Diphenhydramine is the most common antihistamine used non-prescription sleep aids. Certain antihistamines indicated only for allergies, such as chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or hydroxyzine (Atarax or Vistaril) may also be used as mild sleep-inducers.
Some drugs contain diphenhydramine alone (such as Nytol, Sleep-Eez, and Sominex), while others contain combinations of diphenhydramine with pain relievers (such as Anacin P. Unfortunately, most of these drugs leave patients feeling drowsy the next day and may not be very effective in providing restful sleep.
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In the event of an overdose or if combined with another sedative, many of these drugs can cause unconsciousness (see hypnotic) and even death.
Zyrtec is a brand name for the drug cetirizine and Claritin is a brand name for the drug loratadine.
Both cetirizine and loratadine are popular antihistamines with many similarities but there are some important differences. Zyrtec or Claritin Zyrtec (cetirizine) and Claritin (loratadine) are second-generation antihistamines.
Intranasal or ophthalmic (into the eye) antihistamines have a quicker onset of action than oral antihistamines (within about 15 minutes); however, need to be administered several times daily.
In people with allergic rhinoconjunctivitis and predominantly eye symptoms, ophthalmic antihistamines work much quicker (within 3 to 15 minutes) and are much more effective than any other form of treatment.