Experts warn that antihistamines in Claritin can dry out the vocal cords and cause serious vocal cord damage. For people who need to use their voice professionally, the impact can be catastrophic.
What is Claritin?
Claritin, also known as loratadine, is an antihistamine medication that is used to reduce symptoms of allergies. It works by blocking the action of histamine, which is a substance in the body that causes allergic symptoms like itching, sneezing, runny nose, and allergic skin rashes.
What is the problem?
Antihistamines can dry up the body’s mucous, which can lead to voice problems. The vocal cords need to be coated in a thin layer of mucous so they can vibrate effectively. Too little mucous can cause abrasion, inflammation, and hypersensitivity of the vocal cords.
In an editorial titled “How Allergies Can Wreak Havoc on Your Voice,” Dr. Michael J. Pitman warned:
“If antihistamines dry up the mucus in your system, your vocal folds become dry and stiff like sandpaper, which means there’s extra abrasion when they vibrate. This can lead to inflammation and a raspy, strained voice that takes extra effort to use.”
Vocal Cord Dysfunction
Most professionals rely on their voice to make a living — singers, actors, teachers, doctors, and lawyers all need to be able to speak clearly. Unfortunately, decongestants can worsen the symptoms of Vocal Cord Dysfunction by thickening secretions and drying up the vocal cord folds, which also increases the subglottal pressures needed for speech.
FDA Warning for Misleading Ads
In August 2000, the FDA issued a warning letter (PDF) about misleading ads for Claritin in health magazines. According to the FDA:
“This full-product ad is misleading because it fails to provide any risk information relating to side effects and contraindications (including warnings and precautions) to balance the effectiveness claims.”
Claritin Class Action Lawsuit Filed
In 2001, a class action lawsuit was filed in New Jersey against Schering-Plough Corp., manufacturer of Claritin. The lawsuit accused the company of misleading customers by overstating the benefits of Claritin in advertisements.
According to the lawsuit, medical research shows that Claritin fails to provide allergy relief in about 50% of cases and performs only slightly better than a placebo. In 2003, the case was dismissed after the court determined that the advertising claims amounted to “fluff” instead of “fraud.”
Claritin Side Effects
- Itching / swelling (especially of the face / tongue / throat)
- Trouble breathing
- Allergic reactions
- Vocal cord thickening