Compare Sudafed vs. Zyrtec

Head-to-head comparisons of medication uses, side effects, ratings, and more.

Sudafed
(Pseudoephedrine)

Zyrtec
(Cetirizine)

Clears your sinuses. Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) relieves stuffy nose, but it could keep you up at night. Don't forget your photo ID or you won't be able to buy it in the drugstore.Treats allergy symptoms. Zyrtec (Cetirizine) is a once-daily allergy relief medication that won't make you feel too sleepy.
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Reviews & ratings
Button Group. All currently active
Button Group. All currently active
5.273672055427252Sudafed
Reviews for Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)
82%
of people say Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) is worth it
45%
say it works well
6%
say it's a big hassle
Reviews for Zyrtec (Cetirizine)
76%
6% vs. Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)
46%
+1% vs. Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)
7%
1% vs. Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)
Side effects
SudafedZyrtec

We haven’t found good data for Sudafed side effects.

FDA side effect reports for Sudafed »

We haven’t found good data for Zyrtec side effects.

FDA side effect reports for Zyrtec »
How it works
SudafedZyrtec
Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) is a decongestant. It narrows blood vessels and reduces swelling in your nasal passages to make breathing easier.Zyrtec (Cetirizine) is an antihistamine. It blocks histamine, a chemical that causes congestion, itching, and other allergic reactions. Antihistamines can also make you sleepy, but Zyrtec is a low-drowsiness version.
Type of medication
SudafedZyrtec
DecongestantPrescription or OTC
Antihistamine
2nd generation
Prescription or OTC
Available as
SudafedZyrtec
  • Pill
  • Extended release
  • Liquid
  • Pill
  • Liquid capsule
  • Dissolving tablet
  • Liquid
Used for (click to learn more)
SudafedZyrtec
Risk factors for serious side effects
SudafedZyrtec
  • History of high blood pressure
  • History of heart problems
  • Age 65 years or older
  • History of seizures
  • Women of childbearing age
Detailed Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) risks & warnings »
    • Age 65 or older
    • Taking with alcohol
    • Taking other medicines that make you less alert
    • Current kidney disease
    • Current liver disease
    Detailed Zyrtec (Cetirizine) risks & warnings »
    Pregnancy category
    SudafedZyrtec
    NFDA pregnancy category (Unknown)

    The FDA hasn’t classified this medicine’s effects on unborn babies. Talk with your doctor about this medicine if you’re pregnant or planning on it.

    See the FDA package insert
    NFDA pregnancy category (Unknown)

    The FDA hasn’t classified this medicine’s effects on unborn babies. Talk with your doctor about this medicine if you’re pregnant or planning on it.

    See the FDA package insert
    Alcohol
    No specific alcohol-related info.No specific alcohol-related info.
    Food
    No specific food-related info.No specific food-related info.
    Kidneys and liver
    No specific kidneys and liver-related info.
    • People with kidney or liver disease may need to take a lower dose of Zyrtec (Cetirizine) to prevent overdose. Talk with your doctor to be sure you are using the correct dose.
    Sex
    No specific sex-related info.No specific sex-related info.
    Sleep
    • It can affect the quality of your sleep, so you can't take it too close to going to bed.
    • People age 65 and older have a higher risk of troublesome side effects from taking antihistamine medications like Zyrtec (Cetirizine). Watch out for changes in vision, severe dry mouth, trouble urinating, or constipation. Also, feelings of drowsiness may leave you "unsteady" on your feet. This can make you more likely to fall causing broken bones or other serious injuries. Talk with your doctor before using Zyrtec (Cetirizine) and stop using it if you have side effects.
    Weight
    No specific weight-related info.No specific weight-related info.
    Upsides and benefits
    SudafedZyrtec
    • One of the best over-the-counter options to clear stuffy nose and help you breathe better.
    • Clears nasal congestion better than other decongestants like phenylephrine.
    • Can be helpful in relieving congestion-related headaches and pressure in your ears.
    • Available in regular and extended release forms.
    • Zyrtec (Cetirizine) works as well as other antihistamines to treat sneezing and runny nose, but causes less sedation.
    • Works well to also treat hives and itchy skin.
    • Zyrtec (Cetirizine) is available over the counter without a prescription.
    • It comes as a tablet, liquid, and quick-dissolving tablet.
    • It can provide quick relief of allergy symptoms for both kids and adults.
    • It's okay to take with most other medications because it has few drug interactions.
    • Most people don't get any side effects from Zyrtec (Cetirizine).
    Downsides and risks
    SudafedZyrtec
    • Pseudoephedrine (a decongestant) can make your heart race or make you feel anxious and restless.
    • It can affect the quality of your sleep, so you can't take it too close to going to bed.
    • Can raise blood pressure so check with your doctor before using it if you have high blood pressure or other heart conditions.
    • Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) isn't as effective after using it for more than 4 days straight.
    • Need to show a photo ID to buy it in the drugstore and there is a limit on how much you can buy each visit.
    • Although it works fast, its effectiveness wears off for some people over time.
    • Zyrtec (Cetirizine) can be slightly more sedating than Allegra or Claritin.
    • Some people find that other more sedating antihistamines, like Benadryl, are more effective for them than Zyrtec (Cetirizine).
    • If you have daily allergy symptoms, a prescription nasal steroid spray might be better for you long-term.
    Tips from our pharmacists for people taking the medication
    SudafedZyrtec
    • Starts working in 30 minutes.
    • You need to show an ID to buy Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) in the drugstore because it contains pseudoephedrine.
    • Follow age-specific dosing instructions on how much to take. Don't take more than recommended on the package.
    • Don't take Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) too close to bedtime since it can keep you awake.
    • Can cause an irregular or fast heartbeat, and can raise your blood pressure.
    • Talk to your doctor if your symptoms don't get better in 1 week.
    • Starts working in a few hours. Only take it once a day.
    • Can make you feel sleepy, so take it at bedtime if needed.
    • Avoid some of the side effects by drinking plenty of non-caffeinated liquids.
    • If you need to use it for more than a few weeks, talk with your doctor about trying a nasal steroid instead since it might work better for you long-term.
    • Using an antihistamine eye drop instead can also work better to treat itchy or watery eyes.
    Learn more
    More about SudafedSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert
    More about ZyrtecSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert