The Zyrtec Effect

It’s no secret in my family that certain medications and environmental factors have a bigger impact on me than a lot of people. A few years ago when I took 1/4 of the lowest dosage xanax available, I was a zombie for 2 days and couldn’t stop sleeping. Half a muscle relaxer feels like I have taken a horse tranquilizer. 

This is why when I went to the allergist a few months ago (the horrible Dr. Evil) I told him that I wasn’t currently taking an allergy pill because Zyrtec and Allegra make me really drowsy and cranky. He responded with “it is physically impossible for Zyrtec to make you drowsy, it is all in your head.” 

I know it’s not in my head, but I also wondered if maybe trying Zyrtec again wouldn’t be such a bad idea. After about 5 hours of taking the pill, I felt like I was going to fall asleep standing up. Not only was I drowsy, but I was really moody. I wanted to do something violent, make someone bleed. I felt more pissed off than I had in a long time. I took the Zyrtec in the afternoon and that evening I was sitting in bed staring at the wall fuming and then almost crying because I didn’t know why. I didn’t connect it to the Zyrtec at that point.

The next morning I woke up feeling pretty good and back to normal…until I took Zyrtec again that afternoon. Within a few hours I felt depressed, anxious, exhausted, and angry. I am a lot of things, but I am not normally angry. It was then that I put it together- Zyrtec had to be causing the rage. 

Just to make sure, I tried taking Zyrtec two more times and sure enough, within a few hours of taking the little white Jekyll and Hyde pill, I was a complete mess/monster. Picture a two year old who hasn’t napped in two days and isn’t getting what she wants. That was me. I tried taking half of a pill and while my rage was brought down a level, I still looked like this all day:

I went on Google to see if anyone else had experienced angry/depressed/exhaustion feelings while on Zyrtec and the results were overwhelming and encouraging. Hundreds upon hundreds of people saying “I’m so glad it’s not just me, Zyrtec makes me CRAZY!” When some Zyrtec users who had been taking it for years stopped it, they went through a serious withdrawal and depression. 

Why aren’t doctors more willing to admit that Zyrtec can and does have side effects?? I’m glad that there are so many online forums with testimonials from other Zyrtec side effect sufferers, I just wish the ones with the actual MD’s could be open to the idea what maybe this medicine isn’t all kittens, flowers, and rainbows. 

EDIT: Because this post gets so many hits from people typing into Google “Zyrtec makes me angry” or “Zyrtec makes me exhausted”, I wanted to post a follow up. I still can’t take Zyrtec or Allegra but I’ve been taking Claritin for the past week with NO side effects! It seems to be helping my allergies and it hasn’t made me a psychotic, angry, sleepy mess. If you’re having issues with Zyrtec and Allegra, try Claritin if you haven’t already. I’m so happy to maybe have an allergy medicine that works and doesn’t have all the side effects. Good luck! (4/29/13)

EDIT #2: Still on Claritin, and I can’t go one day without it. Doesn’t make me drowsy or angry and has helped my allergies/eczema tremendously! (1/14/14)

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36 thoughts on “The Zyrtec Effect

  1. I was just about to start counselling because I felt ready to kill. I was horrible and mean at work and even worse at home. Teary, crazy, sad. Then I took some Telfast rather than Zyrtec. Amazing, the real me returned. BAD Zyrtec! Bad, bad bad! Now I don’t have to fork out for counselling sessions either!

    • I’ve been feeling really out of sorts too after trying some allegra. I kept saying can it be this little pill? yes. so i’m stopping allegra and will give Claritin a try just to see. I already remember from days gone by that Zyrtec is like getting hit with a brick, I’m completely non-functional, like taking 10 benedryls. so I’ll try Claritin and then maybe the new wiseall? or whatever it’s called. thanks to the people who share these stories and help others. good luck. feel good

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  3. Just Realized in.Canada, this is Reactine (name brand). I actually need to take 20mg of it for it to really knock out my.allergies. I hop between this and two tablets of Aerius(desloratadine, 5mg), as they.are the only two really good for skin and throat itch, and really do eye itch well.

    But when I hit peak allergy and need to take the double.dosage, I.do take at night, so I’m not tired. Although I adapt to it by day three, and can take at.any time of day. I also carry the certazine for food allergies, as less sleepy than benadryl

  4. i took zyrtec generic and today i was the most depressed i’ve ever been in a while. I mean I have a few things going on in my life right now but nothing I cant handle. Today I was just seeing black over nothing really. Then just feeling psychotic like i’m losing my mind. I tried to figure out what the heck was wrong with me and I remember I had a reaction to this once taking a claratin D generic version. Just felt drained after and depressed. What the heck is in this stuff?

  5. I’ve been taking it for like a year now and since then I’m much more depressed, shaky hands, body, sleep too much or doesn’t even sleeps never get out of my house, feels angry if anything happens to me or if anyone talked to me. I have no more friends and I don’t know if zyrtec’s the reason , I have itching issues, from foods planets etc.. now most of the foods that I used to love or eat, I don’t eat it anymore especially fruits like apple, grape etc..
    I think that’s it, not sure if it’s because of zyrtec

  6. I hate to say it, but your doctor is a completely incompetent buffoon if he says zyrtec will not make you drowsy. All the medicine databases say things like “you should know that cetirizine (the active ingredient in Zyrtec) may make you drowsy. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you.” This is directly from a medicine database. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a698026.html

    It makes me drowsy. It makes my husband drowsy. I just slept like 11 hours since I took some yesterday. I never sleep more than 7 to 9 normally. It also gives me very weird and obsessive dreams, too.

    Unfortunately it’s the only medicine I’ve found that works for certain severe allergies for me such as cat and dog dander. If I visit someone with a cat or dog, I have to take it, otherwise I will be wheezing and barely getting enough air to survive on anything else a few hours later. I’ve also been hospitalized after dog/cat contact when I was a teen, so Zyrtec is better than near death experiences. It’s ok if I’m active, but when sitting still and doing something boring I get quite drowsy on it. It makes it hard to wake up, too.

    Claritin is about as effective as eating a lump of sugar for me. It does nothing at all. I might as well eat gummy dinosaur vitamins as take Claritin. What a joke of a medicine for me.

    Allegra does a little tiny bit for me, but only works on very mild seasonal allergies and still doesn’t relieve them more than maybe half way. It also makes me a tiny bit sleepy, but not much, and not like Zyrtek.

    Zyrtek is related to hydroxyzine which was a first generation antihistamine that had more severe side effects and was sometimes also used as an anti-anxiety medicine, so I’m not surprised it might have mood change effects on some small percentage of people. All the later generation antihistamines have been modified to chemicals that are not supposed to cross the blood-brain barrier as easily or as much. That gives them reduced side effects such as sleepiness or mood changes for most people compared to earlier antihistamines (such as benadryl which makes almost everyone very sleepy). Maybe in you these cross into your brain more than for most people or you’re especially sensitive for some reason.

    I can’t wait for my latest bout of allergies to end since they make me miserable and no allergy medicines are working for me all the way.

    • Have you considered allergy shots? I have horrible allergies with nothing working all the way. Started the shots and doing much better. They are immunotherapy so exposing you to tiny bits of your allergen and gradually increasing so your body can learn to fight it better on its own.

  7. I was recommended Zyrtec while pregnant and having a horrible time with my sinuses, but completely unable to tolerate Sudafed. “Take half,” he’d said. I did… In the morning and was miserable and tired all day, but being sick didn’t think much of it. I mean, my husband and kids take it and are fine. A couple of years later, I was having a bad time with seasonal allergies, so my GP recommended I take it. I said, it knocks me out to take half and that isn’t quite strong enough. She said to take a whole one at night. A whole pill renders me useless for at least 24 hours. I’m exhausted, lethargic, difficult to wake, grouchy when awake, and just miserable. I attribute the bad attitude to being exhausted and not able to just sleep it off- much like I’d be had I gotten very drunk the night before. I cannot even drive the day after taking a while pill. But, I’m a redhead and all medicines seem to have odd effects on me- including general anesthesia. I’m saying this haven just been forced to funnel coffee just to stay awake so I can watch my kids while my husband works today. I think sneezing, watery eyes, and horrible sinus pressure would’ve been a better choice. :/

  8. “it is physically impossible for Zyrtec to make you drowsy, it is all in your head.” WTF? Even the package says “May cause drowsiness”. Get another doctor. I’m at this site because I took one this morning on my doctor’s advice and I feel like a zombie. I’m at work now and can’t function. (Obviously. Otherwise I would be working instead of surfing the web!) But I also can’t function if I’m sneezing and coughing. >: (

    • Have you tried taking it at night?

      Just mentioning this because I just came from the allergist & that’s what he suggested. For some reason, even though Zyrtec knocks me out and I know it’s a once a day pill, it never even occurred to me to switch what time I take it (even though I take ambien & flexiril at night and they barely help my insomnia).

      Just took one now – hopefully I’ll fall asleep early *and* be allergy symptom-free tomorrow 🙂

    • I have been suffering from severe chronic allergies for years now. I have tried Zyrtec, Allegra and Claritin. They all cause some amount of drowsiness and made the allergies somewhat tolerable although I was feeling far from normal. Then a friend suggested this all-natural cure called Neti-pot and I was feeling 10 times better than I ever did with any of the medications. Now I am off all medications and using Neti-pot once a day. I am just amazed that I have visited half a dozen physicians for this problem in the last 4 years and not one mentioned it to me.

  9. Zyrtec did the same thing to me. I was on regular Clairitin for the last couple of years and this year had to switch to Clairitin D. After 10 days on that, I am having serious anger. Hoping to try to switch to regular Clairitin and then Clairitin D maybe every other day or so and see if that changes anything. Otherwise I would rather suffer with runny nose, watery itchy eyes, and everything else that comes with allergies than feel like this.

  10. Sorry to hear zyrtec made you feel that bad but glad you found something that works for you. Personally I like zyrtec.. it’s very helpful with my allergy and it also makes me calm and pretty much incapable of feeling stressed. Though the first times I took it I got very drowsy as well but that’s almost gone by now.

  11. Well, I took two generic Zyrtec this week and I slept thirteen straight hours on one day…and then sixteen straight hours the next time I took it. So…representative sample I might not be…but there must be something to it.

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  13. So interesting! Claritin isn’t strong enough for me, so I love Zyrtec. With my 24 allergies, it’s a miracle I’m not allergic to anything in it! Glad you found something that works 🙂

  14. Zyrtec has always made me drowsy as well (and it does nothing for me!) Instead, I take Benadryl … which makes me so sleepy, but at least I don’t feel allergic!

    • Not sure why I’m just now seeing this, haha! Whoops. But I am the same way, I just take benadryl if I need something to help the allergies. I get scared taking that so much though with anaphylactic allergies. I don’t want my body to get so used to it that it stops working as well in emergency situations!! I just took a Claritin for the first time in a LONG time so we’ll see what happens 🙂

  15. That Dr. Evil guy is an idiot. Zyrtec makes me sleepy, too, and my doctor recommended I take it at night because its KNOWN to cause drowsiness. I don’t think I’ve had the mood swing problems but maybe I should start paying better attention!

    • haha you never know!! I tried taking it at night and it made it almost impossible to get out of bed in the morning. Not a fan! Why can’t they invent an allergy pill that makes you hyper? I could use some of that 🙂

      • I have had the same experience. When I take Zyrtec at night I definitely can’t wake up the next day. This medicine also makes me feel nervously hungry, the whole day through. I do not take it anymore. In general, I have had some bad experiences with medicines and creepy GP attitudes of the Dr. Evil type. It seems a rather globalised issue, in Spain it is the same: individuals are not taken serious anymore, especially if the ‘Evidence Based Medicine’-stats show a different ‘general (or generalised) outcome’. No place for exceptions. The problem is that ‘the exceptions’ are still growing….. Better follow your own intuitions if things make you feel bad. 🙂

        • Wow thank you for your comment and insight. It’s so sad to me that so many doctors just aren’t LISTENING to their patients. Why go into medicine if you are only going to quote a textbook and not take each patient into consideration? It doesn’t make sense to me. Interesting how you have a similar reaction to Zyrtec. Do Allegra or Claritin cause the same symptoms for you? Allegra still makes me cranky, and I haven’t tried Claritin in a long time.

          Thanks again for your thoughts, good to know I’m not alone in my Zyrtec troubles!

          • My believe and experience is that many people that go into medicine change after some years, for example, because of work overload, group pressure (from within and without the profession: ‘¡don’t be a softy, patients will eat you up…!’), self protection, etc., but especially because of the ‘philosophy’ behind biomedicine. Biomedicine is underpinned by a rather fragmented way of thinking about the human ‘body and mind’, biomedicine cuts the human being up in ‘specialisms’, which do not necessarily interconnect, neither do specialists….hahaha. And then the stats, let’s blame everything on the stats, ;), but yes, stats make doctors think in risk factors and (‘moulded’) life styles, so if you are ‘under 30’, a ‘non-smoker’, no chronic diseases, no kidney problems, than you are perfectly able to tolerate Zyrtec, yeaaah, because 95% of your ‘type’ does etc.. I am just inventing this example, but I think it works more or less like that…

            I have also tried Telfast, which I think is Allegra in the US. The same thing. I only take antihistamines when it is really-really necessary and take half of the prescribed dose. Something Dr.Evil types cannot bear, but it is my body/mind. ☺

            (Sorry for my English 😉 )

            • I think you are exactly right, many doctors change once they have been in the field awhile. It’s very rare to meet a doctor who loves the challenge of a difficult patient (ME! haha). Once when I was at the doctor and he wanted to prescribe me antibiotics, I told him I was allergic to Ceclor, Penicillin, Biaxin, and Sulfa Drugs- all major antibiotics. He became FURIOUS with me and said “well what the heck am I supposed to give you then, huh?!?! You can’t be allergic to all of those!” I left there in tears, isn’t that HIS job as a doctor to figure out an alternative? And saying you CAN’T be allergic to those made me hysterical. He hadn’t been the one to drive me to the hospital as my throat closed shut with each instance. ARGH. Doctors.

              I love your example of the stats- it really makes sense. And you’re English is great! After I read your first comment on my blog I actually thought how eloquent and well spoken you are. So there! 🙂

  16. No more zyrtec for you! You are much more fun when you are happy, awake and not wanting to draw blood. Brian had a horrible time on Allegra when he tried it. He would fall asleep in class, was cranky, had headaches and was just a mess. He doesn’t have a problem with Zyrtec but has had difficulty with others. I think meds can cause all kinds of side-effects in people, definitely due to us all having our own unique chemistry. Just remember Dr. Evil was a jerk who is ignorant and push anything and everything he said out of your head 🙂

    • It’s so wild how allergy pills effect different people. I remember always being extra exhausted in high school, I’m wondering if it had to do with my allergy pills! Interesting. Maybe I should try Allegra again though since the Zyrtec doesn’t seem to cut it!

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