Compare Phenylephrine vs. Claritin

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

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Sudafed Pe


Clears your sinuses. Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine) is a good medication for relieving stuffy nose. It doesn't work as well as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), but it has fewer side effects.Treats allergy symptoms. Claritin (Loratadine) is a once-daily allergy relief medication that doesn't make you feel sleepy.
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Reviews & ratings
Button Group. All currently active
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Reviews for Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine)
of people say Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine) is worth it
say it works well
say it's a big hassle
Reviews for Claritin (Loratadine)
+30% vs. Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine)
+15% vs. Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine)
+4% vs. Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine)
Side effects

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

FDA side effect reports for Phenylephrine »

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

FDA side effect reports for Claritin »
How it works
Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine) is a decongestant. It narrows blood vessels and reduces swelling in your nasal passages to make breathing easier.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.
Type of medication
DecongestantPrescription or OTC
2nd generation
Prescription or OTC
Available as
  • Pill
  • Nasal spray
  • Eye drops
  • Suppository
  • Pill
  • Chewable tablet
  • Orally disintegrating tablet
  • Liquid
Used for (click to learn more)
Risk factors for serious side effects
  • History of high blood pressure
  • Taking MAO inhibitors
  • History of heart problems
  • Age 65 years or older
  • Women of childbearing age
Detailed Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine) risks & warnings »
    • Age 65 or older
    • Taking with alcohol
    • Taking other medicines that make you less alert
    • History of phenylketonuria (PKU)
    Detailed Claritin (Loratadine) risks & warnings »
    Pregnancy category
    CFDA pregnancy category (Weigh risks vs. benefits)

    Research studies with animals found harmful effects on unborn babies. It hasn’t been properly studied in humans. The benefits might outweigh the risks even if you’re pregnant. Talk with your doctor.

    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
    No specific alcohol-related info.No specific alcohol-related info.
    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.
    No specific sex-related info.No specific sex-related info.
    • Shouldn't use it before you want to sleep.
    No specific sleep-related info.
    No specific weight-related info.No specific weight-related info.
    Upsides and benefits
    • Works to clear nasal congestion and helps you breathe better.
    • Helpful in relieving congestion-related headaches.
    • Has fewer side effects than other decongestants like pseudoephedrine.
    • It doesn't raise your blood pressure and heart rate as much, or cause as much trouble falling asleep.
    • Doesn't give you rebound congestion (worse symptoms when you stop taking it) like nasal spray decongestants do.
    • 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.
    Downsides and risks
    • Phenylephrine doesn't last as long as other decongestants like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed).
    • You shouldn't use it if you have high blood pressure.
    • Can make your heart race or make you feel anxious and restless.
    • Shouldn't use it before you want to sleep.
    • Not as effective after using it for 4 days in a row.
    • 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).
    Tips from our pharmacists for people taking the medication
    • Starts working in 30 minutes.
    • Phenylephrine can make you restless, so don't take it too close to bedtime.
    • It's in other cold and flu combination medicines. Read labels closely so you don't accidentally double up and take too much of it in a day.
    • Follow age-specific dosing instructions on how much to take.
    • Let your doctor know if your symptoms don't improve in a few days.
    • 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.
    Learn more
    More about PhenylephrineSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert
    More about ClaritinSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert