Zyrtec vs. Rhinocort Aqua

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

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Rhinocort Aqua

Treats allergy symptoms. Zyrtec (Cetirizine) is a once-daily allergy relief medication that won't make you feel too sleepy.Relieves nasal allergy symptoms. Rhinocort Aqua (Budesonide) is a steroid nasal spray that works best when used regularly for your nasal allergy symptoms.
How it works
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.Rhinocort Aqua (Budesonide) is a steroid nasal spray that works directly in your nose to reduce swelling and allergy symptoms.
Type of medication
2nd generation
Prescription or OTC
CorticosteroidPrescription only
Available as
  • Pill
  • Liquid capsule
  • Dissolving tablet
  • Liquid
  • Nasal spray
Used for (click to learn more)
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Reviews & ratings
Button Group. All currently active
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Reviews for Zyrtec (Cetirizine)
of people say Zyrtec (Cetirizine) is worth it
say it works well
say it's a big hassle
Side effects

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

FDA side effect reports for Zyrtec »
  • Nosebleed 3%
  • Sore throat 1%
  • Bronchospasm 1%
More Rhinocort Aqua side effects »
Risk factors for serious side effects
    • 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 »
    • Long-term use
    • Surgery or trauma to the nose or sinuses
    • Long-term use
    • Untreated infections
    • Long-term use
    • Long-term use
    • Long-term use
    • Taking more than recommended dose
    Detailed Rhinocort Aqua (Budesonide) risks & warnings »
    Pregnancy category
    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
    CFDA pregnancy category (Weigh risks vs. benefits)

    Research studies with animals found harmful effects on unborn babies. It hasn’t been properly studied in humans. The benefits might outweigh the risks even if you’re pregnant. Talk with your doctor.

    See the FDA package insert
    No specific alcohol-related info.No specific alcohol-related info.
    No specific food-related info.No specific food-related info.
    Kidneys and liver
    • 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.
    No specific kidneys and liver-related info.
    No specific sex-related info.No specific sex-related info.
    No specific sleep-related info.No specific sleep-related info.
    No specific weight-related info.No specific weight-related info.
    Upsides and benefits
    • 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).
    • Rhinocort Aqua (Budesonide) lowers the number of nasal symptoms you'll get during allergy season.
    • Most people don't have many side effects since it works in the nose and doesn't affect the rest of your body.
    • Doesn't make you drowsy or dizzy.
    Downsides and risks
    • 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.
    • Needs to be used everyday to work, so it can't be used as needed.
    • Can hace an unpleasant smell or taste.
    • It's good for 120 sprays, but there isn't a counter to help you keep track of sprays.
    • Can't be used in kids younger than age 6 years.
    • Need a prescription to get Rhinocort Aqua (Budesonide).
    Tips from our pharmacists for people taking the medication
    • 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.
    • Works best if used everyday. It takes about one week to start seeing the best results.
    • Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure you know how to use this nose spray correctly.
    • Shake the spray gently and clear your nose before each use.
    • Before using it for the first time or if you haven't used it in 2 days, prime the spray pump until you see a fine mist.
    • Breathe in slowly as you're spraying and tilt your head back slightly after spraying. Wait 15 minutes before blowing your nose if needed.
    • Some people get minor nose irritation, nosebleeds, sore throat, or headaches after using it.
    Learn more
    More about ZyrtecSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert
    More about Rhinocort AquaSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert