What Are the Side Effects of Cetirizine?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2019
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Cetirizine is a medication that is primarily recommended to temporarily treat the symptoms of hay fever and other types of allergies. Common symptoms that may be relieved with the use of this medication include itchy nose, throat, and eyes, as well as sneezing, runny nose, and hives or other itchy skin rashes. The medication is an antihistamine, which treats these symptoms by preventing the body’s release of histamine, a chemical in the body that causes allergic reaction symptoms. Although the medication may help temporarily relieve a variety of symptoms, there are possible side effects of cetirizine that may occur.

Many antihistamine medications tend to have sedative qualities. One of the most common side effects of cetirizine is drowsiness and fatigue. This may make it dangerous for some people who take the medication to drive a vehicle or operate any other heavy machinery. Therefore, people who experience this side effect may opt to take the medication before going to sleep in order to lessen the effects of the drowsiness.

There are also some other common side effects of cetirizine. These side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and dry mouth. Doctors do not generally consider these effects to be serious and medical attention is usually not recommended unless they become severe.


Taking cetirizine may put a person at the risk of developing a condition known as anaphylaxis, which is the most dangerous side effects of cetirizine. Anaphylaxis is a fatal form of an allergic reaction that can occur within minutes or even seconds of exposure to the medication. Symptoms of this dangerous side effect include swelling of the tongue or mouth, trouble breathing, speaking, or swallowing, dizziness, wheezing, or fainting. If a person who has taken the medication shows signs of anaphylaxis, immediate medical attention is recommended to prevent fatal complications.

If the dosage instructions for the medication are not carefully followed, a person may take too much and suffer an overdose as a side effect. The most common physical signs of a cetirizine overdose tend to be excessive drowsiness; alternatively, a person may actually experience restlessness. An overdose may also cause a sudden change in attitude and result in inexplicable irritability. In a more serious case of an overdose, a person may collapse or not be able to breathe. If these symptoms occur after not following dosage instructions, emergency medical attention is recommended to prevent any complications.


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