Allegra vs. Claritin: What’s the Difference
It’s common for people with hives (called urticaria) or hay fever (called allergic rhinitis) to wonder which over-the-counter antihistaminethey should take: Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), or Allegra (fexofenadine)?All of these antihistamines have been available OTC without a prescription for a number of years. But if you’re thinking these antihistamines are the same, they’re actually not.Depending on the allergic condition being treated, the age of the person, as well as other underlying issues (such as pregnancy), the best choice of antihistamine might be different.
How Antihistamines Work
Antihistamines reduce the number of histamines circulating in your system, thereby reducing symptoms.
Comparison of Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra
Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra are all considered newer generation antihistamines. First-generation antihistamines, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Atarax (hydroxyzine), can be helpful for allergies and hives as well, but their use is limited due to side effects such as fatigue and sedation (sleepiness).So while Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra are all newer generation antihistamines that can treat hay fever or hives, there may be some advantages for each of these over the others.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mood changes (mostly limited to some children)
- Difficulty urinating
While you should consult your doctor about the best way to take any medication, there are widely accepted dosing recommendations for all three of these antihistamines. First and foremost, each works best when taken daily rather than intermittently.
All of these antihistamines are indicated for adults and children 2 years of age and older, with Zyrtec and Claritin dosed once a day for all ages. Allegra is dosed twice a day for children age 2 to 11, and once a day for adults and children age 12 years and older. Finally, since Allegra can be used in children as young as six months of age, it’s sometimes the ideal choice for young children.What You Should Know About Your Child’s Allergy Treatments
Besides dosing, there are some slight differences in how quickly or well the drugs work. For example, while Claritin is effective for treating hay fever and hives, other antihistamines, such as Zyrtec and Allegra, work better and faster and last longer. For example, Zyrtec and Allegra work quickly for the treatment of allergic rhinitis and hives, typically within less than an hour.On the other hand, studies show that Claritin takes many hours to start working. Even further, studies show that Allegra is nearly as good as Zyrtec at treating hayfever, although Zyrtec and its isomer Xyzal (levocetirizine) appear to be better medicines for the treatment of hives.There are also some unexpected nuances associated with each of the antihistamines. For example, if you’re taking Allegra, it’s important to avoid drinking fruit juice for one to two hours before you take the medication and one to two hours after. Juices such as orange juice or grapefruit juice can decrease the absorption of Allegra by nearly half.
Talking With Your Doctor
The best antihistamine choice for any one person is based on the degree of symptom relief desired and the degree of side effects you’re willing to tolerate.For mild to moderate allergy symptoms, Allegra may be preferable to drugs such as Zyrtec since these other drugs are more sedating. Yet for severe symptoms which are interfering with work, school, or play, a medication such as Zyrtec may be needed.
In addition, it’s very important to note that every person is different. This means that despite what studies say, there are many people who do not experience any fatigue on Zyrtec or Xyzal. Likewise, there are people who do experience fatigue on Allegra.Furthermore, it’s sometimes helpful to try different medications to see which works best for you as an individual. If you try this, though, talk with your doctor first.
It can be very helpful to keep a journal to get an objective measure of which drug works best.
For instance, you can write down your most annoying symptoms, and rank them from 1 to 10 based on how well they are controlled by different medications.Finally, for those who need medications, it’s also a good idea to talk with an allergist about the possibility of allergy testing and allergy shots. While allergy shots require more follow-up (and more pokes) they can sometimes cure allergies (or at least significantly reduce their symptoms), so that medications are no longer needed. In addition, it’s thought that allergy shots may sometimes help prevent the development of new allergies.What Questions Should You Ask Your Allergist?
A Word From Verywell
In the end, Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra are all good antihistamine options and are generally well-tolerated. But there are some differences between them, as outlined above, which may make one of these antihistamines better than the others depending on a person’s needs and characteristics.