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All About Zyrtec (cetirizine hydrochloride)


Updated April 28, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

What is Zyrtec (cetirizine hydrochloride) Used For:

Zyrtec is an over-the-counter medication used to treat symptoms of allergies including sneezing, runny nose, coughing, itchy eyes and itchy nose and hives. Zyrtec is an antihistamine.

Who Can Take Zyrtec:

Zyrtec can be taken by most healthy individuals who are at least 6 months old and have never had an allergic reaction to Zyrtec or any medication including cetirizine hydrochloride. Zyrtec is a pregnancy category B. This means that studies on pregnant animals showed no adverse effects on the fetus but studies on humans have not been conducted. Talk to your doctor before taking Zyrtec if you are pregnant. It is generally recommended that you not take Zyrtec while breastfeeding. Tell your doctor about any medications you are taking including prescription, over-the-counter medication and herbs before starting Zyrtec.

How To Take Zyrtec:

Zyrtec comes in several different doses and forms including tablets, chewable tablets and syrup. The most standard doses are 5 and 10mg but this varies depending on your age and weight. For this reason it is very important to read the instructions very carefully before taking Zyrtec. If you are confused speak with a pharmacist. Zyrtec is usually taken once a day.

Side Effects of Zyrtec:

Side effects include: drowsiness, dry mouth, dizziness and pharyngitis (inflammation of the throat which may cause tonsillitis or sore throat--it is interesting to note that this effect may actually be caused by your allergies and not the medication). Symptoms of an allergic reaction to Zyrtec include: swelling, hives, difficulty breathing, or wheezing and require immediate medical attention. Less common side effects included a stomach ache, irritability in small children, headache, diarrhea, and bloody noses. Read the package insert for a more complete list of side effects.


Pfizer.com. Zyrtec. Accessed: August 13, 2010 from http://www.pfizer.com/files/products/uspi_zyrtec.pdf

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