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What Is Cetirizine Dihydrochloride?

By Nicole Etolen
Updated Feb 20, 2024
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Cetirizine dihydrochloride is an over-the-counter medication used to relieve symptoms of seasonal and non-seasonal allergies. These symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing and watery, dry or itchy eyes. Cetirizine dihydrochloride might also be used to treat itching and swelling caused by hives, although it does not prevent hives from occurring. The medication comes in liquid, chewable and tablet form, and it might be combined with pseudoephedrine in certain allergy/decongestant combination medications

Allergies are estimated to affect as much as 20 percent of all people. Seasonal allergies typically aren’t dangerous for healthy individuals, but they can cause enough discomfort to interfere with daily activities. For people who have asthma, allergies can increase the risk of an attack.

A seasonal allergy, often referred to as hay fever, is a collection of symptoms that typically originate in the sinus and nasal passages and are triggered by inhalation or contact with an allergen, such as plant pollen. When a person who has allergies breathes in the pollen, it triggers an immune system response that releases histamines, a substance that dilates the blood vessels. The histamines attach to the body’s cells and cause inflammation, leading to the symptoms of hay fever.

Avoiding the trigger completely is the only way to prevent allergies, which is very difficult in the case of seasonal allergies. Medications such as cetirizine dihydrochloride might help provide relief from the symptoms during the peak season, when plant pollen levels in the air are at their highest. This medication works by preventing the histamine from attaching to the cells, stopping them from causing the inflammatory effect that leads to hay fever symptoms.

One should take all medications only as directed. Higher doses can increase the risk of dangerous side effects. Typically, the medication is taken once daily without food. The liquid form should be measured carefully with a special dose-measuring cup or spoon. Cetirizine dihydrochloride should be stored in a cool, dry location.

When taken as directed, this medication rarely causes serious adverse reactions. Drowsiness and dry mouth are the most common side effects in adults. Alcohol and certain medications, such as muscle relaxers, can increase the drowsiness in a person who has taken this medication. In children, headache, irritability and abdominal pain might also occur.

In rare cases, cetirizine dihydrochloride can cause rapid heart rate, weakness, confusion or less-frequent urination. If these side effects occur, a medical professional should be contacted immediately. Cetirizine dihydrochloride might not be safe for women who are pregnant or lactating.

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Discussion Comments
By anon263265 — On Apr 23, 2012

I am pregnant, and I have tried to stop taking cetirizine, but cannot do without them. Is there a safe alternative I can take? Please help. I am anxious.

By starrynight — On Aug 19, 2011

@JaneAir - I know a few people who get weird and snobby about generic products, but I myself am a big fan. In fact, I actually take generic cetirizine dihydrochloride every day.

I have really bad allergies. I'm allergies to indoor and outdoor allergens, as well as animals. There's just no way for me avoid everything I'm allergic to, so taking an antihistamine helps me not be miserable all the time! And I'm really glad I can get it without a prescription.

By JaneAir — On Aug 18, 2011

I just wanted to point out that cetirizine dihydrochloride is the generic name for Zyrtec. Most people aren't that familiar with the name of medications except for the brand names.

However, I learned a long time ago that they're basically the same thing. A generic brand cetirizine tablet has the exact same amount and type of medication in it as the brand named tablet. The only difference is the price!

That's why I always buy generic. It's the exact same thing but sometimes it's only half as much as the brand name product.

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