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Last Updated on February 8, 2024

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Cetirizine is a widely used allergy medication that can be bought over the counter in the UK. It comes in different forms such as tablets, liquid capsules and syrups. Cetirizine is an antihistamine that relieves the symptoms of hay fever, such as sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes. It may also be used to treat hives and other allergic reactions.

Cetirizine can be bought over the counter in most pharmacies and drugstores in the UK. However, it is important to note that some pharmacies may have different brands or generic versions of the medicine. It is important to read the label carefully and ensure that the medication is suitable for your specific needs before purchasing. It is also advisable to consult a healthcare professional before taking any new medication to ensure it is safe and effective.

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What is cetirizine?

Cetirizine is one of the main drugs used to treat allergic reactions such as itching, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), asthma or mild forms of hay fever. The active ingredient is a so-called second-generation antihistamine. Cetirizine has much fewer side effects than older allergy medicines of similar effectiveness. You can read all about the drug cetirizine here.

How does cetirizine work?

Cetirizine blocked a so-called H 1antihistamine the docking (H 1receptors) from the endogenous neurotransmitter histamine – a substance that is present in the body at normal levels, histamine is involved in important processes such as the immune response, the production of stomach acid and the regulation of sleep. Histamine also plays an important role in allergic reactions.

An allergic reaction is an overreaction of the immune system. Upon contact with a truly harmless allergy triggers (allergens such as pollen, house dust or animal dander), the body suddenly releases an excessive amount of histamine, which is recognised as “foreign” and fights the allergens. When the histamine binds to its receptor, the typical symptoms of allergy appear, such as increased blood flow to the tissues (redness), watery eyes, and spasm of the muscles of the respiratory tract (bronchospasm).

Cetirizine works by blocking the histamine receptor(H 1receptor), thereby reducing the effects of histamine and relieving the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Pharmacokinetics and metabolism of cetirizine

Cetirizine is rapidly and almost completely absorbed in the small intestine, so the effect is relatively rapid, about ten minutes to half an hour after you take it. It lasts for about 24 hours. Most of the drug is excreted by the kidneys. For this reason, a dose reduction is required in people with renal failure.

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When is cetirizine used?

When to use the antihistamine:

  • chronic (urticaria)
  • itching
  • chronic allergic cold
  • atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  • allergic asthma

How cetirizine is taken?

Cetirizine is usually taken as a tablet, but there are also cetirizine drops and cetirizine juice. The cetirizine dose is usually 10 mg daily, less in children and people with kidney weakness. Cetirizine doses are set by the doctor, usually once a day in the evening. Food slows down the absorption rate, but not the amount of medicine taken.

What are the side effects of cetirizine?

Cetirizine is generally well tolerated. Commonly (i.e. in one to ten percent of patients) cetirizine produces fatigue, sedation (drowsiness) and gastrointestinal upset (at higher doses). Less than one per cent of people treated with cetirizine develop side effects such as dizziness, insomnia, aggression or dry mouth. Even rarer are allergic reactions and liver dysfunction (hepatitis, elevation of transaminases in the blood).

What should I watch for while taking cetirizine?

Contraindications

Cetirizine should not be used in children under two years of age or those with severe renal impairment. In some cases, the antihistamine should only be used if the doctor considers that the benefits significantly outweigh the risks (relative contraindication), for example in cases of increased susceptibility to seizures (epilepsy).

Interaction

There are no known interactions with other medicines.

Cetirizine suppresses the skin reaction to allergy tests. You should therefore stop taking it three days before an allergy test to avoid interfering with the test.

Experts advise avoiding alcohol during treatment with antihistamines such as cetirizine.

Driving and using machines

Unlike many other antihistamines, cetirizine is a mild sedative. You should still use caution when driving or operating machinery. Patients should be aware of their individual reaction to the drug (tiredness, dizziness, etc.).

Pregnancy and lactation

If necessary, cetirizine can be used during pregnancy with caution and in consultation with the doctor. However, there is a better studied alternative, loratadine. If a sedative effect is desired, clemastine may be used instead.

Cetirizine may be used during breastfeeding after consultation with your doctor. However, there is no information on the excretion of the drug in human breast milk. Long-term use of antihistamines may cause restlessness, sedation and other symptoms in nursing infants. In the specific case of cetirizine, however, this is unlikely.

How to get cetirizine?

Medicines containing the active ingredient cetirizine are available over the counter from your pharmacist.

Since when cetirizine is known?

The active ingredient cetirizine has not been known for very long. After taking a first-generation antihistamine, cetirizine was found as a metabolite in the body. Clinical trials have shown that the new substance has a similar effect with fewer side effects. Cetirizine is therefore better tolerated than older preparations and has largely suppressed their use as medication for allergic reactions. Also in Cetirizine price compared to other antihistamines, the active ingredient performs well – especially generics (generic) are cheap to buy at the pharmacy.