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Is Zyrtec a Good Antihistamine for My Allergies?

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Updated June 02, 2014

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

Question: Is Zyrtec a Good Antihistamine for My Allergies?
Answer: Absolutely. Zyrtec (cetirizine) is a 2nd generation antihistamine approved for the treatment of urticaria (hives) and allergic rhinitis (hay fever) for adults and children 2 years and older (previous prescription versions were approved for children as young as 6 months of age). Zyrtec is available without a prescription (over-the-counter) in brand name (Zyrtec) and generic (cetirizine) types, and comes in tablet, chewable and liquid forms. The dosage of Zyrtec is 5 milligrams for children 2 to 6 years of age, and 10 milligrams for 6 years of age and older. Larger doses have not been shown to be more beneficial for the treatment of hay fever, but may be more useful for the treatment of hives in some people.

Zyrtec starts to work within an hour or so after taking the medication -- making it useful for the as-needed treated of hay fever and hives. Taking it daily, however, may result in better overall control of allergy symptoms. Multiple studies show that Zyrtec is better at treating hay fever and hives when compared to Claritin (loratadine) or Allegra (fexofenadine) -- Zyrtec works faster, is more effective, and lasts longer than these other antihistamines.

Zyrtec has a low incidence of side effects, and is usually well-tolerated. Common side effects include sedation, fatigue, dizziness, sore throat and dry mouth. Sedation is reported to occur in 14% of people taking Zyrtec, and 6% of people taking placebo. Fatigue and dry mouth occurred in approximately 5 to 6% of people taking Zyrtec, and in about 2 to 3% of people taking placebo. Sore throat and dizziness occurred at about the same rates for Zyrtec and placebo, meaning that these side effects aren’t likely caused by Zyrtec.

Zyrtec has a pregnancy category 'B' rating, meaning that it is generally considered to be safe for pregnant women.

Learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about antihistamines.

Sources:

Zyrtec package insert.

Day J, et al. Allergy and Asthma Proc. 2005;26:275-82.

Day J, et al. Allergy and Asthma Proc. 2004;25:59-68.

Day J, et al. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2001;87:474-481.

Day J, et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1998;101:638-645.

Simons FER, et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1990;86:540-7.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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