Cetirizine for allergies

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Cetirizine relieves allergic symptoms.

Cetirizine is called a non-drowsy antihistamine; however, it can still cause drowsiness in a few people. Make sure your reactions are normal before you drive, or use tools or machines.

Type of medicineAntihistamine (non-drowsy)
Used forAllergies, such as hayfever and some allergic skin reactions
Also calledPiriteze® Allergy One a Day; Pollenshield® Hayfever; Pollenshield® Hayfever Relief; Benadryl® Allergy Liquid Release; Benadryl® One a Day Relief; Galpharm Hayfever and Allergy Relief; Lloyds Hayfever and Allergy Relief; Numark Hayfever and Allergy Relief; Zirtek® Allergy
Available asCapsules, tablets, and oral liquid medicine

Exposure to substances such as pollen, pet fur, house dust or insect bites can cause some people to produce an excess of a chemical called histamine. This causes allergic symptoms which can include skin rashes, sneezing, watery eyes, and a runny or blocked nose. Cetirizine is an antihistamine and blocks the effects of histamine, which helps to relieve these symptoms.

Cetirizine can be prescribed for you by a doctor or dentist, or you can buy it without a prescription at pharmacies and other retail units. Tablet and capsule formulations are generally suitable for adults and older children, whereas oral liquid medicine is available for younger children. Cetirizine is not suitable for children under 2 years of age.

To make sure this is the right treatment for you, before you start taking cetirizine it is important that you discuss the treatment with a doctor or pharmacist if:

  • You are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • You have kidney problems.
  • You have porphyria (this is a rare inherited blood disorder).
  • You are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • You have ever had an allergic reaction to another antihistamine, or to any other medicine.
  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The manufacturer's leaflet will give you more information about cetirizine and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Recommended doses of cetirizine are:
    • For adults and children over 12 years: 10 mg taken once a day.
    • For children 6-12 years of age: 5 mg taken twice daily.
    • For children 2-6 years of age: 2.5 mg taken twice daily.
  • If you are giving cetirizine liquid medicine to a child, make sure you follow the dosing instructions on the bottle carefully so that you measure out the correct dose for the age of your child.
  • You can take cetirizine before or after meals. Some people find it helps to swallow the tablets or capsules with a drink of water.
  • If you forget to take a dose, don't worry, just take the next dose when it is needed and then continue as before. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • Most people only need to take an antihistamine for a short while when they have symptoms. You should stop taking cetirizine once your symptoms have eased.
  • Although cetirizine is classed as a non-drowsy antihistamine, it can still cause drowsiness in a few people. If this happens to you, do not drive or use tools or machines.
  • If you drink alcohol while you are on cetirizine, be aware of its effects on you and do not drink more than moderate amounts. Alcohol can increase the risk of side-effects from antihistamines.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with cetirizine. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Cetirizine side-effects - these affect less than 1 in 10 people who take this medicineWhat can I do if I experience this?
Feeling tired or sleepyIf this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol
Dry mouthTry chewing sugar-free gum or sucking sugar-free sweets
Feeling sickStick to simple meals - avoid rich or spicy foods
DiarrhoeaDrink plenty of water

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

If you buy any medicines check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

If you are having an operation or any dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • Manufacturer's PIL, Cetirizine 10 mg Tablets, Dexcel Pharma Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated May 2012.
  • British National Formulary; 66th Edition (September 2013) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Document ID:
3485 (v23)
Last Checked:
Next Review:
The Information Standard - certified member

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