Cetirizine: Side Effects & Withdrawal Symptoms

Lesson Transcript
Kaitlin Baker

Kaitlin has taught nursing students and has a master's degree in nursing leaderhsip, as well as a bachelor's degree in English literature.

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Christianlly Cena

Christianlly has taught college physics and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is pursuing his doctorate study.

In this lesson, you'll learn about cetirizine (Zyrtec), with a focus on its common side effects. We will also discuss reports of withdrawal symptoms in people previously taking Zyrtec. Updated: 03/13/2021

Zyrtec for Allergies?

It's summertime! That means cookouts, pool parties, and for someā€¦allergies! In fact, allergies can be a thorn in your side during any season. And dealing with an increase in environmental allergens can make any otherwise fun outdoor gathering miserable. However, there is a solution that just might help with those pesky environmental allergies: antihistamines. These are medications that help to reduce symptoms of allergies. Cetirizine (brand name Zyrtec) is a specific antihistamine to help with environmental allergens. However, there's no such thing as a free lunch, so they say, and Zyrtec may have some side effects and withdrawal symptoms that pose bothersome issues for people taking this medication.

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  • 0:04 Zyrtec for Allergies?
  • 0:44 Antihistamines
  • 1:39 Side Effects
  • 2:23 Zyrtec Withdrawal Symptoms
  • 3:49 Lesson Summary
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Antihistamines work by stopping the effects of a substance called histamine. Histamine is released in the body when something harmful is detected in the environment, whether it is breathed in, touches the skin, or is ingested (eaten). Histamine is just doing its job by protecting the body from things that could bring it harm, but in people with allergies, the effects of histamine are far from pleasant. Itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, hives, swelling, or trouble breathing are all effects of histamine mistaking something harmless (such as grass or pollen) as a threat to the body. When antihistamine medications are taken, they can stop histamine from being released in response to outside threats, or make a reaction that has already occurred less severe.

Zyrtec is a second-generation antihistamine, which is newer than medications such as Benadryl. The older medications are more sedating and can cause more side effects. The newer medications cause less drowsiness, although some sleepiness may still occur.

Side Effects

Suppose you're planning on going to a picnic at a park. You know the park has lots of trees and plants, and you are highly allergic to these things. The morning of the picnic, you take a Zyrtec pill. However, you're worried that you may experience side effects from the antihistamine. You don't want to be too tired to have fun with your friends! So you read the bottle's label to find out moreā€¦

  • Common nervous system side effects of Zyrtec include: drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, and headaches. These are the most commonly reported side effects of Zyrtec.

  • Common gastrointestinal (GI) side effects are: dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

  • Common respiratory side effects are: sore throat, runny nose, coughing, and nosebleeds.

  • In children, the most common side effects are: stomach pain and vomiting.

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Additional Activities

Cetirizine: True or False Activity

This activity will help you assess your knowledge regarding the side effects and withdrawal symptoms of cetirizine.


Based on the given scenario, determine whether the following statements are true or false. To do this, print or copy this page on blank paper and underline or circle the answer.

Jackie is 36 weeks pregnant and decides to take a stroll in the park on a clear, windy day. As the wind blew, she suddenly inhaled the pollens that came off from the pine trees. She then suddenly felt an itchy sensation in her eyes and eventually had difficulty breathing.

True | False 1. Jackie's allergic reaction was triggered by the inhalation of pollen.

True | False 2. Cetirizine is the biochemical substance released by Jackie's body during her allergic reaction.

True | False 3. Benadryl is a second-generation medication that is less sedating than the early antihistamines.

True | False 4. Runny nose, hives, and trouble breathing are some symptoms of allergies.

True | False 5. A proper dosage of cetirizine must be followed to prevent common reproductive side effects.

True | False 6. Pollen in this scenario is considered an environmental allergen.

True | False 7. Prutus is a medical term for severe itching, especially of undamaged skin.

True | False 8. Jackie should take cetirizine to relieve the symptoms of allergy.

Answer Key

  1. True
  2. False, because the correct statement is: Histamine is a biochemical substance released by the body during allergic reactions.
  3. False, because the correct statement is: Zyrtec is a second-generation medication that is less sedating than the early antihistamines.
  4. True
  5. False, because the correct statement is: A proper dosage of cetirizine must be followed to prevent common respiratory side effects.
  6. True
  7. False, because the correct statement is: Pruritus is a medical term for severe itching, especially of undamaged skin.
  8. True

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