Benadryl vs Claritin: Allergy Relief Differences & Side Effects

Wyndly Care Team
Dedicated to giving everyone incredible care

Why is Benadryl not recommended anymore?

Benadryl is not recommended anymore due to its high risk of side effects, especially in older adults. These include drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, and urinary retention. Moreover, long-term use can lead to an increased risk of dementia. Safer alternatives are now available for allergy relief.

Get started
Wyndly Allergy

Allergy meds not working?

Better allergy treatment is here.

What Are Benadryl and Claritin?

Benadryl and Claritin are both over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines used to treat allergy symptoms. They differ in their active ingredients, side effects, and duration of action, which may influence the choice between them for allergy relief.


Benadryl is an antihistamine that contains diphenhydramine as its active ingredient. It provides rapid relief from allergy symptoms, including itching, runny nose, and sneezing. However, it may also cause drowsiness, making it a popular choice for nighttime use.


Claritin, on the other hand, contains loratadine as its active ingredient. It is known to effectively relieve allergy symptoms without causing drowsiness. This makes it a preferred choice among individuals seeking daytime allergy relief. There's also a version, Claritin-D, that includes pseudoephedrine for nasal congestion relief.

How Do Benadryl and Claritin Work?

Benadryl and Claritin work by inhibiting the effects of histamine, a chemical released by the immune system during an allergic reaction. However, they have different mechanisms of action, which can influence their side effects and duration of action.

Benadryl's Mechanism of Action

Benadryl, or diphenhydramine, is a first-generation antihistamine. It works by blocking histamine receptors in the body, preventing histamine from binding to these receptors and causing allergy symptoms. However, its effect on the central nervous system can lead to drowsiness, a common side effect of first-generation antihistamines.

Claritin's Mechanism of Action

Claritin, or loratadine, is a second-generation antihistamine. Unlike Benadryl, it selectively blocks peripheral histamine receptors, reducing the likelihood of causing drowsiness. This feature makes it a popular choice as a non-drowsy allergy medication. Both Benadryl and Claritin are considered safe for routine use for allergy relief, but they only provide temporary relief and do not address the root cause of allergies.

What Conditions Do Benadryl and Claritin Treat?

Benadryl and Claritin are mainly used to relieve allergy symptoms. While they both help mitigate the effects of histamine, the conditions they treat and the severity of symptoms they manage can vary.

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is effective at treating symptoms such as sneezing, itching, runny nose, and watery eyes due to hay fever, the common cold, or other upper respiratory allergies. It can also help with symptoms of skin itching and hives caused by chronic idiopathic urticaria, a condition characterized by the spontaneous appearance of hives without a known cause.

On the other hand, Claritin (loratadine) is also used to treat the above-mentioned allergy symptoms. In addition, it can mitigate itching caused by chronic idiopathic urticaria. However, compared to Benadryl, Claritin is less likely to cause drowsiness, making it a preferred choice for people who require daytime allergy relief.

While both medications can provide temporary relief, they do not cure allergies. For a more permanent solution, you might want to consider treatments like allergy shots or allergy drops. For milder symptoms or for those who prefer natural remedies, natural antihistamines could be a feasible alternative.

What Are the Side Effects of Benadryl and Claritin?

While Benadryl and Claritin work to alleviate allergy symptoms, they may also cause side effects. The intensity and nature of these side effects can vary, depending on the individual's health condition and the dosage taken.

Side Effects of Benadryl

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is known to cause drowsiness, making it less suitable for use during the daytime or when you need to be alert. Other common side effects include dry mouth, nose, or throat; nausea; constipation; and in some cases, blurred vision or dizziness. It is always important to follow the recommended dosage and consult with a health professional if you experience severe or ongoing side effects.

Side Effects of Claritin

Claritin (loratadine), on the other hand, is less likely to cause drowsiness. However, it may still lead to side effects such as headache, fatigue, dry mouth, or gastrointestinal problems like nausea and gastritis. Severe side effects are rare but could include rapid or irregular heartbeat and yellowing eyes or skin. Also, it's worth noting that Claritin's efficacy can be diminished when combined with certain OTC antihistamines.

It's important to remember that everyone's body reacts differently to medications. If you're considering either of these treatments for allergy symptoms, it's best to discuss the potential side effects and other treatment options, such as allergy drops, with a healthcare provider. Additionally, keep in mind that while these OTC medications can provide temporary relief, they do not cure allergies.

How Do Benadryl and Claritin Compare in Terms of Efficacy?

When comparing the efficacy of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Claritin (loratadine), both are effective in reducing allergy symptoms. The key difference lies in the duration of action and the presence of sedative effects.

Benadryl has a rapid onset of action, providing relief within 15 to 30 minutes of administration. However, its effects are short-lived, usually lasting for 4 to 6 hours. It's known for its sedative properties, which can cause drowsiness but may also aid those struggling with sleep due to allergy symptoms.

Unlike Benadryl, Claritin doesn't have significant sedative effects, making it a better choice for daytime use. It takes effect within 1 to 3 hours of administration and provides relief for up to 24 hours. It's worth noting that Claritin is a metabolite of another antihistamine, Clarinex, and they share similar properties.

In conclusion, while both Benadryl and Claritin are effective for allergy relief, the choice between the two should be based on your specific symptoms, lifestyle, and how your body reacts to each medication. Always consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice.

What Are the Dosing Guidelines for Benadryl and Claritin?

The dosing guidelines for Benadryl and Claritin differ due to their distinct pharmacological profiles. Adherence to these guidelines is crucial to ensure effective symptom relief and minimize potential side effects.

For Benadryl (diphenhydramine), adults and children over 12 years old typically take 25 to 50 mg every 4 to 6 hours. However, the dosage should not exceed 300 mg per day. Note that Benadryl can cause drowsiness, so avoid activities requiring alertness, such as driving, after taking it.

On the other hand, the recommended dose for Claritin (loratadine) for adults and children over the age of 6 is 10 mg once daily. Claritin is non-sedating, so it doesn't interfere with daily activities. However, it's important not to exceed the recommended daily dose.

Can You Take Benadryl and Claritin Together?

Yes, you can take Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Claritin (loratadine) together. However, it's important to understand that both are antihistamines, and combining them can increase the risk of side effects. Always consult with a healthcare provider before combining these medications.

Remember, Benadryl is a first-generation antihistamine and can cause drowsiness. This side effect can be exacerbated when taken with other medications. On the other hand, Claritin is a second-generation antihistamine, which is less likely to cause drowsiness.

In conclusion, while it's technically possible to take both medications together, it's not typically recommended without professional medical advice. The potential for increased side effects or drug interactions should always be considered.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Taking Benadryl or Claritin?

The long-term use of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Claritin (loratadine) is generally considered safe, but it can lead to certain side effects. Both medications are antihistamines and have different potential long-term effects due to their distinct properties.

The prolonged use of Benadryl, a first-generation antihistamine, may lead to persistent drowsiness, dry mouth, constipation, and potential cognitive impairment. Some studies have linked the long-term use of first-generation antihistamines to an increased risk of dementia, though more research is needed.

On the other hand, Claritin, a second-generation antihistamine, is less likely to cause sedation. However, long-term use can still lead to headaches, dry mouth, and fatigue. As with any medication, it's essential to discuss long-term use with a healthcare provider to understand potential risks and benefits.

What Are the Drug Interactions of Benadryl vs. Claritin?

Both Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Claritin (loratadine) can interact with other medications, leading to increased side effects or decreased effectiveness. It's crucial to inform your healthcare provider about all the medications you take.

Benadryl can interact with medications like sedatives, muscle relaxants, and anticholinergic drugs. These interactions may lead to increased drowsiness, dry mouth, and urinary retention. It's also important to avoid consuming alcohol while taking Benadryl, as it can enhance the sedative effects.

Claritin can interact with certain antibiotics and antifungal medications. These interactions can increase the concentration of Claritin in your body, leading to potential side effects like headache and dry mouth. Just like Benadryl, it's also recommended to avoid alcohol as it can enhance potential side effects.

What Should You Consider When Choosing Between Benadryl and Claritin?

When deciding between Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Claritin (loratadine), consider factors such as your symptoms, the severity of your allergies, and your overall health status. It's also essential to compare the pros and cons and understand their safety guidelines and onset of action.

Pros and Cons

Benadryl is effective at relieving allergy symptoms quickly, but its effects wear off within 4 to 6 hours. It can also cause drowsiness, making it less suitable for daytime use. On the other hand, Claritin is long-acting, with effects lasting up to 24 hours, and it's less likely to cause drowsiness. However, it may not work as quickly as Benadryl for immediate relief.

OTC and are generally safe for most people when used as directed. However, those with certain health conditions, such as glaucoma, heart disease, or an enlarged prostate, should consult their healthcare provider before using these medications. Avoid alcohol when taking either medication, as it can enhance potential side effects.

How Quickly Will They Work?

Benadryl typically starts working within 15 to 30 minutes and is ideal for providing quick relief, while Claritin may take a couple of hours to kick in but will provide relief for a longer period. Choose a medication based on how quickly you need relief and how long you need the effects to last.

How Does Antihistamine Relieve Allergies?

Antihistamines relieve allergies by blocking histamine, a chemical released by the immune system during an allergic reaction. Histamine binds to receptors on cells in your body, causing symptoms like itching, swelling, and runny nose.

Antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Claritin (loratadine) work by fitting into the histamine receptors on these cells. This prevents histamine from binding to these receptors, thereby reducing the allergic response.

It's essential to understand that while antihistamines can control symptoms, they do not cure allergies. They merely provide temporary relief from the discomfort caused by an allergic reaction. Always consult your healthcare provider for advice on managing chronic or severe allergies.

How Does Benadryl Compare to Other Allergy Medicines?

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is often compared with other allergy medications due to its efficacy in relieving allergy symptoms. However, the differences lie in the side effects, onset of action, and duration of effect, which vary from medication to medication.

Compared to non-sedating antihistamines like Claritin (loratadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine), Benadryl has a quicker onset of action but a shorter duration of effect. It can provide relief within 15 to 30 minutes, but its effects only last for about 4 to 6 hours. This makes it suitable for acute symptom relief but not ideal for long-term management of chronic allergies.

On the other hand, OTC antihistamines. This is because it crosses the blood-brain barrier and directly affects the central nervous system. While this side effect can be beneficial for those who need help sleeping, it may not be desirable for people who need to stay alert during the day.

Live Allergy-Free with Wyndly

If you want long-term relief from your allergies, Wyndly can help. Our doctors will help you identify your allergy triggers and create a personalized treatment plan to get you the lifelong relief you deserve. Start by taking our quick online allergy assessment today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best antihistamine?

The best antihistamine varies depending on individual needs and symptoms. Over-the-counter options include Cetirizine (Zyrtec), Fexofenadine (Allegra), and Loratadine (Claritin). For stronger symptoms, prescription antihistamines like Levocetirizine (Xyzal) and Desloratadine (Clarinex) may be recommended by healthcare providers.

Is Benadryl the best for allergies?

While Benadryl is an effective antihistamine for treating allergy symptoms, it's not necessarily the best option for everyone. It can cause drowsiness and is therefore not ideal for daytime use. Non-drowsy alternatives include Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra, which may be more suitable for some individuals.

How does Benadryl compare to Claritin?

Benadryl and Claritin are both antihistamines but differ in their effects. Benadryl works faster, providing relief within an hour, but can cause drowsiness. Claritin is non-drowsy and works within a few hours, with its effects lasting longer, up to 24 hours. Both alleviate allergy symptoms effectively.

What are the similarities and differences between loratadine and diphenhydramine?

Loratadine and diphenhydramine are both antihistamines used to relieve allergy symptoms. They differ primarily in their side effects: loratadine is less likely to cause drowsiness, making it a 'non-drowsy' option, while diphenhydramine can induce sleepiness and is often used in night-time allergy medications.

What is the safest antihistamine to take daily?

Cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), and fexofenadine (Allegra) are generally safe antihistamines for daily use. They have a low risk of side effects like drowsiness. However, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any daily medication regimen.

Does Claritin have fewer side effects than Benadryl?

Claritin, a non-sedating antihistamine, typically has fewer side effects than Benadryl, which is a sedating antihistamine. Common side effects like drowsiness, dry mouth, and dizziness are less frequent with Claritin. However, individual reactions can vary, and both medications are generally considered safe.

Can you have a reaction between Claritin and Benadryl?

Both Claritin and Benadryl are antihistamines, but they do not typically interact negatively with each other. However, taking them together may enhance sedative effects, possibly causing excessive drowsiness or impairing mental function. Always consult your healthcare provider before combining medications.

When should you not take Claritin?

Avoid taking Claritin if you're allergic to its active ingredient (loratadine) or any other components of the medication. It's also advised not to take Claritin if you have severe liver disease without consulting your healthcare provider. Always use medications as directed by a healthcare professional.

Which is more effective, Claritin or Benadryl?

Claritin and Benadryl are both effective for treating allergy symptoms. However, Claritin is a non-drowsy antihistamine, making it preferable for day-time use. Benadryl, on the other hand, can cause drowsiness and is more suitable for night-time use or more severe reactions. Individual response may vary.

What is the most effective allergy medicine?

The most effective allergy medicine varies by individual and specific allergy. Antihistamines like cetirizine (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra), loratadine (Claritin), and nasal steroids like fluticasone (Flonase) are commonly used. Immunotherapy, such as allergy shots or sublingual tablets, can also provide long-term relief. Always consult a healthcare provider.

Can you take Benadryl and Claritin together?

Yes, Benadryl and Claritin can be taken together. While Benadryl is a short-acting antihistamine, Claritin is long-acting. They work in different ways and do not typically interact. However, it's always wise to consult your healthcare provider before combining any medications.

Is Wyndly right for you?

Answer just a few questions and we'll help you find out.

Get Started Today