Can I Take Zyrtec While Breastfeeding?

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Dealing with a cold or allergies while breastfeeding can be incredibly difficult. It’s even more challenging while simultaneously taking care of an infant or toddler. It can put a strain on both your physical and mental health. Luckily, there are medications that can help alleviate your systems that are safe to take.

If you are suffering from seasonal allergies, and have symptoms like a runny nose, or scratchy throat, you might be wondering if it’s safe to take a medication like Zyrtec while breastfeeding.

"There are many trials and research showing that Zyrtec (cetirizine) is safe for nursing moms and has no impact on the baby,” says Cristina Gordon, a certified lactation consultant at BaeBee Mama. “Zyrtec is the preferred allergy medication when breastfeeding.”

Read on for more expert advice about how and when it’s OK to take Zyrtec while breastfeeding.

What Is Zyrtec?

Zyrtec, which contains the ingredient cetirizine, is an antihistamine. It is mostly used to treat indoor and outdoor allergies, hay fever, and hives. This includes seasonal allergies as well as food or pet allergies. Symptoms may include a stuffy nose, itchy, watery eyes, and a sore throat. Zyrtec provides 24-hour relief from these symptoms. It is generally OK for breastfeeding parents to take Zyrtec if they are suffering from allergies.

The traditional Zyrtec tablet starts working in just one hour. The dosage is one small pill, a 10mg tablet, once a day. Zyrtec may cause drowsiness, and you should refrain from drinking alcohol while taking Zyrtec.

How does Zyrtec Affect Breastmilk?

While it is safe to take Zyrtec while breastfeeding, it is important to know that some medication may pass through breastmilk. Studies have shown that a small amount may be present in milk, but not enough to harm the baby. In fact, Zyrtec may be preferred over other antihistamines like Claritin or Benadryl.

“Zyrtec may have less short-term effects, such as drowsiness, on the baby,” says Meleen Chuang, MD, OB/GYN and medical director of Women’s Health at the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone. “Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about specific breastfeeding questions if you or your infant may have underlying health problems.”

Gordon explains that all medication has a rating based on a scale created by Dr. Thomas Hale. Medications are rated from L1 (safest) to L5 (contraindicated), based on the safeness of the ingredients. 

“Most allergy medications and antihistamines are all within L1 to L3, meaning safest to moderately safe," she says. "For example, Allegra is L3 (moderately safe) while Claritin is L2 (safer). Zyrtec is rated L2."

Medications rated L1, L2, and L3 are generally safe and have been tested on nursing parents and their babies.

“A baby has been monitored throughout that time [of use] and there are no notable short-term effects. However, you know your baby best, so if you notice that after taking an antihistamine they look drowsy, consult their pediatrician,” Gordon says.

As with any medication, be sure to consult a healthcare provider about the proper dosage to take for relief. “In small doses, these medications are not shown to go through the bloodstream strongly enough to impact the baby,” says Gordon.

Every breastfeeding journey is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about taking Zyrtec while breastfeeding.

Safety Precautions

The Zyrtec brand itself does not formally endorse their product being taken by nursing mothers. “The health and safety of the people who use our products is our top priority and we always recommend consumers carefully read and follow the label when using any over-the-counter medication,” a spokesperson for Zyrtec tells Verywell Family. “The warnings section of the label on our Zyrtec products states, ‘If breast-feeding, not recommended.’”

Zyrtec has this formal recommendation because the active ingredient, cetirizine, does pass through mother’s milk. “Since many drugs are excreted in human milk, use of Zyrtec in nursing mothers is not recommended,” the Zyrtec spokesperson says.

However, many experts agree that the product is safe to use in small quantities while breastfeeding. For Zyrtec, there has been research done and it has shown no impact on baby long term,” says Gordon. Other experts argue that more research studies need to be done. Before taking Zyrtec, it's best to consult with a healthcare provider about your specific breastfeeding and health needs.

Some breastfeeding parents may worry that their supply will be affected if they take medications while nursing. This should not be a serious concern while taking Zyrtec. “Medications that contain pseudoephedrine, which is another type of decongestant, may decrease breast milk supply more than Zyrtec,” says Dr. Chuang.

Breastfeeding Safe Alternatives 

Although Zyrtec is generally safe to take while breastfeeding, there are a number of other ways to treat allergies. “Stay hydrated. Drinking fluids is important for nursing and for recovery from illness or allergies,” suggests Gordon. “Getting rest will also help.”

In addition to, or in place of, taking an antihistamine, there are non-pharmacological methods you can use to decrease indoor allergens. “Use air purifiers, increase ventilation, replace furnace filters, change your bedding once a week, and avoid pet dander,” suggests Dr. Chuang.

If you’re suffering from mostly outdoor seasonal allergies that you have less control over, Dr. Chuang recommends drinking tea to help with congestion.

“One highly recommended tea that may increase breast milk production is one with fenugreek, blessed thistle, fennel, and stinging nettle. These can be found in products such as Mother’s Milk, Yogi Nursing Support, or Earth Mama’s Milkmaid Tea,” says Dr. Chuang. “Taking these teas with honey may help soothe a sore throat, increase hydration, and relieve congestion, as honey is a great natural expectorant.”

 A Word From Verywell

Dealing with seasonal allergies can be debilitating and frustrating. Luckily, Zyrtec is considered safe for a breastfeeding person to take. If you have any questions about whether or not Zyrtec is right for your specific nursing journey, consult with a healthcare provider.

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. National Library of Medicine. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed).

  3. Wilkerson H, Datta P, Rewers-Felkins K, Baker T, Hale TW. Maternal transfer of cetirizine into human milkJ Hum Lact. 2021;37(1):135-138. doi:10.1177/0890334420949847

  4. Ngo E, Spigset O, Lupattelli A, et al. Antihistamine use during breastfeeding with focus on breast milk transfer and safety in humans – a systematic literature reviewBasic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. Published online September 29, 2021:bcpt.13663. doi:10.1111/bcpt.13663

  5. Katselou M, Athanaselis S, Nikolaou P, et al. A fully validated method for the simultaneous determination of 11 antihistamines in breast milk by gas chromatography-mass spectrometryBiomedical Chromatography. 2018;32(8):e4260. doi: 10.1002/bmc.4260

  6. Pseudoephedrine. In: Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). National Library of Medicine (US); 2006.

By Dory Zayas
Dory Zayas is a freelance beauty, fashion, and parenting writer. She spent over a decade writing for celebrity publications and since having her daughter in 2019, has been published on sites including INSIDER and Well+Good.