Alternatives To Benadryl: What Drugs Also Help With Allergies?

Last Updated: July 16, 2020

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Benadryl has become the go-to medication for thousands of seasonal and chronic allergy sufferers across the country. While diphenhydramine medication helps to deal with symptoms such as congestion and sneezing, Benadryl alternatives for allergic reaction are also available. Fortunately, there are OTC, prescription, and natural alternatives to Benadryl that can make a difference when it comes to cost and effectiveness. It is essential for a patient to be aware of the different options available when choosing an antihistamine medication.

Why Look For Benadryl Alternatives?

Like many medications, patients seek Benadryl alternatives to help reduce side effects that might be experienced from taking the drug. Since no antihistamine alternatives are fully free of side effects, individuals look for options that provide similar benefits with less or milder effects. Viable alternatives to the drug with comparable benefits include over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, and natural substitutes.

Side Effects

The most common reason why patients look for alternatives to Benadryl is to avoid its side effects. Some notable side effects include drowsiness, fatigue, constipation, and impaired coordination. These side effects of diphenhydramine are generally undesirable, so most individuals seek alternative medications. Also, some patients would rather avoid Benadryl for allergic reactions.


Diphenhydramine is known as a drug one can easily get an OD on. An excessive amount of this medication may also lead one to get high on Benadryl.

Benadryl Withdrawal Symptoms

Another reason why patients seek for Benadryl alternatives, several withdrawal symptoms diphenhydramine may cause when one decides to wean off this medication.


Polypharmacy is the use of certain medications to combat the side effects of others. Some individuals choose to take another similarly-classed drug while they wait for their Benadryl to kick in. This is potentially harmful due to toxic drug-drug reactions. It’s a common reason why allergy sufferers seek alternatives to Benadryl. These overlapping medications can cause an undue burden on a patient’s day-to-day health and energy levels, so finding a single option that cuts out the unnecessary medications can become imperative.

Senior man taking other pills with Benadryl

What is The Best Benadryl OTC Alternative?

Benadryl over-the-counter alternatives are the most readily available alternatives as they do not require a prescription. In general, these options can all treat itchy eyes, congestion, rash, swelling, and other common (non-severe) allergic reactions. Some of the most important OTC alternatives for Benadryl include:


Can one take Benadryl with Claritin? Widely recognized as the most advanced allergy relief option available over-the-counter, Claritin is a non-drowsy option that can be used safely in patients aged 6 and upwards. While this option can still lead to some fatigue, it is popular among allergy suffers for its ability to provide allergy relief without inhibiting the individual’s daily routine. It can be used together with diphenhydramine as well as instead.


Often used by more severe or chronic allergy sufferers, Allegra (known generically as “Fexofenadine”) provides greater antihistamine capability than many other OTC options. As a result, it also tends to provide more acute side effects, such as drowsiness. As such, it is only recommended for individuals between 12 and 65. It is also possible to take Allegra with Benadryl for allergic reactions. The only thing to look out for with these combinations are drowsiness, but overall, it is relatively safe.

doctor prescribing benadryl otc alternative to senior woman


Zyrtec, generically known as Cetirizine, is also a worthwhile option when it comes to seeking OTC Benadryl alternatives. This option is noteworthy because it can counteract some non-severe hives resulting from allergies. Taking Benadryl with Zyrtec is also an advisable option sometimes.


Tylenol can be an alternative to Benadryl if one needs to treat fever, flu, or the common cold. Although both of them highly discouraged in infants and children under 6. Another effective combination is taking Benadryl with Tylenol to reduce fever in short period. If combined, they should be used on lower doses than if used separately, to reduce the risk of accidental overdose.

What Diphenhydramine Alternatives Are Available With Medical Prescription Only?

In addition to OTC alternatives available for treating allergies, there are also prescription medication for more severe cases. Prescription options are more geared towards allergies that are chronic or severe. Also, side effects from these options tend to be more dangerous with long-term usage.


Xyzal (known generically as levocabastine oral) is a newer medicine for countering chronic allergies. With prescription-tier strength, this medication can address uncomplicated skin manifestations of allergies, as well as common nasal manifestations. Primarily, this oral variation is targeted at children who have difficulty taking pills.


Clarinex (generically known as Desloratadine) is another popular prescription-strength medicine targeted at individuals with strong seasonal allergies. It can also reduce the persistence of hives for many patients, especially those with reactions caused by contact with an allergen.

What Are Natural Alternatives To Benadryl?

If neither OTC or prescription-strength options are suitable for a patient, natural alternatives to Benadryl are available for consideration. Though they have not been clinically tested, many patients feel a desirable sense of relief after taking part in one or more of these treatment methods.

Neti Pot

While not a medicinal cure, there have been favorable reviews on the effects of a well-applied neti pot. These specialized devices use sterilized water to flush out nasal cavities. This prevents contact irritation caused by allergens, which often trigger the most common cold-like symptoms from allergies. In all, this is an excellent Benadryl alternative for direct sinus relief.


As in many other domains of health maintenance, probiotics can give the body a fighting chance when it comes to fighting off harmful invaders – be it allergies or viruses. Probiotics can come from several sources and generally work to increase a load of beneficial bacteria in an individual’s system. This, in turn, can allow the body to allocate more resources to the immune system, thus speeding up the full recovery process.

Yogurt in glass bottles on wooden table

Nettle Leaf Tea

An age-old method for decreasing the irritating effects of everything from allergic reactions to poison ivy rashes. When heated and distilled, nettle leaves give off a type of histamine that can boost the immune system’s overall ability to counteract allergens. In this way, nettle tea follows the same method for addressing allergen response as traditional medicinal options.

What Is The Best Benadryl Alternative?

Overall, any option can be said to be the best Benadryl alternative for specific conditions. While OTC and prescription alternatives are traditionally the best-proven options, a patient might find the natural opportunities to be relatively safer, especially if they experience mild allergy symptoms. Often, individuals can use natural possibilities in conjunction with clinical medicine to maximize allergen fighting ability.
Also, while taking diphenhydramine for treating allergies, it is essential to know it’s interactions with other medications and substances like Benadryl with alcohol. Some of these interactions may lead to dangerous circumstances.

Page Sources

  1. Carr WW, Yawn BP, Management of allergic rhinitis in the era of effective over-the-counter treatments,

Published on: June 5th, 2019

Updated on: July 16th, 2020

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.


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