Claritin is an over the counter antihistamine used to treat the symptoms of allergies: sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose, itchy eyes, etc. Claritin is a product of Schering-Plough HealthCare Products Inc. Formerly a prescription-only allergy treatment, Claritin was deemed safe for OTC use in 2002.

Claritin is available in tablets, quick-disintegrating "RediTabs", and a syrup for children ages 2 and up. The active ingredient in Claritin is Loratadine, a fairly new antihistamine. Loratadine is administered as a single 10-mg dose every 24 hours. Vegans might wish to avoid the Redi-Tabs, since they contain gelatin.

The scariest part about Claritin is the price. In general, it works out to about 1 U.S. dollar per pill -- but at the same time, each pill lasts 24 hours, so this makes it fairly economical. Plus, the lack of drowsiness is definitely worth it. Claritin seems effective on both my seasonal pollen allergy and my cat allergy, which is wonderful because I love cats.

In clinical studies, the most common side effect was headache, with 12% of participants reporting this symptom. However, 11% of subjects receiving a placebo also reported a headache. Apparently Claritin does indeed cause some drowsiness when taken in excess of the recommended dosage, but it is generally not necessary or advised to exceed 10 mg per day.

Drug interactions are mild to nonexistent. Unlike many drugs, there is no problem with drinking alcoholic beverages in conjunction with Claritin: good news for all you sniffling party animals out there. There is a slight decrease in the activity of specific antibiotics (such as erythromicin) when taken with Claritin. There is no negative interaction with oral contraceptives.

I recently tried Claritin in desperation. I hate taking OTC drugs, but in the springtime my eyes generally get so itchy it seems like it would be a good idea to claw them out of their sockets and fill the sockets with ice. Not a good thing, especially when one wears contact lenses. I was skeptical: "How can you possibly have an antihistamine that doesn't knock you out?" Benadryl makes me feel awful. But I took a single dose of Claritin the other night, and within 20 minutes my runny nose dried up completely, and my eyes felt better than they had in weeks! I was not in the least tired or drowsy. It was like magic.


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