Zyrtec vs Benadryl | Claritin | Allegra | Prednisone for Itchy Hives: Best OTC Antihistamine Treatment is..?

Zyrtec vs Benadryl Claritin Allegra For HivesYou know it’s true:

Dealing with itchy hives rash can be a complete nightmare.

While using antihistamine such as Zyrtec or Benadryl / Claritin / Allegra is no doubt a hives treatment option –

Do they really work well, or these drugs alongside Prednisone will just bring side effects – such as making you drowsy?
>> Check out Antihistamines for Hives Relief

How Does Antihistamine Work for Hives Treatment?

Hives, also called Urticaria, is a common allergic disorder with symptoms of red, itchy, lumpy skin rash that can develop anywhere on the body – including our face, hands, and legs.

This skin condition is a type of allergy resulted from the release of a natural chemical in our body called Histamine, which can produce symptoms of itching, sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes. The cause of this histamine release is often unknown, but common causes are medications, foods, and infestations.

Antihistamine works by blocking Histamine that our body makes during an allergic reaction. It helps to reduce the effects of natural chemical histamine in our body, and it is used to treat allergy symptoms such as itching and swelling caused by hives.
Let’s jump right in to review these antihistamines, comparing Zyrtec (Cetirizine) / Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) / Claritin (Loratadine) versus Prednisone (corticosteroids) for hives relief.

#1: Zyrtec (Cetirizine) For Hives Treatment

Based on clinical studies published by the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence:

  • Cetirizine 20 mg daily may improve weals and itching in adults with severe chronic urticaria refractory to standard doses of antihistamines.
  • Cetirizine 20 mg appears to be well tolerated, and the benefits may outweigh the risks for some people whose quality of life is significantly impaired by the hives condition.
  • However, symptoms remain in a proportion of people and the studies have its limitations.


Is Cetirizine (Zyrtec) Available Over The Counter?

Cetirizine is an allergy medication that you can also buy over-the-counter without doctor prescription required, in which Cetirizine is available under brand names of Zyrtec, Zyrtec Allergy, Zyrtec Hives Relief.

This medication can come in the form of tablet, a chewable tablet, an extended release tablet, and a syrup (liquid) to take by mouth orally:

  • Adults and children 6 years and older and take the capsules and tablets.
  • Adults and children 2 years and older can take the syrup, which is fruit flavored.
  • Doctor may recommend a 5-mg dose once or twice per day if your allergies are mild.
  • The usual dosage for adults below 65 years old is one 10-mg dose per day.
  • It is usually taken once a day with or without food.
  • Take cetirizine at around the same time every day.
  • You should not take more than 10 mg in 24 hours as max dose.
  • Avoid alcohol as it can increase the side effects of Cetirizine such as dizziness.

While Cetirizine will not prevent hives or an allergic skin reaction from occurring, OTC oral antihistamine like Zyrtec can bring down swelling and reduce itching caused by hives rash.

Generally, Zyrtec is a safe and effective medication, however there are certain warnings and precautions that you need to be know when taking this drug:

  • Zyrtec can cause side effects like drowsiness. As it can make you very sleepy, do not drive a car or operate potentially dangerous machinery after taking this mediation.
  • Stomach pain and vomiting may also occur, especially in children.
  • Other possible adverse effects include dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth, and headache.
  • If your hives symptoms do not improve after 3 days of treatment, or if your hives last more than 6 weeks, then seek medical help immediately.


In case you are looking for natural non-sedating hives relief as alternative, or you are allergic to antihistamine like Zyrtec with Cetirizine hydrochloride as its active ingredient –

One hives treatment approach that has gained popularity over the years is homeopathic remedy, with Homeopathy is a medical system of alternative medicine that was founded in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann in Germany and has been widely practiced nowadays, based on the philosophy that body has the ability to heal itself.
Oxyhives ReviewA leading over the counter homeopathic product for hives treatment is Oxyhives, which contains all-natural active ingredients like Apis Mellifera (honey bee) and Arnica Montana flower that have been used for decades as natural medication for itchy hives relief.

Once Oxyhives topical homeopathic solution is applied on skin, its natural ingredients will provide instant relief on intolerably hives symptoms by fighting against swelling, itchiness, redness, pain, and irritation.

>> Visit Oxyhives official website here to learn more


User Reviews: Does Zyrtec Work Without Side Effects?

While Zyrtec is a common antihistamine prescribed by doctors for hives patients with proven results, there were cases that this medication did not work, with hives not going away with Zyrtec. Actual examples of user reviews and forum feedback on Zyrtec for hives are as below:

list-style-green-tick-checkJoanne2001 feedback via HealingWells forum: “I have had chronic urticaria for 12 years now. My hives showed up a month and half after my third daughter was born… I’ve been taking Zyrtec everyday which controls it for 24 hours. If I forget to take a pill, I will start to itch slowing all over by body beginning in random spots from my feet to my head… Once I take a Zyrtec it takes about 20 minutes to control it and feel back to normal.”
list-style-red-tick-crosslove_eyeore shared experience via WebMD Forum: “I have chronic hives as well and it took some working to get them undercontrol. I tried Claritin and Benadryl – nothing, then switched to zyrtec which worked for about a month, then back.”
list-style-red-tick-crossR. of Bainbridge from Georgia commneted via ConsumerAffairs forum: “I was prescribed Cetirizine/Zyrtec about a month ago by going to ER because I had an allergic reaction from something. I started the medicine and seems like when I take it and wake up the next day I am full of hives from head to toe. My face and eyes are swollen all the time and the hives are humongous. The itching redness from them are unbelievable. So I went to my primary and he told me to take them for a week and if the issue still there he will refer me to an allergist. Well I flushed them because those pills were causing me hives all over my body.”

In video below, user feedback that Zyrtec withdrawal by stopping these Cetirizine tablets has caused her crazy side effects.


#2: Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) For Hives Relief

Hives can make you experience uncomfortable conditions such as itching and swelling, but there are drugs that have been commonly prescribed by doctors to treat hives.

Benadryl (Diphenhydramine), an antihistamine, is one of these drugs. Its functions, however, is not to cure your hives permanently but to provide relief from the symptoms.

The common dosage for Benadryl is 4 times daily. This dosage is specifically given to adults, and depending on the case, it is essential to first consult with your doctor.
The speed at which Benadryl takes effect depends on your system, but it is known to have relieving effects that will last for about 6 to 8 hours.

It is advised that Benadryl should be taken four times daily until your hives disappear.

In patients where a large break out of hives is reported, the doctor might prescribe a larger dose of Benadryl in addition to other drugs to improve your condition. It is essential that you consult your doctor in the following cases:

  • The hives on your body show no sign of abating after two doses of Benadryl.
  • There is no relief from the itching even after taking Benadryl.
  • Hives on your body last more than one week after taking Benadryl according to the dosage.

You can easily purchase Benadryl over the counter without a prescription. The drug is packaged as oral tablets, topical anti-itch creams/ gel and as a liquid solution. These products are commonly used to get relief during a breakout of hives which is characterized by itching and painful swelling.

When consumed as oral tablets or capsules, Benadryl may not take immediate effect in providing relief from hives. There have also been situations when the use of Benadryl did not help patients who had experienced a breakout of hives in their bodies, with the hives simply not going away with Benadryl.

Overall, you might not need to use Benadryl if there is no itch or discomfort.

Many patients experienced the side effects of drowsiness after taking Benadryl. This is why it is not advised to use this sedating antihistamine during the day or during periods when you will be expected to operate equipment or drive. Diphenhydramine like Benadryl is best taken at night.

There are also claims that this drug might cause other adverse effects in some patients, such as dementia (a medical brain condition). Check out the video below.

>> Learn more about Benadryl Allergy Medicine Tablets

#3: Treating Skin Hives with Claritin (Loratadine)

Loratadine (Claritin) is a highly potent antihistamine which has no sedative effects. It is used to eliminate the effects of a natural chemical called histamine which can be found in body.

Histamine is produced by cells, and it subsequently becomes attached to other cells which have the receptors that can accommodate histamine in their structure. These cells become compromised, causing the release of chemicals which trigger allergic reactions.
Loratadine has been approved by the FDA for use in the treatment of hives in adults and children above two years. You might get prescriptions from your doctor including Claritin, or you can choose to purchase the drug over the counter.

Loratadine is commonly prescribed for the treatment of skin hives, rash on the skin, itching, running nose, sneezing, watery eyes and other cold or allergic symptoms which are triggered by the influence of Histamine on your system.
Loratadine is sold under brand names such as Claritin, Claritin RedTabs, Claritin Hives Relief, Children’s Claritin, Alavert, etc. Claritine is sold in many generic forms. These drugs are packaged as tablets, oral disintegrating tablets or liquid form. If you are experiencing a breakout of hives, you can purchase these drugs over the counter without a doctor’s prescription.

These medications are used to provide relief from nasal and non-nasal symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis and for other medical conditions such as idiopathic urticaria (itching).

Claritin helps prevent the functions of Histamine in your body by blocking the H1 receptors (a type of histamine receptor) and subsequently prevents activation of cells through the H1 receptors.

The dosing for Claritin is 10 milligrams for children above six years and 5 milligrams for children between 2 to 6 years.

Claritin is effective against hives. Its effects can be experienced a few hours after consumption which is similar to the antihistamines. Loratadine (Claritin) has mild side effects such as dryness in the mouth, headaches, and fatigue.
>> Learn more about Hives Treatment using Claritin Tablets


#4: Treating Hives with Prednisone

According to MedicineNet and MedlinePlus:

  • Prednisone is an artificially synthesized Corticosteroid (steroid) which is used to suppress the immune system, and it is also potent in providing relief for inflammation. Prednisone can be taken as a single treatment or used in combination with other medications to treat cases of low-corticosteroid levels.
  • Corticosteroid is also known to have anti-inflammatory properties, especially in conditions where the immune system is involved, such as skin allergies.
  • Prednisone can be applied to provide relief from hives for a brief period. It improves the immune system and alleviates inflammations. It also prevents allergic reactions such as itching, swelling caused by hives.

Steroids such as Prednisone are only prescribed when other treatment methods have failed. They provide relief in cases of acute hives breakout that is not resolved after using the antihistamines (such as Zyrtec or Allegra) and other common urticarial drugs.

A clinical study conducted by Maricopa Medical Center has indicated that from a sample of 43 patients suffering from hives, Prednisone was observed to improve the patient’s conditions and to relieve the itching experienced on the skin.

The dosing for patients who have shown severe symptoms has been presented as 0.5 to 1 mg per kg which should be taken daily. This medication should be continued for three to seven days until a positive result is achieved.
A concern that has arisen regarding the use of steroids is the side effects when these drugs are taken for long periods lasting many months or years.

Some long-term side effects of Prednisone include diabetes, increase in white blood cells, intestinal bleeding, abnormal heart rhythm, a blood clot in the veins, etc.

Dr. Eric Berg DC revealed the dangers of Prednisone in video below.

>> Learn More about Prednisone and other Cortisone-related Medicines
While patients who have used prednisone in the treatment of hive have complained of adverse effects, there are also cases when the drug does not alleviate hives.

The use of oral prednisone can be taken for a short period to get relief from hives. But patients should be discouraged from using this drug as a treatment over a long period. When the hives breakout has been alleviated, the patients are gradually taken off the steroid dosing.

Can You Take Prednisone and Benadryl Together?

According to Dr Rod Moser, the patient can take steroids (oral Prednisone) and antihistamines (like Benadryl or Claritin) together at the same time.

Indeed, in the clinical study reviewed earlier, some patients were given Diphenhydramine (an antihistamine such as Benadryl) plus Prednisone together, with below research conclusion:

The addition of a prednisone burst improves the symptomatic and clinical response of acute urticaria to antihistamines. Patients’ conditions improved more quickly and more completely when prednisone was administered, without any apparent adverse effects.


Zyrtec vs Benadryl, Claritin, or Prednisone: Which is Best?

While individual may have different response to each type of antihistamine, PubMed Health revealed medical studies that show:

  • Loratadine (like Claritin) was superior to Cetirizine (such as Zyrtec) for improving symptoms of urticaria (hives).
  • Levocetirizine (like Xyzal) was superior to Desloratadine for hives symptoms relief.
  • First generation antihistamines (like diphenhydramine / Benadryl) is the most sedating in causing sleepiness as adverse effect. Among the newer antihistamines, Cetirizine (like Zyrtec) is more sedating vs Loratadine (like Claritin).

The table below shows the comparison of Zyrtec vs Benadryl / Claritin / Allegra / Xyzal as OTC antihistamine for hives treatment.

Brand Name
Antihistamine Type
Key Description
Details / Price

( 1st generation
antihistamine )
* Very Sedating

* Potential side effects:
Drowsiness and dizziness.

( 2nd generation
antihistamine )
* Less Sedating

* Potential side effects:
Drowsiness and tiredness.

( 2nd generation
antihistamine )
* Non-Sedating

* Usually has no side effects,
according to WebMD.

( 2nd generation
antihistamine )
* Less Sedating

* Potential side effects:
Cough, fever, or stomach upset.

( 3rd generation
antihistamine )
* Less Sedating

* Potential side effects:
Drowsiness and tiredness.


Antihistamine for Hives Treatment Review: The Verdict

Antihistamine is a common medication that doctor prescribes for patients to relieve hives symptoms like swelling and itchiness.

While this medication can be provided as a standalone prescription or together with other drugs to treat allergic reaction, antihistamine (under brand names like Zyrtec and Benadryl) is also available for sale over-the-counter without doctor prescription required.

This drug has shown proven results for hives in most of the cases, nonetheless there are patients who experienced that antihistamine does not work to relieve their hives symptoms, while it must be noted you can get drowsy with sedating antihistamine as side effects – so ensure you do not drive a vehicle after taking this medicine.

In case you are allergic to antihistamine or you are looking for fast natural hives relief, an option is homeopathic remedy like Oxyhives sublingual spray in which you can learn more here.