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Cetirizine

Generic Name: cetirizine (se TIR a zeen)
Brand Names: Zyrtec

Medically reviewed on December 12, 2017

What is cetirizine?

Cetirizine is an antihistamine that reduces the natural chemical histamine in the body. Histamine can produce symptoms of sneezing, itching, watery eyes, and runny nose. It is used to treat cold or allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itching, watery eyes, or runny nose.

Cetirizine is also used to treat itching and swelling caused by hives.

Cetirizine may also be used for other purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important information

Cetirizine can cause side effects that may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be awake and alert. Avoid drinking alcohol. It can increase some of the side effects of cetirizine. Tell your doctor if you regularly use other medicines that make you sleepy (such as other cold or allergy medicine, narcotic pain medicine, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, and medicine for seizures, depression, or anxiety). They can add to sleepiness caused by cetirizine. Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve, if they get worse, or if you also have a fever.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use this medication if you are allergic to cetirizine.

Before taking cetirizine, tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions.

FDA pregnancy category B. This medication is not expected to be harmful to an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during treatment. Cetirizine can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Do not use cetirizine without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

Older adults may need to take a lower than normal dose. Follow your doctor's instructions.

How should I take cetirizine?

Take cetirizine exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor. Do not use it in larger amounts or for longer than recommended.

You may take cetirizine with or without food.

The chewable tablet must be chewed before you swallow it.

Measure liquid medicine with a special dose-measuring spoon or cup, not a regular table spoon. If you do not have a dose-measuring device, ask your pharmacist for one.

Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve, if they get worse, or if you also have a fever. Store cetirizine at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

See also: Dosage Information (in more detail)

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, wait until then to take the medicine and skip the missed dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention if you think you have used too much of this medicine.

Overdose symptoms may include feeling restless or nervous, and then feeling drowsy.

What should I avoid?

Tell your doctor if you regularly use other medicines that make you sleepy (such as other cold or allergy medicine, narcotic pain medicine, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, and medicine for seizures, depression, or anxiety). They can add to sleepiness caused by cetirizine. Cetirizine can cause side effects that may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be awake and alert. Avoid drinking alcohol. It can increase some of the side effects of cetirizine.

Cetirizine side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. Stop using cetirizine and call your doctor at once if you have any of these serious side effects:
  • fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeat;

  • weakness, tremors (uncontrolled shaking), or sleep problems (insomnia);

  • severe restless feeling, hyperactivity;

  • confusion;

  • problems with vision; or

  • urinating less than usual or not at all.

Less serious side effects may include:

  • dizziness, drowsiness;

  • tired feeling;

  • dry mouth;

  • sore throat, cough;

  • nausea, constipation; or

  • headache.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Tell your doctor about any unusual or bothersome side effect.

See also: Side effects (in more detail)

What other drugs will affect cetirizine?

There may be other drugs that can interact with cetirizine. Tell your doctor about all your prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, minerals, herbal products, and drugs prescribed by other doctors. Do not start a new medication without telling your doctor.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use cetirizine only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Copyright 1996-2018 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 6.01.
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