Although equally potent at blocking the H1 receptor, first- and second-generation antihistamines can be distinguished with respect to their different effects on the central nervous system (CNS). First-generation antihistamines readily cross the blood–brain barrier leading to significant drowsiness, altered mood, reduced wakefulness, and impaired cognitive and psychomotor performance. This paper reviews of studies CNS functioning conducted with loratadine, a second-generation H1-receptor antagonist, at its therapeutic dose of 10 mg per day. Studies employing self-report measures, such as diary cards, visual analogue scales, rating scales, and mood inventories have shown that the effect of loratadine on somnolence, fatigue, and mood was comparable to those found with placebo. In studies exploring physiological indices of CNS functioning, such as EEG-evoked potentials, and sleep latency tests, loratadine has been shown to be free of CNS effects. In addition, studies have investigated the effects of loratadine on actual driving performance, and on tests of cognitive and psychomotor functioning. On all of these performance measures, loratadine has been shown to have effects comparable to placebo. In contrast, diphenhydramine, a common first-generation antihistamine, usually available without a doctor's prescription, has significant adverse effects on vigilance, divided attention, working memory and psychomotor performance. Impairment has been shown to occur even in the absence of self-reported sleepiness.