Claritin is a drug that can be used to treat a variety of allergy symptoms, including runny, itchy nose; sneezing; and watery eyes. It works by blocking the action of histamine receptors in the body, which prevents the immune system reactions that cause allergy symptoms. Claritin is now available without a prescription, and it comes in several forms. Side effects can include headaches, drowsiness, and dry mouth.
What Is Claritin?Claritin® (loratadine) is an antihistamine approved to treat the following allergy symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Itchy nose or throat.
Claritin is also approved to treat itching due to hives, which may or may not be caused by allergies. The medication is available in combination with a decongestant (see Claritin-D). Although Claritin and Claritin-D® were originally prescription products, they are now available without a prescription. Compared to most non-prescription antihistamines, Claritin is much less likely to cause drowsiness.
Who Makes It?Brand-name Claritin is made by Schering-Plough HealthCare Products, Inc. Generic versions of the drug are made by various manufacturers.
How Does It Work?Allergies occur when the body's immune system reacts to normally harmless substances that do not bother most people. This reaction is partly caused by the release of histamine from certain cells in the body. Claritin is an antihistamine, which means it blocks histamine from binding to histamine receptors and causing allergy symptoms. Since histamine is responsible for many of the symptoms of allergies, blocking it can be helpful.
Lots of people get nasal congestion due to allergies. However, antihistamines don't help with this particular allergy symptom (since congestion isn't caused by histamine). In order to treat congestion, it is necessary to add a nasal decongestant (such as pseudoephedrine). Claritin comes in a combination product that contains pseudoephedrine (Claritin-D), just for this purpose.
Histamine is also responsible for the formation of hives (whether they are caused by allergies or not). By blocking histamine, Claritin can alleviate the itching due to hives as well.