Are Benadryl And Claritin The Same?

Both are antihistamines but have significant differences.

Question

Are Claritin and Benadryl the same? If not, can they be taken together?

Asked by Michael On Oct 18, 2018

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By PharmacistAnswers Staff

On Oct 18, 2018
Allergies

Overview

While Claritin (loratadine) and Benadryl (diphenhydramine) are both classified as antihistamines, they are not the same and have significantly different characteristics and effects.


To summarize the main differences between the two:

  • Benadryl is a "first-generation" antihistamine while Claritin is classified as a "second-generation" antihistamine.
  • Claritin has a longer duration of action (around 24 hours) than Benadryl (around 4 to 6 hours).
  • Benadryl causes more sedation and drowsiness than Claritin. Claritin is characterized as "non-drowsy".
  • Benadryl has stronger anticholinergic effects than Claritin and may be more effective in treating symptoms of an allergic reaction than Claritin (1, 2).
  • Due to the anticholinergic effects of Benadryl, it may be more effective than Claritin in the relief of nausea, vomiting, and vertigo associated with motion sickness. Additionally, it is also used to treat mild symptoms of Parkinson's disease.


What Is Claritin?

Claritin was first approved by the FDA in April 1993 as a prescription medication and was approved for over the counter sale in December 2002.


Claritin (loratadine) is a non-sedating, "second-generation" antihistamine (H1-blocker). Unlike "first-generation" antihistamines, Claritin doesn't penetrate the central nervous system in high concentrations and therefore, does not cause significant sedation.


Claritin may be taken with or without food, with the onset of action occurring within 1 to 3 hours. Peak effects are generally seen in 8 to 12 hours. Claritin has a long duration of action (~24 hours) and is therefore dosed once daily.


Due to the long duration of action of Claritin, and the lack of sedative effects, it is a good option to treat seasonal and perennial allergies.


What Is Benadryl?

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is a first generation, sedating antihistamine (H1-blocker) of the ethanolamine class.


It is available in oral, topical, and parenteral product forms. Benadryl is well known to cause significant sedation in most individuals and is commonly used in night-time sleep aids. Benadryl also has potent "drying" effects in most patients, which is why it can cause dry mouth, dry eyes, and constipation. 


The onset of action of Benadryl is around 15-30 minutes after taking by mouth, with peak effects occurring 1 to 3 hours later. The duration of action is around 4 to 6 hours, with this being prolonged in the elderly and in those with liver disease.


Final Words: Benadryl Vs. Claritin

As discussed above, while Benadryl and Claritin are both antihistamines, they are not the same and have significant differences.


Claritin, in general, is a better option to use as your daily antihistamine to prevent and treat allergies since all it takes is one tablet for 24-hour coverage. In addition, it doesn't usually cause any sedation, drowsiness or cognitive impairment.


Benadryl is generally a better option for intermittent use, for more severe allergy symptoms or to use as a nighttime sleep aid. It also may be a more effective option for treating motion sickness and to relieve nausea/vomiting.


As a general rule, since Claritin and Benadryl are both antihistamines, they shouldn't be taken together. Not only will this increase the risk of adverse effects, you most likely won't get the full effects of each drug as mechanistically, but they also work the same (blocking H1 receptors).


However, your doctor may recommend taking Benadryl, even if you already are taking Claritin on a daily basis, for the treatment of severe allergic reactions, such as to a bee sting.

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger Pharm.D

Dr. Brian Staiger is a licensed pharmacist in New York State and the founder of PharmacistAnswers.com. He graduated from the University At Buffalo with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 2010. He has been featured in numerous publications including the Huffington Post as well as a variety of health and pharmacy-related blogs. Please feel free to reach out to him directly if you have any inquiries or want to connect! He's answered thousands of medication and pharmacy-related questions and he's ready to answer yours! Brian.Staiger@PharmacistAnswers.com Office: 716-389-3076

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