Compare Phenylephrine vs. Zyrtec

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

ADVERTISEMENT

Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine)

Prescription or OTC

Zyrtec (cetirizine)

Over-the-counter
Clears your sinuses.

Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine) is a good medication for relieving stuffy nose. It doesn't work as well as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), but it has fewer side effects.

3.1/ 5 average rating with 164 reviewsforPhenylephrine
Treats allergy symptoms.

Zyrtec (cetirizine) can help you with some allergy symptoms without making you very drowsy.

3.8/ 5 average rating with 1232 reviewsforZyrtec
Upsides
  • Works to clear nasal congestion and helps you breathe better.
  • Helpful in relieving congestion-related headaches.
  • Has fewer side effects than other decongestants like pseudoephedrine.
  • It doesn't raise your blood pressure and heart rate as much, or cause as much trouble falling asleep.
  • Doesn't give you rebound congestion (worse symptoms when you stop taking it) like nasal spray decongestants do.
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine) works to treat sneezing and runny nose, and causes less sedation compared to Benadryl.
  • 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 relief of allergy symptoms for both kids and adults.
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine) has few drug interactions with other medicines.
  • Most people don't get any side effects from Zyrtec (cetirizine).
Downsides
  • Phenylephrine doesn't last as long as other decongestants like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed).
  • You shouldn't use it if you have high blood pressure.
  • Can make your heart race or make you feel anxious and restless.
  • Shouldn't use it before you want to sleep.
  • Not as effective after using it for 4 days in a row.
  • Although it works fast, Zyrtec (cetirizine)'s effectiveness wears off for some people over time.
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine) can make you a little more sleepy compared to Allegra or Claritin.
  • Some people find that other more sedating antihistamines, like Benadryl (diphenhydramine), are more effective for them than Zyrtec (cetirizine).
ADVERTISEMENT
Used for
Dosage forms
  • Pill
  • Nasal spray
  • Eye drops
  • Suppository
  • Pill
  • Chewable tablet
  • Dissolving tablet
  • Liquid
Price
Want to save even more money?
Sign up now for a 30-day trial and save up to 95% at CVS, Kroger, Albertsons, and other pharmacies.
Learn more
Reviews
164 reviews so far
44%
saidit'sworth it
24%
saiditworked well
10%
saidit'sa big hassle

Have you used Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine)?

Leave a review
1232 reviews so far
76%
saidit'sworth it
47%
saiditworked well
7%
saidit'sa big hassle

Have you used Zyrtec (cetirizine)?

Leave a review
Side effects
The Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine) FDA package insert doesn’t have numbers about how common side effects are.
The Zyrtec (cetirizine) FDA package insert doesn’t have numbers about how common side effects are.
Risks and risk factors
  • High blood pressure
    • History of high blood pressure
    • Taking MAO inhibitors
  • Heart problems
    • History of heart problems
    • Age 65 years or older
  • Harm to fetus
    • Women of childbearing age
See more detailed risks and warnings
  • Increased side effects in the elderly
    • Age 65 or older
  • Impaired alertness
    • Taking with alcohol
    • Taking other medicines that make you less alert
  • History of liver or kidney conditions
    • History of liver or kidney disease
See more detailed risks and warnings