What Is Cetirizine?

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  • Written By: K. K. Lowen
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 06 April 2020
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Cetirizine is an antihistamine most commonly used to treat the symptoms of allergies and hay fever. It also may provide relief for symptoms relating to angioedema and urticaria, sometimes called hives. The medication does not cure any of the health conditions but offers temporary relief from itching, swelling, sneezing, and other symptoms. This drug is generally available over-the-counter.

By restricting histamine from reaching histamine receptors in the body, cetirizine effectively reduces allergy symptoms. It is commonly available in pill, chewable tablet, and liquid forms. The body can quickly absorb the medication, and eating food before taking it is not necessary because the absorption rate is not affected significantly by the presence of food in the stomach. People sometimes combine the drug with pseudoephedrine to relieve a wider range of symptoms.

The most common side-effect caused by cetirizine is drowsiness, which may affect a person’s ability to think clearly or react in a timely fashion. People taking the drug should not engage in activities that require alertness, especially operating a motor vehicle. Drinking alcohol or taking other medications that can cause sleepiness may also compound the medication’s effects.


There are a number of unwanted side effects associated with the use of cetirizine. Side effects of a less serious nature include tiredness, dry mouth, nausea, and headache. More harmful side effects also may occur, such as acute allergic reaction, unusually rapid heartbeat, insomnia, and uncontrollable shaking. If any severe adverse reactions happen, an individual should immediately seek medical assistance.

People should make certain that they read and follow all instructions listed on the product’s packaging. Taking the proper dosage of the drug may produce the desired effect. Following the directions also may prevent people from taking too much cetirizine, allowing them to avoid sickness or overdose.

Although the drug is available over-the-counter, people taking cetirizine should consult with a doctor or a pharmacist. By cross-referencing all other current medications, a person may avoid unintended side effects or drug interactions. If a patient has a medical condition or health issue, it is wise to talk to a physician about the appropriateness of taking the drug. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should speak with a doctor before taking cetirizine as well.

People should use over-the-counter cetirizine only to treat the symptoms of allergies and hives. If the medication does not improve symptoms within a few days, it may be wise to visit a doctor. Cetrizine is not effective for everyone, and some people may require a different medication to alleviate symptoms.


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