The Independent Pharmacy

Claritin Vs Benadryl: What's The Difference?

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 8 May 2024

What’s the difference between Claritin vs Benadryl?

The simple answer is that Claritin contains the active ingredient loratadine, which doesn’t usually cause drowsiness, while Benadryl contains acrivastine, which works faster but can make you feel sleepy.

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We understand that dealing with allergies like hay fever can be really challenging. When your nose is stuffed up, your eyes are watering, and you can’t stop sneezing, you need more than just a quick answer—you need relief. And more importantly, you need to understand your treatment options so you can make the best choice for your lifestyle and symptoms.

No more guesswork or allergy agony—let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • Claritin doesn’t cause sleepiness and lasts for 24 hours, but it can take 1-3 hours to start working. It’s great for all-day allergy relief.
  • Benadryl works fast in just 1-2 hours. But it can make you feel drowsy and doesn’t keep working as long as Claritin.
  • If you're looking for relief without the drowsiness, Claritin might be the comfort you need for relentless allergies.
  • Benadryl is ideal when allergies are really bad and you need help quickly, even if you get a little sleepy.

Claritin vs Benadryl at a Glance

Aspect

Claritin (Loratadine)

Benadryl (Acrivastine)

Active Ingredient

Loratadine Acrivastine

Onset of Action

Takes 1-3 hours to start working Works quickly, starts in 1-2 hours

Duration of Effect

Lasts for 24 hours Shorter duration, may need multiple doses in a day

Drowsiness

Non-drowsy, unlikely to cause fatigue or brain fog Can cause drowsiness, not ideal for tasks needing alertness

Best Used For

Long-term relief of allergy symptoms Quick relief during acute allergy attacks

Common Side Effects

Headaches, dry mouth, mild tiredness Drowsiness, faster heart rate, dizziness, blurred vision

Suitability

Safe to use every day during allergy season Best for short periods due to the risk of sedation

Dosing Frequency

Once daily May need to be taken two to three times per day

Ideal for

Chronic, persistent allergies Sudden, severe allergy flare-ups

Safety for Long-term Use

Safe for long-term, continuous use Not recommended for prolonged daily use

Overall Consideration

Less likely to disrupt daily activities due to non-drowsiness Requires caution due to potential drowsiness

How Well They Work

Claritin

With Claritin, the active ingredient doing all the heavy lifting is loratadine. But here’s the beauty of this medication - it’s what we call a “non-drowsy” antihistamine. That means you get excellent seasonal allergy relief without any of that exhausting fatigue or brain fog even when the pollen counts are high.

Now, Claritin may not kick in instantly. So, how long does the hay fever pill take to work? You’ll likely need to give it 1-3 hours to really start working at its full potential. But once it does, you can count on 24 full hours of continuous relief from sneezing, runny noses, itchy eyes, and more.

That makes Claritin ideal for those of you who need long-lasting allergy control that won’t interfere with your daily activities. Driving, working, taking care of kids - you can do it all with clarity thanks to Claritin’s non-sedating formula.

Benadryl

While Claritin takes a little time to work, Benadryl is a fast allergy medication. With its active ingredient acrivastine, it starts providing rapid relief in just 1-2 hours, getting symptoms of allergies under control quickly.

However, the relief from Benadryl doesn't last as long as the relief from Claritin. You’ll likely need to take it a couple of times throughout the day to maintain that high level of relief.

When you're overwhelmed by a sudden and severe allergy attack, with non-stop sneezing and watering eyes, Benadryl can provide the quick relief you desperately need. Benadryl works quickly to relieve severe allergy symptoms.

Whether you need Claritin’s long-distance endurance or Benadryl’s short-burst strength, the key is matching the medication’s strengths to your specific needs. And, of course, you’ll want to consider the potential adverse effects, too...

Side Effects and When to Be Careful

Claritin

The non-drowsy formula of Claritin means it's unlikely to make you feel tired or confused. However, the NHS highlights that even then, more than 1 in 100 people can feel drowsy after taking medication that contains loratadine. Other common side effects can include:

  • Headaches
  • Mild tiredness

Most people find these side effects manageable, but we know they can still be frustrating. In fact, many patients report few or no side effects at all while taking Claritin.

The big advantage is that Claritin is safe for daily use without worrying about it affecting your energy or alertness. You can keep taking it to control your hay fever symptoms without any sedative effects getting in the way.

Benadryl

Now, because Benadryl works more quickly, it does come with a higher risk of certain side effects, especially drowsiness. Some other side effects of the active ingredient acrivastine that appear in more than 1 in 100 people and the NHS wants you to be aware of include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling sick
  • Feeling nervous (nausea)
  • Headaches

This drowsy effect is why we caution against activities like driving or operating heavy machinery until you know how Benadryl will affect you personally. If you're looking for a non-drowsy alternative, there are also Benadryl Allergy One-A-Day Tablets with the active ingredient cetirizine.

So, in summary - Claritin is less likely to cause fatigue, while Benadryl requires a bit more caution, especially when it comes to drowsiness. But no matter which you choose, always listen to your body and adjust accordingly.

How Long and How Often to Take Them

Claritin

One of the great things about Claritin is its suitability for long-term use. You can take it daily throughout allergy season without having to cycle off of it. If you’re one of those people with year-round allergies, it’s safe to use continuously.

The reason it’s so well-suited for daily, long-term relief? That non-drowsy loratadine formula we mentioned before. Without the sedating effects, you don’t have to worry about it wearing you down over time.

And when should you take your hay fever tablet? Keep an eye on the pollen forecast from the Met Office and take it before the pollen counts reach their daily maximum.

As for dosing, that’s nice and simple, too. With Claritin’s 24-hour duration, the Patient Information Leaflet for Clarityn Allergy 10mg Tablets says that you just need to take it once daily, and you’re covered around the clock. No complicated dosing schedules to remember!

Benadryl

Since Benadryl can cause more of that bothersome drowsiness, it’s best for shorter periods when your allergies are really flaring up. Prolonged daily use increases the risk of excessive sedation and impairment.

When you do need to take Benadryl, you’ll likely have to dose it more frequently than Claritin. The Patient Information Leaflet for Benadryl Allergy Relief states that adults can take 1 capsule up to 3 times a day. That’s because while it works quickly, it wears off more quickly, too. Many people find they need to take it two or even three times per day to maintain consistent relief from their symptoms.

So Benadryl is more suited for those acute allergy attacks we talked about earlier - taking it for a few days at a time to get through a rough patch. Then, once your symptoms settle down, you can stop or switch back to something longer-acting.

The most important thing with any medication is following the dosing instructions on the label and being aware of how it personally affects you. But in general, Claritin gives you more flexibility for daily, long-term use compared to Benadryl.

Claritin or Benadryl: Making the Right Choice

By now, you’ve got the full picture of Claritin and Benadryl. But which one should you choose? Here are some tips based on your specific needs:

Go for Benadryl if:

  • You need fast relief from sudden, severe allergy attacks
  • But your symptoms are short-lived, not chronic
  • And you can manage some drowsiness for a short period

Claritin may be better if:

  • You need long-lasting, all-day and all-night relief
  • Fatigue and sedation are a major concern
  • You have persistent, chronic allergies

The bottom line? Benadryl’s rapid response time is ideal for acute flare-ups, while Claritin is better suited for long-term, non-drowsy control of persistent symptoms.

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all here. Your specific allergy patterns, daily routine, work/activities, and medical history should all factor into your decision.

The key is paying close attention to your body’s response when taking any new medication. With some adjustments, you can find the perfect hay fever medication for your lifestyle.

Take the Next Step With The Independent Pharmacy

Now that you understand how Claritin and Benadryl work, are you ready to finally get long-lasting allergy relief? The Independent Pharmacy is here to equip you with the perfect hay fever treatment plan!

It starts with our easy online self-assessment. Just answer a few simple questions about your hay fever symptoms, triggers, and lifestyle. This gives our pharmacy experts key insights to personalise your allergy medications and dosages.

From antihistamine medications like Claritin or Benadryl to nasal steroid sprays and more, we’ll recommend the most effective regimen for you - even if you're looking for hay fever relief for your travels. Our caring pharmacists are just a call away to provide guidance every step of the way.

We understand how hard it is when allergies disrupt your life. Let us help you take back control, starting today. So, read through our hay fever guides and don't hesitate to get in touch with our team for more support.

Visit our website now and take that self-assessment. With our support, clear breathing and relief are finally within reach.

FAQs

Does Claritin or Benadryl work better?

There’s no single “best” option - it depends on your allergic symptoms and needs. Claritin provides non-drowsy, long-lasting relief, while Benadryl works faster for severe flare-ups.

What is the best antihistamine?

The “best” is whichever one effectively manages your allergies with minimal side effects. Claritin, Benadryl, Allegra, Zyrtec and others may be recommended based on your personal assessment.

What is more powerful than Claritin?

For tougher or constant allergy symptoms, prescription corticosteroid nasal sprays like fluticasone (Flixonase) are often much stronger than regular allergy pills. However, these require close monitoring by your doctor or pharmacist due to their potency.

What are some other common side effects of antihistamines?

In addition to drowsiness, other potential side effects of certain antihistamines can include:

  • Dry mouth/throat
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision

Always read medication guides carefully and listen to how your body responds. Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you experience concerning or lasting side effects.

Sources:

NHS (2021). Loratadine - https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/loratadine/

NHS (2021). Acrivastine - https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/acrivastine/

Clarityn Allergy 10mg Tablets: Patient Information Leaflet - https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/files/pil.3505.pdf

Benadryl Allergy Relief: Patient Information Leaflet - https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/files/pil.1473.pdf

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