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Medically Approved

Can I use Claritin for cold symptoms?

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About loraClaritinClaritin and coldsCold and flu medicationsClaritin alternativesHome remedies for coldsContacting a doctor
Claritin might work for some cold symptoms like sneezing, but it is ineffective for others, like congestion. Combination cold products can help you find the best medication to relieve symptoms.
Medically reviewed by Alyssa Walton, PharmD
Written by Cathy Lovering
Updated on

Loratadine (Claritin) is an over-the-counter allergy product. As an antihistamine, it works on the body’s histamine receptors.

Histamine receptors are responsible for the symptoms you experience in response to seasonal allergens. 

Since there is some overlap between allergy and cold symptoms, you might use loratadine (Claritin) for cold relief.

Still, the medication won’t work for all cold symptoms, so you might consider taking a combined cold and antihistamine product or other cold and flu medications.

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About Claritin

Adult female sitting on a sofa with her right hand holding a glass of water that is on the table in front of her, a pill bottle is next to the glass and another is in her left hand. She is reading the label and possibly wondering can I use Claritin for cold symptoms
Photography by AsiaVision/Getty Images

Loratadine (Claritin) is a medication for seasonal allergy symptoms.

It’s a second-generation antihistamine which means that it has less of a sedating effect than first-generation antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl).  

Loratadine works on the body’s histamine H1 receptors. It starts to work within 1–3 hours of taking it, and you should feel maximum results at 8–12 hours. 

Loratadine (Claritin) is available in 12- and 24-hour formulations. This makes it longer lasting than diphenhydramine (Benadryl) as it has a dose schedule of every 4–6 hours for mild allergy symptoms. 

Claritin and cold symptoms

Loratadine (Claritin) helps stop itching, watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing.

As one of the common symptoms of a cold is also sneezing, taking Claritin might help you find relief from this symptom. 

If you experience itchy eyes or other kinds of itch, loratadine might also be an effective remedy. 

Still, loratadine (Claritin) will not help with many other cold symptoms like:

  • sore throat
  • headaches
  • congestion
  • fever
  • cough
  • fatigue (low energy)
  • chills
  • body aches

Cold and flu medications

You can buy many medications for a cold and flu, including combinations of different drugs. Some of them include:

  • Nasal decongestants: These medications can help clear your nasal passages so you can breathe easier. An example of this is pseudoephedrine (Sudafed).
  • Expectorants: Expectorants are cough medicines that can help clear mucus from your chest. Examples include guaifenesin (Mucinex) and acetylcysteine or n-acetylcysteine (Mucomyst).
  • Pain relievers: Medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) can help if you have body aches and pains.
  • Cough suppressants: Medications like promethazine dextromethorphan (Promethazine DM) can help with coughs, runny nose, and sneezing.

It’s always a good idea to read the packaging label or ask a pharmacist about the types of active ingredients in each product. 

This can give you a better understanding of how the medication will work for your specific symptoms.

A pharmacist will also be able to advise which medications you can safely combine for the best results.

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Claritin alternatives and what they are good for

Other antihistamines include fexofenadine (Allegra) and cetirizine (Zyrtec).

Some second-generation antihistamines don’t make you feel sleepy. They may also help relieve the sneezing associated with colds. 

Second-generation antihistamines last longer in the body, meaning you can take them less often. Both fexofenadine (Allegra) and cetirizine (Zyrtec) come in once-daily formulations.

Home remedies for cold and flu symptoms

Some home remedies and self-care tips you can try include:

  • gargling with salt water several times daily to relieve sore throat
  • using saline nose drops to loosen mucus
  • taking honey to help with coughs
  • breathing in steam from a shower or bowl of hot water
  • using a cool mist vaporizer or humidifier
  • getting lots of rest

It’s important to note that antibiotics don’t help treat colds. But an antiviral medication might help if you have flu. Antiviral medications are available by prescription from a doctor or healthcare professional.

When to contact a doctor

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends consulting a doctor for any symptom that concerns you. Specifically, you might want to get medical care if you have:

  • a chronic medical condition that gets worse because of cold or flu
  • symptoms that get worse
  • symptoms that get better but then come back
  • dehydration
  • a fever lasting longer than 4 days
  • difficulty breathing
  • fast breathing
  • symptoms that don’t get better after 10 days

Some cold symptoms like runny nose and cough can last 10–14 days, but you should see improvement in that period of time.


Loratadine (Claritin) is an allergy medication that can help relieve the sneezing and itchy nose associated with colds.

It’s ineffective on other cold symptoms like congestion and a sore throat.

Combination cold products often mix an antihistamine with a pain reliever or cough medication for a complete product that helps with cold symptoms.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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