Q. I stopped Zyrtec about five days ago. I started itching all over after day three.
I wish I’d known about the withdrawal symptoms before I started taking Zyrtec four years ago! Can you tell me how long the itching lasts?

A. As far as we can tell there have been no studies of this phenomenon and therefore no definitive answer. Your dermatologist may consider a short course of a corticosteroid if the itching is completely unbearable.
Based on reports from visitors to our website, the itching may begin to fade after two weeks or so. We wish the FDA required drug companies to investigate withdrawal from a range of medications so people would know how to discontinue them safely.

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  1. Erica

    I, too, am itching like crazy! I have hives on my arms that I wind up scratching until they bleed and can’t sleep at night for itching. This actually happens about once a year for me – when I let myself run out of the Zytec I have taken for years. Today is day 5 for me, I think. I have always assumed that the reason for the itching is because I am depriving myself of the needed antihistamine, but after reading all the comments to this post I’m not so sure. I have very dry and sensitive skin, and can’t wear many fabrics even on Zyrtec for the itching they cause. I have just assumed that the itching is an allergic reaction my skin is having. I always run to the pharmacy to get more Zyrtec, and after 2-3 days of getting it back in my system the itching stops. Today, after scratching my arms until one bled and finally popping a Benedryl, I decided to Google my problem. Perhaps this is a withdrawl symptom, but regardless, I’ll be purchasing more Zyrtec today! Not only do I itch like crazy when not on it, but also sneeze like crazy and get sinus infections. I have no side effects when on the medicine, only when I come off of it. That is reason enough to me to stay on Zyrtec.

  2. Carmen

    I stopped taking cetirizine 17 days ago, the first 4 days I took allegra, I skip it the 5th day but had to take it again on the 6th due to unbearable itching, I skipped on the 7th and took half pill on the 8th, I did not take it for the next week, the hives and itch almost stopped but seemed that I was too sensitive to some foods and anything could give me an allergy attack so 2 days ago I started to take a small dose of an antihistamine. This same pill did not work at the beginning of the withdraw, I guess it was not enough drug but after not taking anything for a while a little bit was good enough for my body.

    I feel much better now, I am taking apple cider vinegar for blood pressure and a small dose of an antihistamine (allergy relief from walmart 25 mg) once a night, I don’t feel sick anymore, no more itching and bp under 130, wow! it feels great. no more medication for me, thanks.

  3. Mbg

    I am experiencing the same symptoms getting off Allegra. I am on day 17 and am still itchy and getting hives but it is improving. I make a homemade cream with 1/2 cup plain cream, like cetaphyl, and a bottle of eye drops for itchy eyes (must contain ketotafin or sodium cromalyn). The medications are mast cell stabilizers and help prevent mast cells from releasing histamine. Just rub it on the rash or hives and it will help calm it.
    I also suggest following a low histamine diet as some foods are higher in histamine and some foods trigger histamine release. I got this info from the International Chronic Urticaria site. The most reliable low histamine diet info comes from a Canadian dietitian by the name of Janice Jonega Vickerstaff.
    Good luck to everyone suffering from these symptoms.

  4. DCamp

    I quit taking a zyrtec generic a few days ago because I ran out and decided to try and live without it since I was on it for the past 3 years. I never knew I was going to itch like crazy from stopping. I thought I must of got attacked by a million moskitos last night at my bonfire by the way I have been itching. I wrote down all possible changes for the past two days that could have triggered this and then searched to find an answer and found all these people that stopped taking it have experienced the same thing. Now I just hope it goes away. I only wished the doctor could have told me that this might happen. I don’t really want to go back on it.

  5. Heather N

    I quit smoking a couple days ago and thought that was why I am itching so severely, I feel like it is going to draw blood. I was searching online and saw that zyrtec withdrawal causes major itching. WELL THAT EXPLAINS IT! I’ve been itching for the same amount of time I have been off the zyrtec. Craziness!!!! Now to figure out how to cope…..gah!!

  6. everdecchia.ev

    I have been taking zyrtec prescribed for me to help with post menopause hot flashes and I begun to gain weight so I decided to stop taking them two days ago now today I am itching like crazy.

  7. NT

    I can’t believe this! I’m now really scared and angry at drug companies not warning about these effects. I have an 8 year old boy whose be itching for 2 months. His skin bleeds from it as he can’t stop. Back of neck, scalp, legs, bottom, and he’s been on Zyrtec for 3 months. I just made the decision to stop the medicine. But it doesn’t sound like anyone itches while on it and this is all about withdrawal. I wonder what the poor kid will be in for now we are going off of it. So sad.

  8. TB

    Thank God I found this discussion…. I thought I was going insane.
    I’ve been off Zyrtec for about 5 days in order to take an allergy test. I have been in absolute misery!!!!! I’m itching all over…. everything I touch makes my skin flare up. I’ve bee using hydrocortisone and Sarna cream to no avail.
    After trading my comments, I’ve just taken some ibuprofen; hopefully that will decrease the inflammation. My allergist prescribed me prednisone, which has done nothing but give me headaches. This withdrawal is horrible… and to think I contemplated going back to Zyrtec after my allergy test is completed.
    I believe my mind has permanently been changed. I hope everyone suffering finds some relief soon….

  9. Puneet

    I am taking Zyrtec (cetirizine) from 10+ years and I never know that I got itching due to Zyrtec. I was told by doctor that I consume/eat the vegetable or food which is not suiting my body and that’s why I have itching. But now I am in doubt whether to stop taking Zyrtec or not. Since If I am having itching with the food or dairy products than stopping Zyrtec might not help. I am not sure whether I am having any food allergy or not (Doctor just think this way). Please guide me if you same experiences.
    I think I should try to avoid Zyrtec now.

  10. tracyc

    I have had the same reactions to Zyrtec and generic form. I also figured out that caffeine in excess really makes me itch. Even while taking the meds, I started waking up in the middle of the night itching. I cut caffeine out for 2 weeks and the itching stopped!

  11. MO

    I just found out about this withdraw symptom of itching on Sun. I have been to my allergist 3 times complaining of the itching and he seemed confused and not sure. I even had more allergy tests done to see if I was allergic to something else.
    I have been off Zyrtec now for 5 days and today is the worst so far. Normally I only get the intense itching at night, but today I have had it all day. I can’t imagine what it will be like tonight… actually scared.
    My friend told me that it would take 3 weeks to get out of my system, but I am seeing that it has taken some of you longer…a month or more. Please let it be less!!!
    I took benadryl last night to help with the itching, but I am not sure that it helped and I am not happy to be taking another med to cover up these withdraws.
    I quit smoking 2 years ago and this is harder.

  12. SH

    I am also having trouble going off Zyrtec for allergy testing. I’ve had the awful itching before when I stopped taking it and went back on the drug, which was stupid. I never had the itching before the drug so why did I think I needed the drug to stop the itching? If I can get over this and I will, I will never take Zyrtec again. And yes it should definitely carry a warning about withdrawal.

  13. AMT

    On Day 11 of Zyrtec withdrawal and still miserable, scratching like crazy. My scalp, arms and legs are the worst. This is a true nightmare!! Does it ever get better??

  14. SK

    I was taking Zyrtec for 3 months for nasal allergies that were triggering asthma problems. When I stopped taking it 10 days ago the itching and hives began. Although it happens less often now, it still continues to be a problem.

  15. JB

    I stopped taking zyrtec because I ran out and decided to try not taking it everyday. I am doing ok with my nasal allergies but the itching of my hands and feet especially is driving me crazy. When typing my question on I was so surprised that I did not have to finish and itch and zyrtec popped up before I finished typing. At least I have a reason, if only the itching would stop.

  16. Jose

    Conspiracy theory: Makers of Zyrtec know this reaction takes place after you stop using their product. To stop the itching you have to continue to use “THEIR” product. For me the itching is unbearable and not to mention embarrassing. I now take this “DRUG” daily.
    I’m tired of itching. And I’m tired of taking Zyrtec. FDA needs to investigate.

  17. Lynda

    It is time the drug company puts a warning on the label of this drug, and time to let your allergy doctor know what really happens. As I said earlier,my doctor tried to say “That shows you NEED the Zyrtec”… when I told him what I went through for weeks after I stopped ten years of this drug. I have been off about 18 months and no allergy symptoms other than seasonal sneezing.
    Let’s all let doctors know how if affects us-print out these comments and send to them.

  18. FM

    Let us know what you find out. I’m right behind you in days off Zyrtec. I too have bug eyes from trying to do research. I have had awful GERD symptoms while taking Zyrtec and during this withdrawal…and I never had GERD before Zyrtec. Sigh. I did read antihistamines can cause GERD. Fantastic. Wish I knew. Day 25 – Hives on legs, face, and back. Not too bad but itchy and somewhat bothersome. Drinking tons of water helps when I have a hive attack.

  19. SF

    Day 36 and I finally had a decent day.
    I woke up with some minor hives but they went away. I have done so much research on the internet about this withdrawal and high histamine that my eyes are so sore. It is truly incredible the rebound histamine effect I have endured with this withdrawal and the misery I have felt. I literally almost ended up in the ER a half a dozen times from feeling like my body was going into shock from the histamine after eating anything.
    Today I feel I may have stabilized and might be on the histamine decline. I added a couple of new things. A teaspoon of olive oil a day but more importantly I am drinking Lily of the Valley Aloe Vera Juice ( inner fillet ) 4 oz a day now.
    My horrible histamine gastric symptoms have decreased a lot. Also Aloe Vera Juice is supposed to kill off H-Pylori that I may have. I have always linked my Urticaria to my stomach from day one and is the reason I started Zyrtec.
    When you have been on an antihistamine, it makes sense that you would have a rise in histamine when you stop and it is not pleasant with the many symptoms. I take Querciting 2 times a day and drink Nettle Leaf tea all day and take a lot of vitamin C.
    I am going to try the natural route for now and hope I am successful. I am waiting for the results of a lot of tests I took last week and I will report in again. Hang in there everyone.

  20. FM

    From what I understand the Zyrtec is way out of our system, and what we’re suffering from is a part of our autoimmune system out of whack. I am now Day 24, and I have random flare ups during the day but my evenings are the worst….usually from 8pm to about 11pm. Constant itch and hives, mostly legs…and face.

  21. SF

    Today Day 34 was better and I am taking Vitamin C 2-4000 grams a day!! I am drinking tons of water. Vegetable juices. Taking a probiotic and digestive enzymes and Quercitin twice a day. I feel the inflammation going down but I do get minor flare ups of hives. I feel like I have a virus all the time with this withdrawal. I researched everything I could with mast cell disorder and high histamine. I am going to go the natural route, and working with my naturopathic doctor. I am avoiding all sugar and eating the most boring diet ever. Right now I just want to get healthy. Susan

  22. FM

    Hi SF,
    Not such a great afternoon here. Day 22. Bad hives. uuuugh. Thx for your reply post as I definitely get itchy after eating anything. great. When will this end. sigh. Really can not believe how badly this drug can screw up your body. I wonder if your digestive system will return to normal in a few more weeks? Wish you the best.

  23. SF

    Hi FM,
    I pretty much followed your path in my Zyrtec withdrawal. It was horrible!!! I am off day 33 and the hives on the surface barely come up anymore yet I feel them underneath the skin at times so I still have some allergic pressure response going on. I certainly would not take anything for the hives at this point as I am no where as itchy and over the hump with that, but for three weeks I have been getting odd sensations as I mentioned on my above post of feeling horrible after eating ( histamine rises after digestion and in response to food ) I do not know what is worse!!! Horrible itching or feeling like you could pass out after eating… UGH So, I am getting tested for everything. Went to a Naturopathic doctor and he ordered blood work ( 22 vials!! ) and other tests that should reveal if I have any other health problem. I am glad I am off the Zyrtec, but I feel sickly now, and my digestive system is really screwed up. Will continue to post..Susan

  24. FM

    Day 20 of Zyrtec withdrawal ! I finally slept a whole night without scratching! Tough it out you can do it !
    Here’s what I learned from Zyrtec withdrawal, one of the worst experiences of my entire 44 years:
    – I was on off Zyrtec for about three/four months. When I stopped I got the itch and hives. First feet, scalp and hands. I didn’t know what was going on with me for over a month. Finally through boards like this I realized it was Zyrtec withdrawal. I had the exact symptoms many of you were talking about.
    – I decided to go cold turkey. My entire body itched. The deepest most awful itch that could not be quelled. A semi-stiff bristle hair brush was my best friend. I would scratch as hard as I could w/ out breaking my skin. This helped a little. Hives lasted 30 minutes at least, then would appear somewhere else. Some of the worst days I had hives and itchiness all over for hours at a time.
    – Hot showers, or a blast of hot water to the hive for about 30 seconds really really helps. Do not burn yourself! Or place a hot moist cloth on the area.
    – Sarna cream also helped somewhat.
    – Nighttime was the worst. Not sure if it was part of the withdrawal or just the pressure of lying down.
    – I did take the vitamin C, upped the multi vitamins, took probiotics, ate healthy. I’m not sure these helped the itch at all, but I figured since my body was going through hell that these alternative methods would at least help the healing process.
    – Drinking lots of water did help a bit. I have been drinking about 70 oz of water per day throughout withdrawal.
    – Acupuncture (at least ear points) helped on my very worst days, about day 9-11, where I would have unbearable hives in six or more places at once. I was able to relax, breathe and regroup for a moment.
    – Traditional Chinese Herbs – Heavenly Emperor’s formula at night helped me get some sleep. See an acupuncturist for dosage.
    – I believe the withdrawal process (especially cold turkey ) is pretty hard on the body, acupuncture can help the body get back into balance, although it’s not quick fix.
    – The anticipation of the next round of hives and itch raised my anxiety levels, elevated my blood pressure and also made me quite depressed and short tempered. ( I feel so badly for my family ) Due to violent itching my husband has had to sleep in a different room this whole time. I had to tell my children daily, Mommy doesn’t feel well, please leave me alone.
    – Day 10 and 11 I was quite lethargic and very nauseated and of course itchy.
    – Day 18-19 is when I started to see marked improvement in # of times I would breakout in hives. Maybe only 3-4 per day.
    – I had many moments during the last three weeks that I cried, felt awful and wondered if I would get better, but I knew the Zyrtec did this to me and there was no turning back.
    To all of you going through this wretched torture….there is light at the end of the tunnel! Don’t give up! I will continue to post my withdrawal progress. Good luck.

  25. Jayne

    So glad to come across all these posts online and realize what is happening. I have been on Zyrtec for 10+ years. I originally was put on them because I was experiencing hives/uticaria but did not have any other allergies. I experience the hives a few times and they told me to start taking this drug every day to prevent getting them.
    Well, after years of taking these pills, I finally started questioning why I needed to take them every day. I went off of them for a few days to get allergy tested and when I went to the allergist he gave me a hard time and told me that people takes these pills their entire life, it’s working so why am I trying to get off of them, etc. They first refused to test me for allergies but then finally did but only tested me for about 10 different allergens to which I was negative.
    Those 5 days trying to get off the Zyrtec were the WORST of my life, I literally laid on the couch and scratched and got hives all over. And, I thought, wow I really can’t live without this drug that’s how bad my body is.
    WELL obviously it’s not, it’s the drug or the withdrawal from the drug. Before I started taking this drug I didn’t get random itching all over my body. So slowly but surely I’ve come to this point. I’m on day 5 of the Zyrtec withdrawal. For me, this time is a little different. I’m eating as clean as I possible can. I’ve realized that the initial hives could have possible been some sort of allergy to the food I was eating or drinking and now that has been covered up for 10+ years by this drug so just imagine how much damage has been done to my body.
    The first two days were fine, day 3-today has been pretty bad. Today I have had some slight improvement. When I wake up I’m fine but then slowly but surely the itching will start and it is HORRIBLE. It seems to travel and I can itch in multiple places at once. The absolute worst is in places that you would never want to itch.
    What I’ve realize is/how I’m coping:
    – I’m drinking as much water as possible, when I drink lots of water it actually seems to help
    – I’m 100% gluten free, dairy free, sugar free. I have an inkling that this is helping me so much more than the first time I did this. I’ve had some grains (rice and quinoa) but plan starting tomorrow to be grain and soy free and potentially nut free while I’m going through this.
    – I started taking Vitamin C yesterday and it does seem to help
    – Hot showers for me work much better than cold
    – I’ve started dry skin brushing (in the morning and before I go to bed) and then applying coconut oil that I’ve whipped into a natural moisturizer so as not to put any chemicals on my already having a hard time skin
    – I’m trying to juice in the mornings (all greens for breakfast) and then eat fruit until dinner. However, from what I can tell I have the least reaction when I eat cooked vegetables.
    – When all else fails, I find that keeping all my skin covered (long pants and sweatshirts) and focusing on breathing normally even when I’m in excruciating itching can bring me back to some state of normal.
    I hope some day that there is something done about this drug, at a minimum there should be some sort of disclaimer about the withdrawal effects. I wish when I was put on this drug that there was more information out there like these posts so that I would have never taken it in the first place.

  26. A

    I’ve had this issue before when I’ve run out of Zyrtec and it was excruciating. I’m going to try to get pregnant and absolutely do not want to be dependent on a med that causes this reaction! So a couple if months ago, I started to wean myself off. Cut the pills in half for a few weeks, then went down to a quarter pill, then alternated on and off a quarter pill. I’ve been upping vitamins as well, and filling in a Claritin every few days (I never had a problem with stopping Claritin, and I have seasonal allergies.) I’m a full week off Zyrtec and I haven’t had the dreaded itch. I will NEVER again take Zyrtec.

  27. SF

    Day 24 off Zyrtec and I see that the hives on the exterior of my skin are definitely diminishing, but I still get the feeling of them under the skin and some mild Angiodema with my toes and finger tips. Lyn, thanks for your post a year later. I read that ibuprofen actually makes hives worse by blocking the enzyme controlling the histamine. I feel better initially on it too, but now I am afraid to take it again.
    My bigger problem is that I must have very high levels of histamine and I am reacting to eating almost anything. It mostly happens out of the blue a couple of hours later or if I get tired. I get this wave of feeling weird come over me, my muscles ache and I get scared I might pass out or something. It becomes an anxiety attack. It passes usually within a half hour, but it ignites all the itching internally. That is what is typical of Histamine Intolerance and I actually got that symptom the first time I tried to go off the Zyrtec. The first day I was out to lunch with a friend and we were waiting for the check and then it hit me. So I have to eat very plain low histamine foods for now. I can not get over how bad this withdrawal was and I was on so little for only 5 months. Susan

  28. Lyn

    Don’t give up, it gets better. It is a nasty withdrawal but good to have that stuff out of your system. I used Gold Bond powder, Ibuprofen at bedtime seemed to help itching and inflammation. Ice packs at bedtime to the back of my neck or wherever the worst itch was. I took it ten years, been off of it for over a year and do not need an allergy med at all. Good luck to you!

  29. fm

    Dear DJG, How are you doing now? any relief yet. I’m day 12 cold turkey, still itchy with hives :(

  30. Lyn

    I think it’s time for every person who sees their doctor, whether it is a general dr. or allergy dr. to tell them-that we do not buy this crap that “you are itching because you need the medication”. I got so mad at my allergy doctor when he said this. Of course he’s going to say this-they have a relationship with the drug companies. Pathetic. Frustrating that we have to figure these things out for ourselves. I will no longer pay for someone to tell me what I know IS NOT true.

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