What is Zyrtec?

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Zyrtec, also known as Cetirizine, is an over-the-counter antihistamine. Zyrtec reduces allergy symptoms, hay fever, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, and itching. Other over-the-counter antihistamines that are similar to Zyrtec include: 

zyrtec bottle product
  • Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)
  • Chlor-trimeton (Chlorpheniramine) 
  • Claritin (Loratadine) 
  • Allegra (Fexofenadine)

Regardless of brand-name, all antihistamine allergy medications work by blocking histamine receptors in the brain. 

Side Effects of Zyrtec

Zyrtec has several potential side effects even when taken in moderation. These side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Sore throat

Zyrtec side effects are more likely to occur when the medicine is taken for the first few times and wane as the body adjusts. More severe side effects arise if an individual is allergic to Zyrtec. These severe side effects include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Changes in urine color and frequency 
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure

Antihistamine side effects can vary by brand and generation. For example, first-generation antihistamines like Benadryl cause heavy sedation, mental impairment, and harmful interactions with other drugs. 

First-generation antihistamines are also medically less effective than their second-generation counterparts. This lowered effectiveness and heightened chance for severe side effects have led to second-generation antihistamines' preference over first. Zyrtec is a second-generation antihistamine.

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Is Zyrtec the Same as Zyrtec-D?

Zyrtec and Zyrtec D are different drugs with several similarities. The primary difference is Zyrtec-D contains pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine, also known as Sudafed, can induce strong feelings of anxiety and hyperalertness. 

Both drugs are available OTC, but the amount of Zyrtec-D an individual can purchase is restricted. Healthcare providers may recommend one over the other based on individual factors. Both drugs can induce sleepiness. 

Is Zyrtec Addictive?

Zyrtec is not addictive in the traditional sense. This means it doesn't produce any cravings or dependencies. However, Zyrtec withdrawal has been linked to temporary but severe pruritus. Pruritus is a condition that causes extreme itchiness. Typically, this condition resolves on its own within a few days to a week. 

Can You Mix Zyrtec and Alcohol?

In general, it's good medical advice never to mix Zyrtec and alcohol. 

Zyrtec and alcohol have compounding effects on the brain. Both substances work as a depressant in moderate to high doses. This causes several severe side effects on the central nervous system (CNS) and liver. There's no medicinal value in mixing Zyrtec and alcohol. 

Side Effects of Mixing Zyrtec with Alcohol

The side effects of drinking alcohol with Zyrtec can be life-threatening. Here are the most common:

  • Impaired motor functions
  • Slurred or incomprehensible speech
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pains
  • Confusion or mania 
  • Dizziness
  • Impaired judgment 
  • Accident-prone
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blackouts (inability to remember prior events)
  • Tachycardia (Extreme rapid heartbeat) 
  • Seizures 
  • Internal bleeding

As a second-generation antihistamine, Zyrtec is considered safer overall than certain counterparts. However, this distinction is primarily based on the massive sedating effects of first-generation antihistamines. 

Other side effects of Zyrtec, specifically in terms of mental health, are still being studied. Alcohol, however, is known to destabilize mood, cause depression, and increase negative thought. 

Additionally, a first-generation antihistamine combined with alcoholic beverages can cause hypoxia, an inability to get oxygen, due to the extreme depression of the central nervous system (CNS).

Risks & Dangers of Mixing Zyrtec and Alcohol

Mixing Zyrtec with alcohol can cause several long-term health complications. According to the national institute on alcohol abuse and alcoholism or NIAA, alcohol interactions are broken into two categories. 

The first category, pharmacokinetic, implies that alcohol impairs the metabolizing of a substance. Essentially, pharmacokinetic reduces the effect of the interacting drug. The second category, pharmacodynamic, suggests that alcohol intensifies the effect. Zyrtec and alcohol share a pharmacodynamic effect. Here are the most common associated dangers. 

Liver damage — Zyrtec can cause acute liver damage, albeit in rare occurrences. However, alcohol abuse is known to impair liver function severely. Zyrtec only adds to the strain on an individual's liver. 

Substance dependency — Habitually mixing Zyrtec and alcohol can cause alcohol dependency. Furthermore, the association of mixing Zyrtec with alcohol might cause a psychological dependence on Zyrtec. 

Bodily harm — The combination of Zyrtec with an alcoholic beverage causes dizziness and poor coordination. Because of this, the chance for a severe accident significantly increases. 

High blood pressure — Both alcohol and Zyrtec can increase blood pressure. The risk of high blood pressure is increased when the two are mixed. Additionally, the drug interactions between Zyrtec and blood pressure medication can increase the heart rate as well. 

Overdose — An individual may overdose when mixing Zyrtec and alcohol for several reasons. The most prominent reasons are severely depressed breathing, acute liver failure, and extremely rapid heartbeat (cardiac arrhythmia). 

Heart disease — Zyrtec has been linked to coronary heart failure. A condition characterized by unhealthy cholesterol builds up. Alcohol can cause cardiomyopathy, an issue with heart muscles. These conditions require extensive surgery and treatment to correct. Drinking alcohol can lead to heart disease as well.

How Long Should I Wait to Drink Alcohol After Taking Zyrtec?

Zyrtec stays in the blood for approximately 24 hours. Drinking, especially in excess, during the 24 hours can cause any of the aforementioned side effects. It's a bad idea to drink alcohol even if it feels as though Zyrtec isn't working. The effects of the drug may be delayed because of several individualized factors. 

Continually consuming Zyrtec and alcohol, even in small doses, can also lead to the aforementioned long-term effects. Other allergy medication may produce varied short-term side effects, but the long-term damages remain the same. 

As a rule, mixing Zyrtec or other prescription drugs with alcohol can lead to health complications. Complications and side effects may be worse in older adults.

Cetirizine Statistics

13.8

Million

Estimated number of prescriptions of cetirizine in the U.S.

15.98

Dollars

Average total drug cost for cetirizine.

4.36

Dollars

Average out-of-pocket costs for cetirizine.

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Resources +

Ekhart, Corine, et al. “Unbearable Pruritus After Withdrawal of (Levo)Cetirizine.” PubMed Central, 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5124431/

Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; “Cetirizine.” LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 16 Jan. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK548420/.

Kane, Sean P. “Cetirizine.” Cetirizine - Drug Usage Statistics, ClinCalc DrugStats Database, 2018, clincalc.com/DrugStats/Drugs/Cetirizine.

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