“Give me cetirizine,” a patient said to me the other day. This is a common request at the pharmacy. This drug is classified scientifically as an antihistamine, histamine being a chemical in the body that brings on allergies among other effects. This, therefore, helps reduce the symptoms of allergies such as redness, itching and swelling. Cetirizine helps to relieve running nose and sneezing although it is not as effective when it comes to nasal congestion.
Cetirizine comes often as 10mg tablets and a solution that contains 5mg per 5ml. The dosage is as recommended by one’s doctor or pharmacist and the conditions it treats are not only restricted to the above, but this too is determined by medical practitioners.
However, just because one can get it as often as they want, given its price, that starts from as low as Shs100 per tablet, it does not mean cetirizine should be popped into one’s mouth as often as they want to. In the first instance, this medicine is known to sedate the patient although to a lesser extent than the older drugs in its category.
It is for this reason that we are often advised to take it at night because, well, we are going to sleep anyway. Drivers are also cautioned when it comes to this medicine.
People with liver and kidney disease and those with epilepsy are advised to use this drug with caution.
One is also advised to avoid consumption of alcohol when taking this medicine because the latter enhances the drugs side effects earlier mentioned. Children and the elderly are more prone to the drug’s side effects. Cetirizine should be given with caution in children under six years, more so for those below two years.
Drowsiness, headache, tiredness, agitation, dizziness, stomach discomfort dry mouth, convulsions, and pain or difficulty urinating are some effects one may suffer when taking this medicine.
It is always important to inform one’s doctor/pharmacist what other drugs they are taking, herbal inclusive, and if they are pregnant or not or perhaps breastfeeding or not.
The writer is a pharmacist