Claritin is one of several brand names for the antihistamine drug Loratadine which is used to treat allergies, includinghay fever and skin rashes. It works by blocking the action of histamine, which is produced during the allergic response, thereby reducing symptoms such as sneezing,sore eyes, nose itchiness and runny nose.
Loratadine is second-generation non-sedating histamine and therefore has the advantage that it is far less likely to cause drowsiness than earlier first-generation antihistamine drugs used in allergy treatment. These had a sedating effect because they could penetrate the blood-brain barrier and so have an effect on the brain. Claritin penetrates the blood-barrier less, because of its molecular structure, but that does not mean that sedating effects are totally absent. They can still occur, particularly if the drug is taken with alcohol, and can pose a danger if a susceptible person is driving, operating machinery or trying to perform another task requiring a motor or mental skills. If this is the first time you have taken Claritin, it would be best to make sure you are not affected by sedation before undertaking those types of tasks. Loratadine may also cause other side effects, namely:
Claritin comes in tablet or syrup form and is taken once a day. It starts to work within a few hours of taking it (although there is also a rapid-acting orally disintegrating tablet form which takes effect quicker). You can take it as and when you need it or daily during the hay fever season. The latter approach may provide better overall control of your allergy. In the UK, it is available over the counter in limited quantities; larger amounts are sold under the supervision of the pharmacist. It is also available in combination with pseudoephedrine (a decongestant) in cold and flu remedies. The drug is generally safe for adults and children aged two or older. Young children take a lower dose (5 milligrams) than older children and adults (10 milligrams). However, do check with your pharmacist or GP before taking Claritin if:
There are a number of Claritin products available such as:
There are other second-generation antihistamines available which may work better and last longer, such as cetirizine (Zyrtec) and fexofenadine (Allegra). And, of course, if you do have an allergy, the use of an antihistamine should be just one element in your management strategy. You also need to know what it is you are allergic to: is it pollen, pet dander, mould or house dust mite? You should then take reasonable steps in your allergen avoidance.