Loratadine Vs. Cetirizine: Which Is The Better Allergy Medication?

Allergy sufferers are likely familiar with the loratadine and cetirizine, more commonly known as Zyrtec and Claritin. Both are necessities when pollen decides to populate the breeze — and the airways of allergy sufferers. But which one should you gravitate toward when dealing with itchy eyes, a runny nose, and the general feeling of exhaustion after sneezing every 10 minutes?

On a surface level, there's not much difference between loratadine and cetirizine. Both treat the same symptoms of allergic reaction like hives and hay fever, per VeryWell Health. And both block the same type of receptor for histamine, the H1 receptor, aka the chemical your immune system creates to help your body get rid of an allergen. This is the chemical that causes symptoms like a runny nose or itchy eyes, whether you're allergic to pollen, dust, animal hair, or dander, per WebMD.

So, which allergy medication should you reach for the next time symptoms hit?

The main difference between loratadine and cetirizine

The major differences between the two common allergy medications are how sleepy they can make you feel, how quickly they take effect, and how they are absorbed into the body. According to VeryWell Health, loratadine is the faster-acting option, but it's more sedative than cetirizine. Medical News Today notes that loratadine may not be safe for people with liver conditions, as it's this organ that breaks the drug down. Cetirizine, on the other hand, is broken down and absorbed in the kidneys.

As Single Care notes, one clinical trial published in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology found that loratadine may be better for patients with allergic rhinitis (hay fever), but there "were no significant differences" between loratadine or cetirizine.

In the end, both loratadine and cetirizine act in pretty much the same way when combating the symptoms of allergies like hay fever. If you're struggling to choose between them, ask for advice from your pharmacist or doctor.