Cetirizine is a one a day, non-drowsy antihistamine for treating and preventing allergies in adults and children from 2 years old.

You can find Cetirizine (as Cetirizine Hydrochloride or Cetirizine Dihydrochloride) in many popular brands including Piriteze, Zirtek, and Benadryl Non-Drowsy.  It is also available in non branded products as well for those who are after a less expensive version of the same thing. 

Looking for even better value, then we have our bulk packs of Cetirizine so you can stock up for the entire year!

Typical allergies Cetirizine can help prevent and treat include, hay fever, and pet allergies.  A one a day non-drowsy treatment to help you get through the tricky Summer pollen season.

Cetirizine is one of the most widely available allergy treatments, and it can be bought over the counter, in supermarkets, and online at pharmacies like Travelpharm as either tablets, capsules, and liquids.  

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The Ultimate Guide to Cetirizine:


What is Cetirizine?

Cetirizine is an antihistamine, more specifically a new generation peripherally acting histamine (H1) antagonist. The new generation antihistamines, like Cetirizine and Loratadine, tend to have fewer side effects like drowsiness, than the old fashioned antihistamines like Chlorphenamine as they act only on the body and not your central nervous system.   

An allergy is where the body wrongly identifies a harmless allergen, for example, pollen and pet hair as something harmful.  Cells in your body then release histamine to combat this threat.  The release of histamine makes us suffer from the classic symptoms of an allergy which include itching, a runny nose (rhinitis), sneezing, and watery eyes as your body attempts to remove the harmful allergen.  

Cetirizine blocks these histamine signals meaning you can get on with your day without suffering from your allergy symptoms.


What is the usual dose of Cetirizine?

Cetirizine should be taken once a day but always read the product leaflet for further information as it is likely that the dose for a child will be different from that of an adult.


Does Cetirizine make you drowsy?

No, but possibly. Newer generation antihistamines tend not to cause drowsiness, but it is always possible and some people still suffer slight drowsiness.  If you are affected you may wish to try Loratadine and exercise caution when driving or operating heavy machinery. 


Can I drink alcohol if I am taking Cetirizine?

Yes, you can drink alcohol when taking Cetirizine, but the drowsiness can be cumulative so please be careful.


What side effects could I expect?

Cetirizine has very few side effects.  If you were to suffer side effects they may include, a dry mouth, nausea, and dizziness.  However, these side effects are rarely reported.  For a more exhaustive list always consult the patient information leaflet supplied with the medicine.


Can I take Cetirizine if I am pregnant or breastfeeding? 

Due to a lack of safety data, we cannot recommend Cetirizine during pregnancy.  Unfortunately, there are no antihistamines that we can recommend during pregnancy.  If you are pregnant and you are struggling to control your allergy symptoms using steroid-free nasal sprays like Prevenar and Sterimar please speak with your GP. The same is true of breastfeeding.  Cetirizine is readily passed into your breastmilk in sufficient amounts to mean we cannot recommend cetirizine be taken when breastfeeding.


Cetirizine is available as Cetirizine Hydrochloride and Cetirizine Dihydrochloride, but what's the difference?

Hydrochloride and Dihydrochloride are what we call salts.  Medicines are rarely able to be absorbed by the body unless they are formulated as a salt.  Typical salts include hydrochloride and dihydrochloride but others include Lysine (eg Ibuprofen Lysine), Citrate, Carbonate, and Phosphate.  For example, Calcium Carbonate and Codeine Phosphate.

These salts are "inactive" and generally do nothing other than improving absorption.  So what's the difference between Cetirizine Hydrochloride and Cetirizine Dihydrochloride, the answer is nothing.  They both have the same amount of Cetirizine (the active ingredient) and both salt forms are absorbed equally as fast.


Cetirizine vs Loratadine - which should I use?

Both Cetirizine and Loratadine are non-drowsy antihistamines.  Studies have generally demonstrated that Loratadine has the least chance of causing drowsiness which is good for people undertaking skilled jobs or those who are sensitive to sedating medicines.  Cetirizine has been shown to work marginally quicker at relieving your allergy symptoms.  In practice, though it will make little difference.  

Overall there is very little difference between these two antihistamines.


When is it best to take cetirizine?

It depends on when you get your allergies. If your allergies are primarily during the day we would suggest that you take Cetirizine in the morning when you wake.  


When cetirizine doesn't work, what should I do?

While cetirizine is an effective medicine for controlling allergies it sometimes will not work, what do you do next?  The first thing is to add something different to sort the problem.  For example, if you start to get watery, itchy eyes keep taking Cetirizine but try a Sodium Cromoglycate eyedrop.  If you then get nose symptoms like a runny nose or sneezing try using a nasal spray as well, for example, a beclomethasone nasal spray.  Cetirizine, a steroid nasal spray, and eye drops can all be used safely together.  

If all else fails you could swap antihistamine and try Loratadine, Chlorphenamine (although this could make you drowsy), or try a prescription-strength antihistamine like Fexofenadine.  If you need any further information please speak to our pharmacists for further advice.