Here comes autumn and with it comes the sneezing, itchy nose, and watery eyes that are the hallmarks of allergic rhinitis, otherwise known as hay fever. For some the suffering is seasonal while others struggle with the effects year-round.
No matter the frequency of your allergy symptoms, if you’re like most people, you’ll seek relief through over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications, most likely reaching for frequently-advertised brand names like Claritin (loratadine), Allegra (fexofenadine), and Zyrtec (cetirizine).
But in the past few years Xyzal (levocetirizine dihydrochloride) has risen in popularity, mainly for its ability to offer allergy relief without drowsiness. But does it work? Let’s take a deeper look at the pros and cons of Xyzal.
What is Xyzal?
Xyzal is the brand name for an antihistamine called levocetirizine. Sensitivity to specific allergens causes the immune system to release the natural chemical histamine. Histamine is the culprit behind the signature symptoms of an allergic reaction, like sneezing, itchy or runny nose, and hives. Xyzal helps treat allergy symptoms by blocking the effects of histamines in the body without causing the drowsiness that’s often associated with allergy medications.
Developed by the French multinational pharmaceutical company Sanofi, Xyzal was first approved by the FDA in 2007. An OTC version was approved in 2017, marketed with the name Xyzal Allergy 24HR. Xyzal comes in breakable 5 mg tablets as well as a 2.5 mg/5 mL oral solution. Xyzal can be taken with or without food.
Three Generations of Antihistamines
Because it’s a non-drowsy allergy medication, Xyzal is considered a third-generation antihistamine, but what does that mean?
Antihistamines are classified by how likely they are to cause drowsiness. The active ingredient in first-generation antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) interact directly with the brain and are likely to bring on drowsiness and sedation.
Second-generation antihistamines (Zyrtec and Claritin) and third-generation antihistamines (Xyzal, Allegra, and Clarinex) do not interact with the brain, so they are less likely to cause drowsiness than first-generation antihistamines. It’s this characteristic that adds to the appeal and popularity of non-drowsy allergy medicines like Xyzal.
Xyzal may still cause you to feel tired, and it’s not without its share of side effects, so it’s best to take it in the evening. You should also avoid driving a motor vehicle or operating machinery until you know how the medication affects you. Tiredness, dry mouth, fever, and cough may occur. Tell your health care professional if these conditions worsen.
Xyzal carries the risk of other side effects as well. Tell your doctor or allergist right away if you experience difficulty urinating, vision problems, dizziness, anxiety, sleeplessness, trouble breathing, or frequent nosebleeds. People with kidney disease, liver conditions, or who are on dialysis should not take Xyzal.
Get emergency medical help or call a poison control center if you exhibit signs of a serious allergic reaction to Xyzal. These include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, and hives. As usual, keep Xyzal away from the reach of children.
While some people may not find Xyzal as completely non-drowsy as advertised, others will not find drowsiness to be an issue. Thanks to its ability to provide strong allergy relief with low side effects, Xyzal will most likely continue its rise in popularity, especially with the fall allergy season right around the corner.