Compare Zyrtec vs. Benadryl

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

ADVERTISEMENT

Zyrtec (cetirizine)

Over-the-counter

Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)

Prescription or OTC
Treats allergy symptoms.

Zyrtec (cetirizine) can help you with some allergy symptoms without making you very drowsy.

3.8/ 5 average rating with 1232 reviewsforZyrtec
Treats allergy symptoms and helps you sleep.

Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) is great for allergies, but curl up on the couch after taking it and get ready for a nap.

4.1/ 5 average rating with 294 reviewsforBenadryl
Upsides
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine) works to treat sneezing and runny nose, and causes less sedation compared to Benadryl.
  • Works well to also treat hives and itchy skin.
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine) is available over the counter without a prescription. It comes as a tablet, liquid, and quick-dissolving tablet.
  • It can provide relief of allergy symptoms for both kids and adults.
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine) has few drug interactions with other medicines.
  • Most people don't get any side effects from Zyrtec (cetirizine).
  • Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) is often better than other antihistamines at treating allergy symptoms and hives.
  • It can provide quick relief of allergy symptoms for both kids and adults.
  • It makes you sleepy, so it'll help if your allergies are bothering you at night.
  • The effects wear off in 4 to 6 hours, so side effects don't last that long.
  • It comes as a tablet, capsule, liquid, and quick dissolving tablet.
Downsides
  • Although it works fast, Zyrtec (cetirizine)'s effectiveness wears off for some people over time.
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine) can make you a little more sleepy compared to Allegra or Claritin.
  • Some people find that other more sedating antihistamines, like Benadryl (diphenhydramine), are more effective for them than Zyrtec (cetirizine).
  • Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) makes you more tired than Claritin, Allegra, or Zyrtec.
  • You shouldn't drive after taking Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) until you know how it affects you.
  • Talk to a pediatrician before giving Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) to a child.
  • It can increase the risk of falls, so elderly people shouldn't use Benadryl (Diphenhydramine).
  • Don't use Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) if you are breastfeeding.
ADVERTISEMENT
Used for
Dosage forms
  • Pill
  • Chewable tablet
  • Dissolving tablet
  • Liquid
  • Pill
  • Oral solution
  • Cream, gel, or ointment
Price
Want to save even more money?
Sign up now for a 30-day trial and save up to 95% at CVS, Kroger, Albertsons, and other pharmacies.
Learn more
Reviews
1232 reviews so far
76%
saidit'sworth it
47%
saiditworked well
7%
saidit'sa big hassle

Have you used Zyrtec (cetirizine)?

Leave a review
294 reviews so far
86%
saidit'sworth it
59%
saiditworked well
8%
saidit'sa big hassle

Have you used Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)?

Leave a review
Side effects
The Zyrtec (cetirizine) FDA package insert doesn’t have numbers about how common side effects are.
The Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) FDA package insert doesn’t have numbers about how common side effects are.
Risks and risk factors
  • Increased side effects in the elderly
    • Age 65 or older
  • Impaired alertness
    • Taking with alcohol
    • Taking other medicines that make you less alert
  • History of liver or kidney conditions
    • History of liver or kidney disease
See more detailed risks and warnings
  • Overdose
    • Using other drugs with the same ingredients
  • Increased side effects
    • Age 65 years or older
  • Driving impairment
    • Taking with alcohol
    • Taking other medicines that make you less alert
  • Hyperactivity
    • Children age 6 years and younger
  • Trouble urinating
    • Enlarged prostate
    • History of bladder problems
  • Vision changes
    • Glaucoma
  • Breastfeeding
    • Nursing mothers
See more detailed risks and warnings