What to Know About Mixing Alcohol and Zyrtec?

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Allergies are a common health concern affecting millions of people year-round. From pollen to mold, dust mites to dander, allergens are easy to find indoors and out. Approximately one-quarter of US adults have chronic allergic rhino-conjunctivitis, characterized by itchy, watery eyes, nasal congestion, and sneezing. Seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever), in particular, plagues 24 million Americans annually.

Cetirizine, often known as Zyrtec, is one of the most popular over-the-counter medications to treat long-term and seasonal allergies. However, when with alcohol against the advice of a licensed healthcare provider, the interaction can be uncomfortable or downright dangerous.

Managing a chronic health issue and substance use disorder can seem frightening and impossible. If you or a loved one have been trying to control allergies and alcohol misuse, Guardian Recovery has resources to aid your recovery. We offer services such as medical detox12-Step Mentoring, and individualized therapy to help you achieve sobriety and overall wellness goals.

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What is Zyrtec?

Zyrtec is classified as a second-generation H1-receptor antagonist. In other words, it blocks the effects of histamine on your body’s cells. Histamine is a naturally-occurring chemical released by the body in response to injury or an allergen like pollen. While it is a necessary part of the immune response, the effects of histamine, such as itchiness, mucous secretion, and swelling, can feel out of proportion to the allergen.

First-generation antihistamines like Benadryl are known to cross the blood-brain barrier into the central nervous system (CNS), leading to pronounced drowsiness, mood changes, trouble thinking or concentrating, and physical impairment. Zyrtec, like other second-generations, has limited CNS effects and is advertised as non-drowsy, although many people report fatigue. The usual dose is 5 – 10 mg daily. While available over-the-counter, a doctor can also prescribe it.

Side Effects of Zyrtec May Include:

  • Headache.
  • Insomnia.
  • Nervousness or agitation.
  • Weakness.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Difficulty breathing.

Alcohol & Zyrtec

Alcohol interacts with most prescription and over-the-counter medications to some extent. Not only does it alter how your body breaks down and utilizes medicine, but those drugs also impact how well your system can metabolize alcohol.

Interactions between alcohol and medications are a two-way street. Many drugs are metabolized in the liver using a specific set of enzymes. Because alcohol is also broken down in the liver, the combination of drinking and medication use results in higher-than-usual blood levels of both alcohol and the drug. As a result, the medication side effects may be more pronounced. Likewise, the sedative, mind-altering properties of alcohol are also enhanced. How quickly your body can metabolize either of these compounds is based on your age, body mass, and the dose or quantity of substance ingested.

Zyrtec can increase the effects of alcohol. When taking this medication, you may not be able to drink as much as you would otherwise. The combination of Zyrtec and alcohol makes overdose more likely, especially when consuming more than usual.

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Side Effects of Mixing Alcohol & Zyrtec

Most reactions associated with the combination of Zyrtec and alcohol are intensified variations of either substance alone. For example, while Zyrtec may cause drowsiness, adding alcohol would cause a much greater degree of fatigue to the point that you may be unable to function.

Drowsiness & Dizziness

Although second-generation antihistamines like Zyrtec are less likely than first-generation agents to cause drowsiness, physical impairment, and lack of focus or concentration, they can still cause these issues. The risk of fatigue and dizziness with Zyrtec notably increases when combined with alcohol, a substance known for its marked depressant effects on the CNS.

Increased Risk of Injury

Alcohol is known to impair an individual’s reaction time, judgment, self-control, and motor performance. The risk of injury, primarily when operating a vehicle or other machinery, is significantly higher while under the influence. Because Zyrtec reduces the body’s ability to clear alcohol from the system, taking this medication while drinking can lead to a greater chance of physical harm.

Increased Risk of Overdose

Heavy drinking or binge drinking carries the inherent risk of overdose and alcohol poisoning due to the liver’s inability to process alcohol as quickly as it is consumed. When taking Zyrtec simultaneously, the liver metabolizes alcohol more inefficiently because it is also tasked with breaking down the antihistamine. The result is a higher risk of overdose since individuals may consume their usual large quantity of alcohol. Still, their body is unable to adequately process both substances at the same time.

Other Side Effects

In addition to increased drowsiness, risk of injury, and risk of overdose, drinking while on Zyrtec can cause other mental and physical side effects.

Combining Alcohol & Antihistamines May Lead to the Following:

  • Loss of balance and coordination.
  • Headaches.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Nausea/vomiting.
  • Low blood pressure.

In addition to physical side effects, combining alcohol with any medication can also impact your decision-making ability. Alcohol misuse often makes it challenging to maintain a routine, including taking prescribed medications on time as directed. If you only take your medication intermittently or when you drink, it will rarely reach the blood levels necessary to be effective.

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Managing chronic allergies and alcohol use disorder together may seem overwhelming, but it is possible. The benefits of quitting alcohol extend beyond just physical fitness. With the proper therapeutic support and compassionate guidance, you can get the most out of your medical care and be on your way to the healthiest version of yourself.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder, help is available 24/7 with Guardian Recovery. Contact us today to learn how our mission to offer personalized, comprehensive treatment can work for you. In addition to supplying a detailed list of services on your journey to health and wellness, we also provide a free, no-obligation health insurance benefit check. Reach out today to see how we can help.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/clt2.12013
  2. https://www.aafa.org/allergy-facts/
  3. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/cetirizine-systemic-drug-information?search=cetirizine&source=panel_search_result&selectedTitle=1~97&usage_type=panel&showDrugLabel=true&display_rank=1
  4. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/85/5/1185/4633007
  5. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1365-2222.1999.0290s3147.x
  6. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a698026.html
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9260032/#:~:text=Alcohol%20can%20affect%20the%20pharmacokinetics,and%20inhibiting%20gastric%20alcohol%20dehydrogenase.
  8. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa72/aa72.htm#:~:text=Alcohol%20is%20metabolized%20by%20several,eliminate%20it%20from%20the%20body.
  9. https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0532-2
  10. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/harmful-interactions-mixing-alcohol-with-medicines
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8401155/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10748947/
  13. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antihistamines/

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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