Is it safe to take Zyrtec while breastfeeding?

Motherhood is indeed a joy: cradling your newborn baby and making sure that he or she is well-fed and taken care of is, naturally, a top priority – and we share your concerns here. Unfortunately, being a breastfeeding mother doesn’t mean that you’ll be safe from seasonal allergies or immune to catching a cold.

It becomes even more complicated since many women have reservations about taking medicine while breastfeeding: they believe that it can degrade the quality of breast milk and, as a result, cause health issues for the baby. 

But worry not – we got you here with the medications that are 100% safe for you to take even if you are breastfeeding. 

If you have ever experienced allergic symptoms like runny nose, sore throat and itchy or watery eyes, then you are probably familiar with Zyrtec. Actually, it is a brand name: cetirizine, which is sold under the name of Zyrtec, is an antihistamine medication aimed specifically to treat allergic diseases. 

But what about using Zyrtec while breastfeeding? A number of medical articles on lactation state that cetirizine is safe to use even for nursing mothers, as it has no impact on the quality of breast milk and is safe for the baby’s health as well.

In this article, we aim to tell you more about wherever you should take Zyrtec and dispel the most common misconceptions about taking medication whilst breastfeeding.

More about Zyrtec

We have already learned that Zyrtec contains an antihistamine called cetirizine. Indoor and outdoor allergies, urticaria, allergic rhinitis – just name it, a single pill of Zyrtec gives a day-long relief from any kind of allergic symptoms. Zyrtec is highly effective, as it starts working within an hour upon taking a pill, so no wonder it’s so widely used. 

In general, Zyrtec is considered a safe medication for breastfeeding mothers, but some caution is required since it’s side-effects include drowsiness and fatigue – something you don’t want to experience if you are taking care of your baby all day.

Seasonal allergies. Zyrtec while breastfeeding.

Is it safe to take Zyrtec while breastfeeding? 

If you are breastfeeding, it is important to remember that whatever you eat or consume finds its way into breast milk. The same goes for any medication, although the quantities in which its ingredients end up in the breast milk are different – and not always harmful.

If you are taking Zyrtec to fight off allergies, the medication will pass through milk as well, but in such a small amount that it will cause no harm to the baby’s health. Compared to other antihistamine medications like Benadryl and Claritin, Zyrtec has lesser short effects on the baby.

However, specialists recommend addressing your healthcare provider first, in case you or your baby may have underlying health conditions. It is important because these conditions may cause undesirable side effects after you have taken the medication – and it doesn’t refer to Zyrtec in particular, but to any other pills that you consider taking. 

To highlight the importance of it, let’s look at the medication rating system introduced by Dr Thomas Hale. According to the so-called Hale’s Breastfeeding Safety Rating [1], the medication can be divided into 5 groups based on the safety of its ingredients for nursing mothers. 

L1 goes for the “safest” medications, while L5 for «contraindicated» – meaning that they should not be used by nursing mothers under any circumstances. Everything between L1 and L3 lactation risk levels is generally safe, while L4 and L5 levels are considered hazardous and can pose threat to the infant or mother, based on documented evidence. 

Now that we understand the concept of Breastfeeding Safety Rating, let’s see where Zyrtec is placed. There is good news: compared to Allegra or Ativan (both L3), Zyrtec takes the L2 risk level in the rating, making it “safe” for nursing women. It means that upon taking the Zyrtec both mothers and the infants were continuously monitored and tested, proving that no significant short-term effects were spotted. 

However, we know that everyone is different – so are the babies. If you decide to take Zyrtec and notice that your baby looks drowsy or tired, consult with your paediatrician at once. In general, we believe that keeping contact with your healthcare provider is important (especially if you are nursing), so make sure to clear out all the details with the certified specialist, including the proper dosage of medicine.

Safety tips

Normally you wouldn’t see any medicine advertisement that would recommend itself to the breastfeeding mothers or be aimed at them. Zyrtec repeatedly made it clear that the safety and health of the clients are their top priority, so the med’s labels contain all the relevant information about possible risks.

However, you could notice that in the warnings section of the Zyrtec products it is clearly stated that the medicine is not recommended if you are breastfeeding. So here is the question: should you believe the brand or the information from the Internet?

The truth is that the issue with the warning labels of Zyrtec is related to the necessary formalities. We know that cetirizine, the active ingredient of Zyrtec, passes through breast milk. And any ingredient that can excrete itself in the mother’s milk must be reported, even if it doesn’t have any harmful effect on one’s health. 

To ease any possible concerns that you may have, here is what experts on the topic say. According to Laura Kearney, who is a Regional Principal Medicines Information Pharmacist at UK Drugs in Lactation Advisory Service, extensive research has been done on Zyrtec, and it was proved that it has no negative impact on infants in the long term [2].

She is supported by Dr Meleen Chuang, medical director of women’s health of Family Health Centres at NYU Langone. According to the specialist, Zyrtec is not only safer than other antihistamine medications but also doesn’t significantly affect breast-milk supply – something that nursing mothers may be concerned about.

Non-medical alternatives to fight allergy while breastfeeding

If you still have reservations about taking medicine while breastfeeding, here are some alternative tips to ease the allergy symptoms:

Non-medical alternatives to fight allergy while breastfeeding
  • Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated can work miracles for your health, so make sure to drink at least 2-3 litres of water per day. It will not only improve your milk supply but also help to recover from allergies [3].
  • Rest is important. If you are constantly feeling tired because of an allergy, take a daily nap.
  • Ventilate your house. In case of indoor allergies, it is important to ensure fresh air circulation. To do that use air purifiers and replace air conditioner filters. 
  • Make herbal tea. Lemon balm and stinging nettle can help with congestion and ease allergy symptoms [4]. Pharmacies also sell special anti-inflammatory teas that are not medicinal products. Tea with honey can also relieve a sore throat and increase hydration, so if you don’t have any contraindications make sure to keep this method in mind.

A word from the Author

In the end, it is your choice to follow our recommendations about Zyrtec or not: you are the mother and you know your baby best. However, we do suggest that you always consult with your healthcare provider before taking any medicine: a medical professional might know more about how Zyrtec will affect your and your’s baby health.

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