Children's Zyrtec Side Effects and Dosing

Zyrtec (cetirizine) is an over-the-counter antihistamine that is used to treat allergies in children and adults. It's a very popular allergy medication given that it only needs to be taken once a day.

It is used to treat indoor or perennial allergic rhinitis and outdoor or seasonal allergic rhinitis in children ages 2 and older, and chronic urticaria (hives) in children ages 6 and older. Allergic rhinitis is the same thing as hay fever, or what many parents simply call "allergies" when their child is sneezing, has a runny nose, red, itchy eyes, and an itchy throat.

Child takes medicine
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Types of Zyrtec

Zyrtec's product line includes tablets, liquid gels, and quick-dissolve tabs, as well as products formulated specifically for children:

  • Children's Zyrtec Allergy Syrup: This liquid syrup is a great alternative for younger kids who can't yet swallow pills or don't like swallowing pills. It comes in grape and bubblegum flavors that are dye-free and sugar-free and are safe for children ages 2 and older.
    Children ages 2 to 6 should take 2.5 milliliters once daily. If necessary, the dose can be increased to a maximum of 5 milliliters once daily, or 2.5 milliliters every 12 hours. Never administer more than 5 milliliters within 24 hours. For children 6 years and up, 5 milliliters to 10 milliliters can be taken once a day depending on the severity of symptoms. No more than 10 milliliters should be taken in 24 hours. If your child is under 2 years of age, consult your healthcare provider before administering this medication.
  • Children's Zyrtec Dissolve Tabs: These dissolving tabs are also a great alternative to pills. They're fast-dissolving and, like all Zyrtec products, claim to provide 24 hours of symptom relief. They are safe to use for children ages 6 and up.
    Children ages 6 and up can take one 10 milligram tablet once a day. No more than one tablet should be taken in 24 hours. If your child is under 6 years of age, ask your healthcare provider before using this medication.

Your child should not take Zyrtec if they have ever had an allergic reaction to an antihistamine containing hydroxyzine.

Side Effects 

Most children generally respond well to Zyrtec. Few children have to stop taking it because of side effects. The most common side effect of Zyrtec is drowsiness. If other side effects occur, they are usually mild to moderate. However, if you are concerned by your child's reaction to the medication, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Side effects may include:

  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Abdominal pain
  • Coughing
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Nosebleeds
  • Wheezing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

What to Do If Zyrtec Doesn't Work

Your child might not respond to Zyrtec. If it doesn't provide allergy relief for your child, look into alternative allergy medicines. These include Allegra, Claritin, Clarinex, and Singulair. Don't forget about steroid nasal sprays, either. If your child is old enough, Flonase, Nasonex, or Rhinocort Aqua may be prescribed by your healthcare provider.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Cetirizine.

  2. FDA. Zyrtec summary review.

  3. DailyMed (NIH). Children's Zyrtec Allergy- cetirizine hydrochloride syrup.

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Cetirizine oral syrup.

Additional Reading

By Vincent Iannelli, MD
 Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.