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Seasonal allergies continue to affect many people across the country, and while they are deemed harmless, the uncomfortable symptoms they may lead to can be extremely annoying. According to statistics, allergic rhinitis, a common allergic condition, continues to affect more than 20 million people in the United States and multiple other similar types. While many people, especially those with severe allergies, carry EpiPens with them or go for allergy shots, most rely on over-the-counter allergy relief medications, such as Zyrtec, as the first line of defense.
Like other OTC medications, Zyrtec seems like a harmless addition to everyday life whenever the sneaky allergy symptoms try to appear. However, experts strictly warn users to be careful, especially if they have been drinking alongside. While the combination of Zyrtec with alcohol can relieve the symptoms, such as hives, runny nose, scratchy throat, or itchy eyes, it can also put the body at risk of various side effects, some leading to potentially life-threatening situations. So if you or someone you know has been routinely using Zyretc and alcohol, it is imperative to familiarize yourself and educate them about the ways in which this duo can harm them.
What is Zyrtec? An Overview
Categorized as a second-generation H1-receptor antagonist, Zyrtec is a type of allergy relief medication that works by blocking the effects of histamine in the body. Histamine is a small chemical that the body naturally releases in response to the presence of an allergen, such as pollen. While histamine remains a necessary part of the normal immune response, it may sometimes over-excrete, causing swelling, mucus secretion, and itchiness that feels disproportionate to the allergen load. The active component of Zyrtec is cetirizine which is commonly found under many other brand names too.
What makes Zyrtec different from its peers, such as Benadryl and other first-generation antihistamines, is that it does not cross the blood-brain barrier like the latter to affect the central nervous system and cause drowsiness. Zyrtec has very limited CNS effects; hence, pharmaceutical companies advertise it as non-drowsy, which does not cause mood changes, concentration issues, or physical impairment. The usual dose for Zyrtec falls between 5 to 10 milligrams and benefits most people with very limited side effects, such as the following:
- Stomach pain
- Agitation or nervousness
Why Should You Not Mix Zyrtec and Alcohol?
Drinking with Zyrtec is not recommended, and most reactions associated with this combination are intensified variations of the side effects of either of them. For instance, Zyrtec can lead to severe drowsiness, and adding alcohol to the picture greatly enhances it, causing high levels of fatigue and making it impossible for the body to function normally. Mentioned below are some common side effects to occur as a result of Zyrtec alcohol interaction:
Dizziness and Drowsiness
Even though Zyrtec and other second-generation antihistamines are less likely than the first-generation members to induce drowsiness, poor focus and concentration, and other physical impairments, the risk of these side effects still persists. This risk noticeably increases when people combine it with alcohol, another substance particularly known for its depressing effects on the central nervous system.
Increased Risk of Injury
Experts confirm that using alcohol can significantly impair the judgment, reaction times, motor performance, and self-control in users. The risk of involving in accidents under alcohol intoxication, such as an automobile crash or injury during heavy machinery operation, is also very high. Because Zyrtec can mess with the body to clear alcohol out of the system while inducing a certain degree of sedation alongside, these risks greatly amplify, potentially threatening life.
Heightened Risk of an Overdose
Binge drinking or heavy drinking has always carried an inherent risk of overdosing, leading to alcohol poisoning. This risk of poisoning increases as the liver, the main organ responsible for breaking down and handling alcohol gets overwhelmed and overburdened and fails to get the substance cleared from the system as fast as needed. When a person takes Zyrtec with heavy alcohol consumption, the combination exerts even more stress on the liver as it has an extra job to clear Zyrtec simultaneously. As a result, the risk of an overdose significantly reduces, which may prove life-threatening if a user does not seek help in time.
Miscellaneous Side Effects
In addition to the side effects mentioned above, using Zyrtec and alcohol together can also trigger the following physical and mental side effects:
- Blurry vision
- Low blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heart palpitations
- Loss of coordination and balance
In addition to the physical impairments, using alcohol with any medication such as Zyrtec also significantly impairs a person’s decision-making abilities. Moreover, alcohol abuse can also make it difficult for users to maintain a proper routine, including taking medication as needed or directed, which makes it less effective.
What Else to Avoid While Taking Zyrtec?
In addition to refraining from alcohol, keep the following precautions in mind while taking Zyrtec:
- Inform the doctor about all underlying medications, especially heart disease, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, epilepsy, glaucoma, prostate enlargement, or diabetes.
- Give the doctor a complete list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications, herbs, supplements, and vitamins you are using. This information can help make Zyrtec use safe and minimize the risk of dangerous drug interactions.
- Follow the instructions on the label very carefully, and do not consume more antihistamines than needed, as it may intensify the associated side effects.
- Do not engage in any activities that require focus, such as driving, until you know how Zyrtec affects your cognition and concentration.
- Alcohol will significantly worsen certain side effects of antihistamine medications like Zyrtec. It is best to avoid mixing both.
- Inform your doctor if you are breastfeeding or pregnant while taking Zyrtec.
- Eating grapefruit or drinking apple, orange, or grapefruit juice while consuming antihistamines like Zyrtec may interfere with how these medications work. Discuss their combination with a healthcare professional for more clarity.
Using Cetirizine with Alcohol: Is it Addictive?
Many people who accidentally combine using Zyrtec with alcohol continue using it due to the strong sedative and intoxicating effect they lead to. In long-term cases, this may lead to the development of addictive patterns. While Zyrtec has a low addiction potential, alcohol can cause heavy dependence and tolerance, forcing users to cut off from their daily responsibilities to engage in substance use.
If you suspect that you or someone you love has developed a dependence on alcohol due to regularly combining it with Zyrtec, look out for the following symptoms:
- Inability to limit or stop drinking alcohol
- Engaging in risky or dangerous activities under the influence
- Giving up personal interests or hobbies due to drinking habits
- Experiencing a constant desire to cut down on drinking but inability to do so
- Worsening performance at work or school
- Spending more time consuming or drinking alcohol
- Experiencing strong cravings to drink alcohol or combine it with Zyrtec
- Continued mixing of alcohol with Zyrtec, even when the combination is cause social, mental, and physical issues
If you or someone you know has been displaying the signs mentioned above, they may struggle with underlying polysubstance addiction. Chances are they might have become habitual of the intensified sedation and drowsiness secondary to Zyrtec and alcohol interaction and are now unable to stop using the combination. In such circumstances, the best approach is to join a professional rehabilitation center where trained and highly-experienced experts help people slowly come off both substances without endangering their lives with uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. The duration of treatment varies for different people depending on their symptom severity and response to therapy. Once the active treatment phase is over, the rehabs can provide continued aftercare services to maintain ongoing sobriety.
Can you drink on Zyrtec?
Experts generally recommend avoiding alcohol as long as you are taking any type of antihistamines, as doing so can increase the risk of side effects while potentiating dangerous interactions.
Is Zyrtec addictive?
In a traditional sense, Zyrtec is not addictive and does not lead to dependencies or cravings. However, some people have reported experiencing severe pruritis or itching when coming off this medication; however, the side effects remain temporary. Most people generally overcome this side effect within a few days to a week. Others may report experiencing a change in their daily sleep pattern which may also resolve on its own.
How long after taking cetirizine can I drink alcohol?
According to experts, it is safe not to consume alcohol for at least 24 hours following the last dose.
How long does Zyrtec stay in your system?
The half-life of this medication is roughly around 8 hours in an adult body. This means it takes the medication 8 hours to halve its dose in the blood. In general, a 24-hour window is required for the body to clear itself from Zyrtec fully, but this limit may vary depending on individual factors, such as liver function, weight, age, etc.
Can I take Zyrtec if I have been struggling with alcohol abuse?
People struggling with alcohol addiction or a type of mental health disorder must first seek advice from a medical health professional before using Zyrtec. Alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant, and mixing it with antihistamines can interfere with thinking, motor skills, and judgment.
Can I take a smaller dose of Zyrtec with alcohol?
Some people may try to lower the daily dose of Zyrtec when they plan to drink alcohol simultaneously. While consuming a medication in higher doses with alcohol certainly raises the risk of side effects, reducing the dose doesn’t guarantee that these side effects will not happen. Different people react to medications differently, and some individuals may develop dangerous effects by using minimal doses of antihistamines with alcohol.
Can I take Zyrtec if I have just consumed some alcohol?
Some people believe that taking Zyrtec after consuming alcohol is safer; however, this method is no better than taking the medication before drinking. In either case, both substances can interact with each other in the body and cause severe drowsiness, sleepiness, and other side effects. For people who need an antihistamine but have been drinking alcohol lately, other safer options, such as fexofenadine and loratadine, can be considered.
Is there any reported case of Zyrtec and alcohol death?
While the combination does not commonly lead to fatalities, there is always a lingering risk of life endangerment, especially in people who use one or both substances in very high doses. Such practices can eventually lead to overdoses, which may severely depress the central nervous system and cause shallow breathing, slipping the user into a coma or death if not managed in time.