Claritin (loratadine) and Benadryl (diphenhydramine) are both antihistamines that can be used in the treatment of allergy symptoms such as runny nose, itchy, watery eyes and sneezing.  Claritin is considered a second generation non-sedating antihistamine that typically does not cause drowsiness.  Benadryl on the other hand, is a first generation sedating antihistamine that can cause a significant amount of drowsiness.  Below is more information on both medications.


Claritin (Loratadine)

As stated above, Claritin is a second generation non sedating antihistamine that typically does not cause drowsiness.  It is taken once every 24 hours.  It is used in the treatment for allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies) and in the treatment of itching due to hives.  The most common side effects to Claritin reported are headache and fatigue. Claritin is best utilized as a daily use medication to prevent allergies.


Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)

Benadryl is a first generation sedating antihistamine that can cause a significant amount of drowsiness.  It is typically taken every 4 to 6 hours.  It can be used for the treatment of allergic reactions, allergies, insomnia and motion sickness.  The most common side effects are sedation, drowsiness, sleepiness, dizziness, coordination problems, thickening of bronchial secretions in the lungs and upset stomach. Benadyl


An important characteristic of Benadryl to be aware of is that Benadryl has been shown in studies to be more effective than Claritin (and other second generation antihistamines) in reducing inflammation and itching from allergic reactions, such as reactions to bee strings. It is best dosed immediately after an allergic reaction begins.


Summary

Claritin is the better choice for seasonal allergies due to its duration of action (~24 hours) and the fact that it is non-drowsy.  Claritin is available over the counter both in the brand name and generically (loratadine). Benadryl is a good choice for allergic reactions and short term treatment of insomnia.  It can also be a choice for seasonal allergies, but can cause a significant amount of drowsiness. It is available over the counter in the brand name and generically (diphenhydramine).