying but potentially going down close to just pennies a day depending on how many you buy at once.

Both medications' generics offer substantial savings compared to their branded alternatives while still providing effective relief from allergy symptoms.

Popularity of Benadryl and Claritin

Diphenhydramine, commonly known by the brand name Benadryl, is a first-generation antihistamine widely used in the United States for temporary relief of allergy symptoms, motion sickness and even as a sleep aid. In 2020, it was estimated to have been utilized by approximately 20 million people in the US.

Loratadine or Claritin on the other hand, is a second-generation antihistamine that is less likely to cross the blood-brain barrier; therefore causing less drowsiness than its predecessor. It was prescribed to an estimated 24 million people in the USA in 2020 due to its efficacy against allergies without causing significant sedation.

The use of diphenhydramine has seen some decrease over time due to increased awareness about potential side effects like drowsiness and dry mouth compared to non-sedating alternatives such as loratadine. Meanwhile loratadine's popularity has remained steady if not risen slightly over recent years because of its more favorable side effect profile.


Both Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Claritin (loratadine) are widely used antihistamines with a proven track record in relieving allergy symptoms. Both medications have been shown to be more effective than placebo treatments through multiple clinical studies and meta-analyses. While they both work by blocking histamine, a chemical your body releases during an allergic reaction, their mechanisms of action differ slightly.

Benadryl is a first-generation antihistamine that enters the brain in significant amounts, potentially causing drowsiness, while Claritin is a second-generation antihistamine which does not readily enter the brain and thus typically does not cause drowsiness. Because of this difference in sedating effects, Benadryl is often taken at night or before bedtime whereas Claritin can be taken at any time of the day without concern for sleep disruption.

Both drugs come in generic forms which offer substantial cost savings for patients who must pay out-of-pocket. Their effects can take some time to kick in so don't expect immediate relief when you start taking them.

The side effect profiles between the two drugs are similar but do differ somewhat due to their different properties - notably Benadryl's potential to induce sleepiness and dry mouth compared to Claritin's generally non-sedative nature. As with all medications, users should closely monitor their reactions especially when starting treatment and seek medical advice immediately if they notice severe adverse reactions or worsening symptoms.