Compare Claritin vs. Afrin

Head-to-head comparisons of medication uses, side effects, ratings, and more.

Claritin
(Loratadine)

Afrin
(Oxymetazoline)

Treats allergy symptoms. Claritin (Loratadine) is a once-daily allergy relief medication that doesn't make you feel sleepy.Clears your sinuses. Afrin (Oxymetazoline) clears stuffy noses well, but don't use it for more than 3 days in a row or your congestion could get worse.
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Reviews & ratings
Button Group. All currently active
Button Group. All currently active
5Claritin
Reviews for Claritin (Loratadine)
74%
of people say Claritin (Loratadine) is worth it
38%
say it works well
6%
say it's a big hassle
Reviews for Afrin (Oxymetazoline)
71%
3% vs. Claritin (Loratadine)
46%
+8% vs. Claritin (Loratadine)
12%
6% vs. Claritin (Loratadine)
Side effects
ClaritinAfrin

We haven’t found good data for Claritin side effects.

FDA side effect reports for Claritin »

We haven’t found good data for Afrin side effects.

FDA side effect reports for Afrin »
How it works
ClaritinAfrin
Claritin (Loratadine) is an antihistamine. It blocks histamine, a chemical that causes congestion, itching, and other allergic reactions. Antihistamines can also make you sleepy, but Loratadine is a low-drowsiness version.Afrin (Oxymetazoline) is a nasal decongestant. It reduces swelling in your nose to make breathing easier.
Type of medication
ClaritinAfrin
Antihistamine
2nd generation
Prescription or OTC
DecongestantPrescription or OTC
Available as
ClaritinAfrin
  • Pill
  • Chewable tablet
  • Orally disintegrating tablet
  • Liquid
  • Nasal spray
Used for (click to learn more)
ClaritinAfrin
Risk factors for serious side effects
ClaritinAfrin
    • Age 65 or older
    • Taking with alcohol
    • Taking other medicines that make you less alert
    • History of phenylketonuria (PKU)
    Detailed Claritin (Loratadine) risks & warnings »
    • Using Afrin (Oxymetazoline) for more than 3 days
    • Women of childbearing age
    Detailed Afrin (Oxymetazoline) risks & warnings »
    Pregnancy category
    ClaritinAfrin
    NFDA pregnancy category (Unknown)

    The FDA hasn’t classified this medicine’s effects on unborn babies. Talk with your doctor about this medicine if you’re pregnant or planning on it.

    See the FDA package insert
    NFDA pregnancy category (Unknown)

    The FDA hasn’t classified this medicine’s effects on unborn babies. Talk with your doctor about this medicine if you’re pregnant or planning on it.

    See the FDA package insert
    Alcohol
    No specific alcohol-related info.No specific alcohol-related info.
    Food
    No specific food-related info.No specific food-related info.
    Kidneys and liver
    No specific kidneys and liver-related info.No specific kidneys and liver-related info.
    Sex
    No specific sex-related info.No specific sex-related info.
    Sleep
    • Relieves allergy symptoms like sneezing and runny nose just as well as other antihistamines, but with less sedation (drowsiness).
    • People age 65 and older have a higher risk of troublesome side effects from taking antihistamine medications like Claritin (Loratadine). Watch out for changes in vision, severe dry mouth, trouble urinating, or constipation. Also, feelings of drowsiness may leave you "unsteady" on your feet. This can make you more likely to fall causing broken bones or other serious injuries. Talk with your doctor before using Claritin (Loratadine) and stop using it if you have side effects.
    No specific sleep-related info.
    Weight
    No specific weight-related info.No specific weight-related info.
    Upsides and benefits
    ClaritinAfrin
    • Relieves allergy symptoms like sneezing and runny nose just as well as other antihistamines, but with less sedation (drowsiness).
    • Also treats hives and itchy skin.
    • Side effects are rare and usually mild.
    • Available over the counter without a prescription.
    • Comes as a tablet, liquid, or quick-dissolving tablet.
    • Can provide quick relief of allergy symptoms for both kids and adults.
    • Okay to take with most other medications because it doesn't have many interactions.
    • It works right away and each dose provides relief for up to 12 hours.
    • Can use for nasal congestion caused by colds and allergies.
    • It only affects your nose, so there aren't too many other side effects.
    • Available as a nasal spray and a nasal mist.
    Downsides and risks
    ClaritinAfrin
    • For some people, its effectiveness on treating allergies wears off over time.
    • Some people find that other more sedating antihistamines (like Zyrtec or Benadryl) are more effective for them.
    • If you have daily allergy symptoms, a prescription nasal steroid spray might be better for you long-term.
    • Not for kids under 2 years.
    • The Reditabs version contains aspartame (phenylalanine).
    • Afrin (Oxymetazoline), like all other sprays used for stuffy noses, can make your congestion worse if you use it for more than 3 or 4 days in a row (called rebound-congestion).
    • Can cause temporary stinging, burning, or dryness in your nose.
    • Can't be used for kids younger than 6 years old.
    Tips from our pharmacists for people taking the medication
    ClaritinAfrin
    • Take it only once a day.
    • Starts working in a few hours.
    • Can make you feel sleepy, so take it at bedtime if needed.
    • Avoid possible side effects by drinking plenty of non-caffeinated liquids.
    • If you need to use it for more than a few weeks, talk with your doctor about trying a nasal steroid instead, which might work better for you long-term.
    • Using an antihistamine eye drop might work better to help itchy or watery eyes.
    • Use 2 to 3 sprays in each nostril every 10 to 12 hours. Don't use Afrin (Oxymetazoline) more than two times a day.
    • Keep your head upright and don't tilt it back when spraying Afrin (Oxymetazoline) into your nose.
    • Breathe in with quick sniffs while spraying and wait a few minutes before blowing your nose.
    • Don't use Afrin (Oxymetazoline) for more than 3 days in a row since it can worsen your congestion after a few days of use.
    Learn more
    More about ClaritinSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert
    More about AfrinSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert