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Updated May 06, 2014

Zyrtec Basics:

Zyrtec is an over-the-counter medicine that is used to treat allergies in children and adults. It's popular because you only have to give it once a day. Zytrec is for children older than two.

What Is Zyrtec Used For:

Zyrtec is used to treat indoor or perennial allergic rhinitis, outdoor or seasonal allergic rhinitis, and chronic urticaria (hives) in children over two. Allergic rhinitis is the same thing as hay fever -- or what many parents simply call "allergies" -- when their kids have sneezing, a runny nose, red, itchy eyes and an itchy nose.

Zyrtec Facts:

Zyrtec is a second-generation antihistamine that is also known as cetirizine HCl.

  • Zyrtec is available as a grape flavored syrup and grape flavored chewable tabletes for younger kids who can't yet swallow pills
  • Zyrtec will no longer be available with a prescription
  • Xyzal (levocetirizine dihydrochloride) is kind of the new prescription version of Zyrtec. It is an isomer of Zyrtec (cetirizine hydrochloride) and like other drugs turned into isomers -- Xopenex, Clarinex, etc. -- may have fewer side effects than the original drug.

Forms Of Zyrtec:

  • Children's Zyrtec Allergy Syrup (1mg/ml) (2 years and up)
  • Children's Zyrtec Hives Relief Syrup (1mg/ml) (6 years and up)
  • Children's Zyrtec Chewables 5mg (6 years and up) and 10mg (6 years and up)
  • Zyrtec Tablets 10mg (6 years and up)
  • Zyrtec-D 12 hour (12 years and up)

Zyrtec Side Effects:

Zyrtec is usually well tolerated by most children and few children have to stop taking it because of side effects. When they occur, side effects are usually mild to moderate and can include headache, sore throat, abdominal pain, coughing, somnolence (drowsiness), diarrhea, epistaxis (nosebleeds), bronchospasm (wheezing), nausea, and vomiting.

What You Need To Know:

If Zyrtec doesn't work for your child, alternative allergy medicines might include Allegra, Claritin, Clarinex, and/or Singulair. Steroid nasal sprays, such as Flonase, Nasonex, or Rhinocort Aqua, might also be prescribed, depending on your child's age.

Other important information:

  • Under the direction of your pediatrician, children 6 to 23 months may be started at just 1/2 teaspoon once a day and children 12 to 23 months can be increased to 1/2 teaspoon twice a day if that isn't working
  • Children 2 to 5 years are usually started at just 1/2 teaspoon once a day, but can be increased to 1 teaspoon a day, 1/2 teaspoon twice a day, or a 5mg chewable tablet if that isn't working


  • Zyrtec Patient Information Sheet. Revised July 2004.

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