Is It Safe to Take Cetirizine in Pregnancy?
The safe use of cetirizine in pregnancy is not guaranteed. This non-sedating antihistamine has not been proven in scientific studies of humans to cause teratogenic effects in human fetuses, but cetirizine is listed as a Category B drug to indicate the need for caution due to the lack of insufficient data from human studies regarding the possibility of birth defects. As with many other prescription and over-the-counter medications, taking cetirizine in pregnancy might affect the healthy development of an unborn baby. It is recommended that the use of cetirizine during pregnancy should be limited to circumstances in which the potential risks are clearly outweighed by therapeutic benefits. While cetirizine in pregnancy might be justified due to the health circumstances of the pregnant individual, this drug is contraindicated for nursing mothers because it is known to be excreted in breast milk.
Some cetirizine products feature a combination of cetirizine and a decongestant such as pseudoephedrine. The brand names of some of these products are Aller-Tec™ D, Cetiri-D, Wal Zyr™ D, and Zyrtec-D®. Individuals should consult their physicians regarding the use of these combination drugs containing cetirizine in pregnancy.
Cetirizine is a non-sedating antihistamine or H-1 receptor blocker, used in the treatment of allergy symptoms such as nose itching, itchiness of eyes, and sneezing. It can also be used to reduce itching from certain types of hives, but it does not prevent the formation of new hives. Non-sedating antihistamines include cetirizine (brand names Zyrtec®, Wal-zyr™, Alleroff, or Aller-Tec™), fexofenadine (brand name Allegra®), and loratidine (brand name Claritin®). These medications do sometimes have a sedating effect on some individuals, but their name stems from the fact that these drugs are less likely to cause sedation than traditional antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl®). Of the three non-sedating antihistamines, cetirizine is the most likely to cause some degree of sleepiness, with 14 percent of individuals reporting drowsiness while taking this drug.
Aside from sleepiness, other potential side effects of cetirizine can include headache, sore throat, nausea, dry mouth, or a feeling of jitteriness. Possible serious side effects requiring emergency medical attention include swelling, dizziness, vision changes, rash, changes in heartbeat, or difficulty breathing. Individuals taking any antihistamine medication should avoid drinking alcohol, which might intensify drowsiness side effects. Cetirizine could have harmful interactions with other drugs that cause sleepiness. These might include other antihistamines as well as sleep medications, narcotics, muscle relaxants, seizure medications, or psychiatric drugs.
I am six weeks pregnant and taking cetirizine. Will this affect my baby in any way?
@SailorJerry - Those are all good suggestions. If congestion is a problem, sleeping elevated on two pillows might also help at night.
For some people, though, the benefit definitely outweighs the risk. I have a friend with bad allergies, to the extent that she starts wheezing. She closed up her house about as tight as was reasonable, but she was still reaching for her albuterol inhaler more often than her doctor liked. Taking ceterizine during her pregnancy helped her breathe better (which baby needs!) and use less albuterol.
There are actually a lot of non-drug things to try before reaching for the antihistamines during pregnancy. A friend of my wife's told her about nasal rinsing. It sounded weird to me at first - pouring salt water through your nose - but she said it was really helpful. Neti-pots are always popular but she liked the Sinus Rinse brand that uses a squirt bottle instead.
And, of course, try to stay away from what you're allergic to!
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