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How Safe Is Cetirizine for Children?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2014
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Cetirizine, a medication available over-the-counter and through prescription depending on the country, is an antihistamine that is generally considered safe for most children over the age of two years to take. While cetirizine for children is meant to treat allergies, it can be dangerous in children with specific allergies. In some patients, this antihistamine can cause side effects which are generally mild, but can become serious for some children.

Children over two years old who suffer from indoor or outdoor allergies are often prescribed cetirizine. In some cases, children under two may also be prescribed this drug, although this typically only occurs in severe cases. While cetirizine for children is available over the counter in many countries, any medication that a child takes should be discussed with his or her doctor prior to use.

While cetirizine for children is generally considered to be safe, it is potentially dangerous for children who are allergic to it or hydroxyzine, contained in both OTC and prescription versions of this drug. Other inactive ingredients such as preservatives, dyes, or flavorings vary by manufacturer, but a child who is allergic to any of these should not take cetirizine for children. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include difficulty breathing, swelling in the face or throat, or other signs of an allergic reaction such as vomiting or a rash.

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As with most medications, even those considered safe, there is a chance of side effects when taking cetirizine for children. The most common is sleepiness, and it is typically recommended that this medication be taken right before bed. In rare cases, this medication can have the opposite effect, and cause a child to become rambunctious shortly after taking the recommended dose. Dizziness, headaches, and stomach pains may also occur, especially when a child first starts taking this medication. Like most antihistamines, cetirizine for children commonly causes dry mouth, which may be irritating to young kids.

In very rare cases, this drug can have severe side effects outside of an allergic reaction to the drug itself. A child taking cetirizine may pass out, experience muscle weakness or extreme fatigue, or develop a rash. If any of these reactions occur, the child should be taken to the closest emergency room. While the majority of manufacturers utilize child-safe packaging for this drug, a child accidentally taking too much of it could result in an overdose. If this occurs, the child’s doctor and poison control, if available in the parent or caregiver’s area, should be contacted immediately.

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