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How Long Does it Take For Claritin to Work?

Since it was first introduced in the United States in April 1993, Claritin-D has become one of the most popular treatments for seasonal allergies on the market. Claritin was part of a new class of antihistamines designed to have less of a sedative effect than earlier antihistamines that were used to control seasonal allergies.  While today Claritin is one of the first medications that people think of when they think of allergy treatments, the medication was not approved for over-the-counter sales until November 2002. With millions of Americans suffering from seasonal allergies, sometimes known as hay fever, each year, Claritin offers a safe, accessible, effective, and inexpensive treatment option. If you’re suffering from allergies and can’t get your nose to stop running, you want relief fast, so the biggest question on your mind is likely “How long does it take for Claritin to work?”

What is Claritin?

Claritin, also sold under the generic name loratadine,  is classified as an antihistamine drug that treats symptoms associated with certain types of allergic reactions. Like other antihistamines, Claritin blocks the natural substances, called histamines, that your body produces during an allergic reaction. Histamines can cause itching, runny nose, watery eyes, itchy eyes, sneezing, hives, and just about any other miserable allergy symptom you can think of. Claritin binds to histamine receptors, just like anticholinergic, in the body, preventing the cells from releasing the chemical messages that cause sneezing, itching, and increased mucus production.

What is Claritin Used to Treat?

Although Claritin is classified as an antihistamine, it is not approved for the treatment or prevention of all types of allergic reactions. Claritin is used to treat symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis, or hay fever; these symptoms include itching, runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing. Claritin is also used to provide relief from itching caused by hives. However, Claritin cannot treat or prevent all allergic reactions. Claritin is not approved for the prevention of hives or the treatment or prevention of a serious allergic reaction, including those caused by food, insect stings, and other serious allergies. Claritin is used to treat the usually minor symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis, which can occur seasonally or on a year-round basis.

What Causes Allergic Rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis is a group of symptoms that affect the nose and sinuses. Commonly known as hay fever, people develop allergic rhinitis when their bodies become overly sensitive to something in the environment that causes other people no problems, also known as an allergen. When this happens, the immune system begins to attack an otherwise harmless substance, causing an allergy attack.

Allergy attacks occur when your body begins to release inflammatory mediators, including histamines, which then bind to receptors on other cells in your body. As the histamines bind to the receptors, you begin to experience allergy symptoms, such as runny nose, sneezing, itchy/watery eyes, itchy nose or throat, nasal congestion, and sinus pressure.

Also known as hay fever, allergic rhinitis can be triggered by outdoor allergens, such as pollen from grass, trees, weeds, or flowers, indoor allergens, such as pet hair or dander, dust mites, and mold, or other irritants, including smoke, perfume, and vehicle exhaust.

People who suffer from allergic rhinitis may experience symptoms only seasonally or throughout the year. When experienced seasonally, allergic rhinitis is usually caused by sensitivity to airborne mold spores or different types of pollen. When experienced year-round, allergic rhinitis is generally caused by pet hair or dander, dust mites, cockroaches, or mold. It is also possible to experience both perennial and seasonal allergic rhinitis, with your symptoms escalating during certain times of year due to reactions to multiple allergens.

How Does Claritin Treat Allergic Rhinitis?

Like other antihistamines, Claritin works by blocking the effects of histamines on the body.  Claritin binds to histamine receptors, just like anticholinergic, in the body, preventing the cells from releasing the chemical messages that cause sneezing, itching, and increased mucus production. Claritin has also been shown to reduce the number of histamines produced by the body over time when taken regularly.

How Long Does it Take For Claritin to Work?

When you can’t stop sneezing and your eyes are watering so much you can barely see, you need relief for your allergy attack fast. Claritin generally starts working within a one to three hour period and reaches its peak effect after approximately eight to twelve hours. The medication usually lasts for 24 hours in most patients, so it is meant to be taken once a day. While Claritin will not provide relief as quickly as some fast-acting antihistamines, such as Benadryl, it also does not cause drowsiness in most people and is suitable for daily use. When taken daily during periods of allergen exposure, Claritin can help control allergic rhinitis regularly. 

What is The Cost of Claritin?

Since being offered over the counter (otc) and since the release of the generic form, loratadine, Claritin has become considerably cheaper. Most pharmacies and drug stores offer the generic version of Claritin in a store brand, which can help keep costs low. The costs for both brand name Claritin and generic loratadine are compared in the table below.
Cost of 24-Hour Claritin versus Loratadine (30 tablets)

Claritin
Loratadine
Oral tablet
$28.92
$4.22
Disintegrating tablet
$24.61
$6.43
Capsule
$21.68
$12.25
 
Claritin is an inexpensive and accessible medication for the majority of Americans regardless of their health insurance status. However, the cost of the generic form of Claritin can be up to 85 percent less than the cost of the brand name medication when purchased in the oral tablet form. Although some people falsely believe that brand name medications are more effective at treating their conditions, people worried about the quality associated with generic medications need not be concerned. Generic medications undergo the same rigorous testing by the FDA as brand name medications do prior to being sold, and they use the same active ingredients as the brand name medications. The difference between generic and brand name forms of prescription medication have to do with the inactive ingredients (ingredients that do not affect treatment). Because pharmaceutical regulations require that the same active ingredients be used for both brand name medications and their generic equivalents, the only differences between the two medications are some of the inactive ingredients, which may affect cosmetic details like color, shape, and size of the medication.

What Are The Benefits of Using Claritin?

There are many benefits to treating your allergic rhinitis with Claritin. Claritin is offered in a number of forms and includes products for allergies, allergies with nasal congestion and sinus pressure, and medication designed especially for kids. Claritin is easily accessible due to its status as an over the counter medication, and it is also highly affordable, particularly in its generic form. Unlike first generation antihistamines, Claritin does not cause drowsiness or lethargy in the majority of patients.  The medication is generally well-tolerated and can be used on patients of all ages under appropriate supervision. It can be taken with or without food, at regular times, or as needed. 

How Do I Know What Dose of Claritin to Take?

Claritin is available in both 12-hour and 24-hour formulations. The 24-hour formula is available in the form of oral tablets, dissolvable tablets, liqui-gels, and chewables; regardless of which type of the medication you choose, you will receive a 10 mg dose of the active ingredient, loratadine. The 12-hour formula is available only in the dissolvable tablet form of the medication and includes 5 mg of loratadine. The children’s formulas are also offered in 12- and 24-hour doses and are available as chewables, reditabs, or liquid. In each of the children’s formulas, one dose is equivalent to five mg of loratadine. 

Are There Any Side Effects I Should Be Aware Of?

If you’ve ever taken over the counter allergy medications like Benadryl or Zyrtec, you’re likely already familiar with some of the common side effects of Claritin, which include:

  • Headache
  • Sleepiness
  • Feeling tired
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Nervousness
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Eye redness
  • Blurred vision
  • Nosebleed
  • Skin rash

Other serious side effects associated with Claritin can include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Feeling like you might pass out
  • Increased heart rate
  • Unsafe heart beat
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Seizures (convulsions)

Although highly uncommon, this often-prescribed allergy medication can occasionally cause allergic reactions. If you experience signs of an allergic reaction to Claritin, including hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat, you should seek medical attention immediately.

What Does the Research Say About Taking Claritin While Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, you should talk to your pharmd, doctor, or allergist before taking Claritin for medical advice. Although no specific risks or birth defects have been associated with Claritin during pregnancy, doctors generally recommend against taking any medication during pregnancy unless the benefits strongly outweigh the risks. Doctors recommend trying other ways to reduce your allergic rhinitis symptoms during pregnancy, including limiting your exposure to anything that triggers your allergy symptoms, using an over the counter saline nasal spray to help ease symptoms, trying nasal irrigation with a neti pot or similar system, increasing physical activity to reduce nasal inflammation, using over the counter adhesive nasal strips to keep your nasal passages open, and elevating the head of your bed 30 to 45 degrees to decrease congestion. 
Studies have shown that Claritin transmits through breast milk at extremely low levels. Due to the minimal sedative effect and the low transmission rate, use of Claritin by nursing mothers is not likely to cause adverse effects in breastfed infants. However, like other antihistamines, Claritin can sometimes have a negative effect on lactation and can cause a diminished milk supply. For this reason, Claritin should only be taken at the lowest dose if used while breastfeeding. 

Who Should Not Take Claritin?

While Claritin is generally well tolerated by most people, there are some individuals who should not take Claritin or who should speak to their doctor prior to using the medication. People who have had an allergic reaction to Claritin or desloratadine should not use Claritin. If you have experienced other allergic reactions to medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist so that they can ensure there are no inactive ingredients included in Claritin that could cause an allergic reaction.
Be sure to share a complete medical history with your doctor prior to using Claritin. Although Claritin is available over the counter, people with a history of kidney or liver disease should not take Claritin prior to consulting with their doctors.
Although Claritin is less likely to cause drowsiness and have a sedative effect than some other antihistamines, some people will still experience these side effects. You should not drive, use machinery, or do any activity that requires alertness until you determine how taking Claritin affects you. Older adults may be more likely to experience these side effects and may also be at increased risk of experiencing confusion, which could increase the risk of falling.

How Do I Know if Claritin is Right For Me?

If you experience allergic rhinitis on a seasonal or perennial basis and are hoping to find allergy relief from symptoms like itchy/watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, and itching, Claritin may be able to help. This accessible, affordable medication is available over the counter in both a brand name and generic form. People who suffer from allergies regularly but who have not yet seen a doctor for a prescription may find relief from Claritin without all of the hassle that comes from making a doctor’s appointment and getting tested from allergies. While Claritin won’t make your allergies disappear, it may provide relief for many symptoms when taken regularly. It should be noted that other medications designed to treat allergic rhinitis, such as Zyrtec and Allegra, are also available over the counter. Although all of these medications are considered non-drowsy antihistamines, some may work better for certain people. If you do not experience relief from Claritin, it is recommended that you try some of the other over the counter medications.
 

Published April 13th, 2020 by Chris Riley
Fact Checked by Chris Riley

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