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Zyrtec generic availability, cost, and dosage

Cetirizine, the first generic version of the prescription drug Zyrtec, received FDA approval in 2008

If you have allergies, with symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes, you may have heard of or taken a medication called Zyrtec. Zyrtec contains the active ingredient cetirizine (or cetirizine hydrochloride) and can be used to provide temporary relief from these symptoms due to hay fever (allergic rhinitis) or other upper respiratory allergies.

Zyrtec is part of a drug class called antihistamines and contains the active ingredient cetirizine. Zyrtec is known as a second-generation antihistamine. This is because it causes fewer side effects than first-generation (older) antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine). 

Second-generation antihistamines also last longer than first-generation antihistamines. Many last up to 24 hours to provide all-day allergy relief. Zyrtec was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1995. Zyrtec is chemically similar to Xyzal (levocetirizine), another antihistamine. Zyrtec is also in the same category as other nonsedating antihistamine allergy pills such as Claritin (loratadine) and Allegra (fexofenadine). 

When Zyrtec was first approved, it was available by prescription only. Since 2008, it has been available in both brand and generic forms and can be purchased as an over-the-counter product. This allows people to self-treat their allergy symptoms. It’s available in various formulations, such as oral tablets, chewable tablets, liquid gels, and liquid or syrup. Although many refer to this medicine as Zyrtec, generic cetirizine can offer significant cost savings. Continue reading to learn more about Zyrtec and its generic cetirizine. 

Is there a generic for Zyrtec?

The first generic of prescription Zyrtec, cetirizine, was approved by the FDA in 2008, around the time the medication became available over the counter. Now, Zyrtec is still available as a brand-name product but is also popularly sold as generic cetirizine. Generic cetirizine is made by various pharmaceutical manufacturers. 

What are the differences between brand-name Zyrtec and its generic?

In terms of appearance, generic drugs may appear similar or different from the brand name, but in all cases, they contain the same active ingredient and work the same way. There is a significant difference in the cost, however, as generics can cost up to 80% less than their brand-name counterparts.

Because generics offer significant cost savings, many patients opt to take generics and find them to be just as effective as the brand. 

Some studies do find that there may be differences between brand and generic. For example, one 2020 study from Taiwan compared brand-name and generic antidepressants. The study researchers found that individuals who took a brand-name antidepressant had a lower risk of hospitalization than those who took a generic. However, studies like this are more the exception than the norm—data from the Association for Accessible Medicines shows that 90% of all prescription drugs in the US are filled for generics—saving the healthcare system $408 billion in 2022.

Zyrtec (cetirizine)
  • Relieves allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, and an itchy nose and/or throat
Standard dosage
  • Follow directions on the product package label for appropriate instructions based on specific product and age of the patient
  • Adults and children 6 years and older generally will take 5 or 10 mg by mouth once a day
  • Children ages 2 to 6 years old will generally take the liquid form of this medication: 2.5 mL or 5 mL once daily or 2.5 mL every 12 hours. Zyrtec is not recommended for anyone under 2 years of age for OTC use. 
Common side effects
  • Drowsiness 
  • Tiredness
  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach problems like stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Do not use if you are allergic to cetirizine or hydroxyzine, or any ingredient in the medication.
  • Do not use cetirizine if you are breastfeeding. 
  • If you are 65 years or older, pregnant, or have kidney disease, liver problems, or any other serious medical problem, consult a healthcare provider before using. 
Other considerations
  • This medication may cause drowsiness. Do not drive or operate machinery until you know how Zyrtec affects you.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol while taking Zyrtec. 
  • Other medications may increase drowsiness caused by Zyrtec, such as medicines used for anxiety or sleep. Before taking Zyrtec, tell your healthcare provider or pharmacist about all the medications you take to ensure that there are no drug interactions.
  • Always measure the dose of the liquid formulation with a special measuring device for medication—not a household or kitchen device.
  • If you have symptoms of a serious allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, such as hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, get emergency medical help.
  • In case of an overdose, get medical help or call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

How much is generic Zyrtec?

The table below shows the significant cost savings from brand-name Zyrtec to generic cetirizine. Because Zyrtec is over-the-counter, you will need a prescription from a healthcare provider in order to apply the SingleCare discount. For maximum savings, choose generic cetirizine and present a prescription so you can use a free SingleCare card

Here’s an example: a bottle of 30 tablets of 10 mg brand-name Zyrtec costs just under $25. Pick the generic instead and pay about $18 and change. For further savings, have your doctor write a prescription for cetirizine and apply the SingleCare discount to pay as low as $3.24 for the same one-month supply. Visit the SingleCare website to start saving today. 

Brand vs. generic Zyrtec prices

Brand-name Zyrtec Zyrtec generic (cetirizine)
Average cost without insurance $28 for 30, 10 mg tablets of Zyrtec $21 for 30, 10 mg tablets of cetirizine
SingleCare’s lowest price $13.81 for 30, 10 mg tablets of Zyrtec (must present prescription to apply SingleCare savings) $3.24 for 30, 10 mg tablets of cetirizine (must present prescription to apply SingleCare savings)
Free coupons Zyrtec coupons Cetirizine coupons

What are the off-label uses for Zyrtec?

Off-label prescribing or off-label uses are when a medication is prescribed or used for an indication that is not approved by the FDA. Some off-label uses of Zyrtec or cetirizine include atopic dermatitis (the most common type of eczema) and hives.

How to switch from Zyrtec to cetirizine

If you take brand-name Zyrtec and wish to switch to generic cetirizine, it should be a seamless transition. The brand-name and generic products contain the same ingredients and dosage. Because the allergy aisle in most pharmacies contains numerous allergy medications and can be overwhelming, you can always ask a pharmacist if you need help picking the correct product. You can also consult your health care provider for medical advice if you have any questions or concerns about Zyrtec or cetirizine.

Long-term use of Zyrtec (cetirizine) 

Zyrtec is generally safe to take on a daily basis. However, you may want to check with a healthcare provider such as an allergist, who can tell you the best timeframe for your medication. 

For example, people who only have allergy symptoms in April and May may be advised to take Zyrtec from March through June. However, those with perennial allergies that are year-round, may be advised to take Zyrtec year-round and possibly try other treatments such as immunotherapy or allergy shots. 

You can also ask your healthcare provider about lifestyle changes you can make that are specific to your type of allergies. For example, if you have a pollen allergy, you may want to monitor weather reports and keep windows closed in the home and car when pollen levels are high. 

Consult your healthcare provider for more information about Zyrtec use and its benefits and risks. Make sure your provider knows about all of your medical conditions, medical history, medication use, and family history.