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Claritin vs Singulair: Key Differences Between the Allergy Medications

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedFebruary 29, 2024

According to the CDC, allergies afflict over 50 million Americans annually, establishing allergic rhinitis as the sixth most common chronic health condition in the US. But with so many options on the market, from over-the-counter antihistamines to prescription anti-inflammatories, deciding what to take can be confusing.

Two of the most widely used medications allergy sufferers turn to are Claritin and Singulair – but most don't realize these leading drugs work very differently and have key variations in their approaches, applications, efficacy rates, costs, and more.

This comprehensive article provides an indispensable head-to-head comparison of Claritin versus Singulair, arming people with the know-how to decide on what's best for one's personal allergy fight.

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Claritin (loratadine) is an antihistamine that blocks histamine receptors to relieve allergy symptoms like sneezing, itching, and runny nose. Singulair (montelukast) is a leukotriene modifier that prevents leukotrienes from causing asthma and allergy symptoms.
  • The recommended dosage of Claritin for adults and children over 6 with allergies is 10 mg once daily. For Singulair, the dosage varies by age and condition - adults with asthma take 10 mg daily.
  • Studies show Claritin is effective in reducing allergy symptoms and is well-tolerated. Research on Singulair's efficacy outside the airways is mixed, but it's considered effective for allergic asthma and rhinitis.
  • Common side effects of Claritin include headache, drowsiness, and stomach pain. Singulair may cause stomach upset, cold symptoms, and rarely serious neuropsychiatric side effects.
  • For cash-paying customers, a 5 tablet supply of Claritin 10 mg tablets costs about $15. Singulair 10 mg, 30 tablets costs around $286 without insurance.
  • Generic loratadine and montelukast are cheaper alternatives to the brand names Claritin and Singulair. Various coupons and savings programs can further reduce costs.
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1. Mechanism of Action

Claritin and Singulair have different mechanisms of action when treating allergy symptoms. Let's take a closer look at how each medication works.

Claritin

Claritin is an antihistamine belonging to the drug class of second generation antihistamines. The generic name is loratadine. It reduces the effects of histamine, a natural chemical in the body that triggers allergy symptoms. Histamine is responsible for symptoms like:

Claritin is commonly used to treat various allergy symptoms, including:

Additionally, it is effective in treating chronic skin reactions.

The mechanism of action of Claritin involves blocking histamine receptors without activating the histamine response. As a second-generation antihistamine, Claritin prevents the immune cascade triggered by allergens, relieving allergy symptoms.

Singulair

Singulair is a leukotriene modifier, specifically a leukotriene receptor antagonist. The generic name is Montelukast. It belongs to the drug class of leukotriene modifiers. Unlike Claritin, Singulair does not target histamine but acts on leukotrienes, chemicals released in response to allergens like:

  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Pet dander

Leukotrienes cause lung swelling and tighten the muscles around the airways, leading to asthma symptoms.

Singulair is used to prevent asthma attacks in adults and children and to prevent exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. It is also used to treat symptoms of perennial and seasonal allergies. The medication inhibits leukotrienes, limiting the pathway that causes asthma and allergy symptoms.

See prices for Singulair using insurance vs coupons

2. Dosage and Administration

When taking these medications, there are some critical differences in the dosage and administration of Claritin and Singulair.

Claritin

The dosage of Claritin varies based on the patient’s age and condition being treated. For adults and children over 6 years old with allergic rhinitis or chronic hives, the usual dose is 10 mg once daily. Children aged 2 to 6 years may take 5 mg once daily.

For administration, Claritin is typically taken orally and can be in tablets, chewable tablets, or syrup. It's crucial to follow the specific dosing instructions provided, and the medication is usually taken once a day.

The regular tablet should be swallowed whole without crushing or chewing. Chewable tablets must be chewed before swallowing. Liquid forms should be measured with the provided dosing device.

It's essential to use Claritin as directed by your doctor or according to the instructions on the label. If symptoms persist or worsen, consulting a healthcare professional is recommended.

See prices for Claritin on Amazon

Singulair

The dosage of Singulair depends on the age and condition being treated.

  • For Asthma (Adults and Adolescents 15 Years and Older): The recommended dose is 10 mg once daily in the evening.
  • For Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis (Adults and Adolescents 15 Years and Older): The recommended dose is 10 mg once daily, in the morning or evening.
  • For Perennial Allergic Rhinitis (Adults and Adolescents 15 Years and Older): The recommended dose is 10 mg once daily, in the morning or evening.
  • For Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction (Adults and Adolescents 15 Years and Older): The recommended dose is 10 mg at least 2 hours before exercise; do not take another dose for at least 24 hours.

Pediatric dosages are based on age:

  • For Asthma (Children 6 to 14 Years): The recommended dose is 5 mg once daily in the evening.
  • For Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis (Children 6 to 14 Years): The recommended dose is 5 mg once daily, taken in the morning.
  • For Perennial Allergic Rhinitis (Children 6 to 14 Years): The recommended dose is 5 mg once daily, taken in the evening.
  • For Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction (Children 6 to 14 Years): The recommended dose is 5 mg at least 2 hours before exercise; do not take another dose for at least 24 hours.

Singulair is administered orally and can be taken with or without food. The tablet should be swallowed whole, and chewable tablets should be chewed thoroughly before swallowing. Oral granules can be taken directly or mixed with a spoonful of soft food.

🩺 Doctor’s Note

It's essential to follow the prescribed dosage and administration instructions the healthcare provider provides. Consulting with a healthcare professional is advised for any concerns or questions.

3. Efficacy in Allergy Symptoms

When it comes to relieving allergy symptoms, research shows differences in the efficacy of Claritin and Singulair.

Claritin

In a study comparing the once-daily dosing of Claritin-D 24 Hour (loratadine 10 mg in the coating and pseudoephedrine sulfate 240 mg in an extended-release core) to Claritin-D 12 Hour (loratadine 5 mg in the tablet coating and 120 mg pseudoephedrine sulfate, 60 mg in the coating and 60 mg in the core) and placebo, both Claritin formulations consistently outperformed placebo in reducing total, nasal, and nonnasal symptom scores in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR).

Patients in the Claritin groups also experienced significantly greater relief of rhinorrhea and nasal stuffiness compared to placebo. Insomnia was reported more often in Claritin-D 12 Hour patients compared to Claritin-D 24 Hour and placebo, emphasizing the comparable efficacy of the two formulation, with Claritin-D 24 Hour producing significantly less insomnia.

Another study evaluating loratadine's safety and efficacy in treating allergic rhinitis found loratadine to be both safe and efficacious. Loratadine's quick onset of action within 1 hour, duration of at least 24 hours, and minimal adverse effects make it a well-tolerated and effective option for relieving allergic symptoms.

Singulair

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study aimed to assess montelukast's effectiveness in treating allergic symptoms outside the airways raised concerns. The study involved pollen-sensitized subjects with atopic syndrome experiencing allergic symptoms from both upper and lower airways and outside airways, such as conjunctivitis, oral symptoms, eczema, and urticaria.

The results indicated that montelukast was ineffective in treating allergic symptoms outside the airways in subjects suffering from different manifestations of atopic syndrome.

The study suggested that montelukast should not be recommended as a general drug to treat all the symptoms of atopic syndrome but should be considered as a drug for asthma and rhinitis.

On the other hand, a review of montelukast in treating allergic rhinitis emphasized its efficacy in improving symptoms, particularly when comorbid with asthma. Montelukast, as monotherapy, exhibited efficacy similar to that of loratadine but less than that of intranasally administered corticosteroids.

In patients with allergic rhinitis comorbid with asthma, montelukast treatment resulted in significant improvements in both conditions compared with placebo. Despite the controversy surrounding its effectiveness in treating atopic symptoms outside the airways, montelukast provides an effective and well-tolerated oral treatment for allergic airway inflammation in specific patient populations.

4. Side Effects

Like any medication, Claritin and Singulair may cause side effects. Understanding the safety profiles of these drugs is essential.

Claritin

Claritin is generally well-tolerated but may cause side effects like any medication. Common side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Feeling tired or drowsy
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling nervous or hyperactive

These side effects are usually mild and temporary.

Less common but more severe side effects may include:

  • Fast or irregular heart rate
  • Severe headache
  • Light-headed feeling like you might pass out

Allergic reactions are rare but can include:

If any of these severe side effects occur, seeking emergency medical help is crucial.

It's important to note that while Claritin is generally considered non-sedating, some individuals may experience drowsiness. Caution is advised, especially before driving or operating machinery.

Singulair

Singulair, too, is generally well-tolerated, but it can have side effects. Common side effects include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Ear pain
  • Headache
  • Cold symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose

Serious side effects are rare but may include signs of blood vessel inflammation, such as:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Severe sinus pain
  • Skin rash
  • Numbness
  • “Pins and needles" feeling in the arms or legs

Additionally, some people using Singulair have experienced new or worsening mental problems, including:

  • Mood changes
  • Aggression
  • Confusion
  • Sleep problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

If any of these severe side effects occur, seeking immediate medical attention is essential.

🩺 Doctor’s Note

It's essential to follow the prescribed dosage and inform your healthcare provider if you experience any unusual or severe side effects. As with any medication, individual responses may vary, and it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional for personalized guidance.

5. Cost

There is also a significant price difference between these two allergy medications. Here’s a breakdown.

Claritin

For Claritin, the cost varies based on the form and quantity. The oral tablet of 10 mg is priced at around $15 for a supply of 5 tablets. If you opt for the generic version, loratadine, the cost can be as low as $10.46 for 10 tablets.

Other forms are also available, such as oral capsules at approximately $19.98 for 10 capsules and chewable tablets at $20.40 for 10 tablets. It's important to note that these prices are for cash-paying customers and may not be valid with insurance plans. However, you can use the Drugs.com discount card, accepted at most U.S. pharmacies, to lower costs.

Singulair

Singulair comes with a higher price tag. The oral tablet of 10 mg is priced at around $286 for a supply of 30 tablets. The generic version, montelukast, is available at a lower cost, starting from $11.27 for 30 tablets.

Other forms, like oral granules and chewable tablets, are also priced similarly at approximately $285.89 for 30 units. As with Claritin, these prices are for cash-paying customers and may not be valid with insurance plans. You can use the Drugs.com discount card to reduce the cost, which is accepted at most US pharmacies.

✅ Pro Tip

It's worth exploring available coupons, copay cards, rebates, and discounts for Claritin and Singulair, as they may offer additional savings. These offers can take various forms, such as printable coupons, rebates, savings or copay cards, trial offers, or free samples. Remember that certain offers may require registration, completing a questionnaire, or obtaining a sample from a medical professional.

Wrap Up

Claritin and Singulair both treat allergy symptoms but work differently. Claritin blocks histamines for rapid, short-term relief of nasal and non-nasal symptoms like sneezing and itching.

Singulair controls leukotrienes over time, improving respiratory symptoms in asthma and allergic rhinitis, but not skin issues. Claritin is cheaper at $15 for 10 tablets versus $286 for 30 of Singulair, with generics and discounts available.

Though the drugs overlap, Claritin offers direct antihistamine action, while Singulair also covers asthma. Discussing your allergy profile and needs with your doctor can determine the most suitable medication.

FAQs on Claritin and Singulair

Can I take Claritin and Singulair if I’m pregnant?

You should not take Singulair if you are pregnant, as it carries some pregnancy-related risks. Use of Claritin during pregnancy is generally considered safe, though you should still consult your doctor before use.

Can Claritin and Singulair be taken together?

Yes, Claritin and Singulair may be taken together. They work in different ways to control allergy symptoms. Claritin blocks the histamine response in the body, while Singulair blocks leukotrienes. Using them together can increase efficacy in controlling various allergy symptoms.

How long does it take for Claritin to work?

Claritin typically takes 1 to 3 hours to provide allergy symptom relief, and its effects can last for 24 hours. Maximal effects usually occur after 3 to 6 hours. It is sometimes advisable to take Claritin about 30 minutes before exposure to allergens.

What is the difference between Claritin and Claritin-D?

The main difference is that Claritin-D contains pseudoephedrine in addition to loratadine. Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant that constricts blood vessels in the nasal passages, reducing swelling and congestion. Regular Claritin does not contain a decongestant - it only contains the antihistamine loratadine. So Claritin-D relieves stuffy nose, sinus congestion, and other allergy symptoms.

Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
Allergy treatment - Online visit
Get virtual care from a licensed clinician—no appointment needed
Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
  • $29 one-time assessment
  • No video call or appointment necessary
  • Personalized treatment plan prescribed for your condition

References