What You Should Know About Zyrtec

allergies
Woman with allergies blowing her nose. Pando Hall/Getty Images

Zyrtec is an over-the-counter medication used to relieve symptoms of seasonal allergies such as itching, sneezing and runny nose. Zyrtec is the brand name for the drug cetirizine. It is available for adults and children over 2 years old.

Active Ingredient

Cetirizine

Dosage and Directions

Adults and children ages 6 to 64:

  • One (10mg) tablet every 24 hours
  • One to two 5mg chewable tablets every 24 hours depending on severity of symptoms

    Children ages 2 to 6 years old and adults over age 65:

    • One half (2.5mg) to one (5mg) teaspoon every 24 hours depending on severity of symptoms

    Children under 2 years old:

    • Ask a doctor

    Purpose

    Zyrtec is used to relieve symptoms of seasonal allergies, hay fever and hives which include:

    • Runny nose
    • Sneezing
    • Itchy eyes, nose or throat
    • Itchy rash (hives)

    Side Effects

    Although most people don't experience significant side effects with this medicine, some may occur. Possible side effects of Zyrtec include:

    • Drowsiness
    • Dry Mouth
    • Irritability
    • Loss of sleep
    • Sore throat
    • Stomach pain
    • Swelling

    If any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away, contact your healthcare provider.

    Certain side effects can be very serious. If you have any of the following after taking Zyrtec or cetirizine, seek medical advice immediately.

    • Symptoms of an allergic reaction such as hives, itching, skin rash, swelling of face, lips or tongue
    • Changes in vision or hearing
    • Fast heartbeat
    • High blood pressure
    • Infection
    • Trouble urinating or change in amount of urine

    Warnings

    If you have hives and experience difficulty breathing, significant swelling of the tongue or lips, wheezing, difficulty speaking or swallowing, dizziness, drooling, vomiting or loss of consciousness - seek emergency medical attention immediately. These are signs of a potentially life threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

    Ask a Doctor Before Using Zyrtec 

    If you have any of the following conditions, ask your healthcare provider before using Zyrtec:

    • You are allergic to Zyrtec, cetirizine, hydroxyzine, or any other medications.
    • You have liver disease.
    • You have kidney disease.
    • You are pregnant, plan to become pregnant or are breastfeeding.

    Zyrtec is a great over the counter antihistamine and is generally very effective at relieving allergy symptoms. Some people try taking it for runny nose or congestion caused by colds and respiratory infections, but antihistamines typically don't work well against these illnesses. 

    If you have never taken Zyrtec or an antihistamine before, be aware that it could make you drowsy. Don't take it for the first time if you need to drive or work before you know how it will affect you. This medicine is considered safe and effective for most people, but if you aren't sure or have questions about how it will work for you, talk to your healthcare provider before taking it. 

    Sources:

    "Zyrtec Products." McNeil - PPC, Inc. 2009. 01 Aug 09.

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