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Zyrtec Withdrawal Is a Nightmare

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Q. After reading some of the stories on your site about Zyrtec, my summer started to make sense in retrospect.

I started Zyrtec at my doctor's recommendation for itchy skin on my hands. But every time I would missed taking it for some reason, I would end up way worse, with full-body hives. I couldn't understand what was happening, as I have never had allergy problems.

After I read the People's Pharmacy article on Zyrtec, I threw my pills away. I had only taken them for three weeks, but did not escape the withdrawal hives. Day 4 was the worst, and since I had read that, I tried to be patient, and the hives did finally go away, not to return.

What a drug! And my doctor just looked at me blankly as I reported this outcome. He didn't even answer or seem interested, and he didn't seem to know about the withdrawal.

A. Cetirizine (Zyrtec) is an antihistamine often used to treat allergies, nasal congestion or hives. Doctors frequently recommend it as less likely to cause drowsiness than popular pills containing diphenhydramine (Benadryl, for example). Nonetheless, cetirizine can also cause drowsiness.

Many visitors to PeoplesPharmacy.com have reported dreadful itching upon withdrawal from Zyrtec. Some have also reported other withdrawal symptoms. Here are a few of their reports:

"I took Zyrtec 1 at bedtime for two years for allergies. It did help with the sneezing, runny nose and congestion, but I recently decided to stop it. I did it as I would most other long-term drugs: I tapered it back. About two days after halving the dose I started itching. One minute my scalp, then my thumb, then it would move to my arm or my chest or my foot or the my face.

"The itch was constantly moving and I was scratching (which I knew was making it worse), so I really tried to ignore it. Apparently, though, I was itching in my sleep and would wake with scratch marks.

"I looked it up to see if this was common and found all these blogs. I was really angry as I'm so uncomfortable and there was nothing about this in the medical literature. I have no hives, just incredible itchiness and I don't want to take medicine for it. Local lotions and creams don't help.

"I called the manufacturer and was met with incredibly dumb answer center employees, who claim this is very unusual, and they really have not heard of it. I asked the last "expert" what her education was and she said a medical assistant. She was not very knowledgeable, particularly about histamine at the cellular level (Zyrtec is a type of antihistamine)."

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"I've been taking Zyrtec for almost a year now because of my cat allergies. I grew up with a wide variety of animals and as an adult now work with them.
"My cat allergy developed when I was a teenager. My symptoms are a runny nose/marathon sneezing, itchy eyes (only if I rubbed them after petting a cat) and a sore throat. I have both psoriasis and eczema so I couldn't really tell you if I ever develop skin itchiness because I've been unceasingly itchy for as long as I can remember.

"When I miss a dose of Zyrtec, my symptoms come back tenfold almost to a textbook time lapse. If I take my last dose Monday morning at 8 AM I'll start sneezing uncontrollably by 8 PM on Tuesday. It's miserable.

"The weirdest withdrawal symptom I have is vivid, bad dreams. I was wondering if anyone else has this happen? I can recollect every detail and I'm usually woken up by the nightmare aspects. I've tried googling this and it seems these dreams are a common side effect of taking Zyrtec but nothing about experiencing it only as a withdrawal symptom. I only have these dreams as the latter."

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"I used to have seasonal allergies and Zyrtec was prescribed. Although it stopped my sneezing, after awhile I realized I wasn't hearing well at all; my hearing seemed as bad as that of my elderly parents. My doctor thought the Zyrtec might be the culprit so he prescribed Claritin instead. That worked briefly but my sneezing then became more violent so he prescribed Allegra-D. That did the trick. No sneezing and no itching, but I didn't like the idea of being dependent on medication.

"When I read in Dr. Andrew Weil's newsletter about the antioxidant quercetin helping with allergies I immediately got some. I have taken it every day along with vitamin C for several years now and I no longer have seasonal allergies. I can even be around cats! I carry some Allegra with me when traveling just in case something sets me off, but I am a great fan of quercetin and have recommended it to a lot of people.

"By the way, we learned that mature men should not take decongestants. If allergy meds are needed, men should take plain Allegra, not Allegra-D or other decongestants. Decongestants can cause an enlarged prostate to block the flow of urine so catheterization is needed. When that happened to my husband, every doctor who saw him in the emergency room and the urologist afterward asked if he had taken decongestants! We had never heard that before."

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The caveat on decongestants for men with enlarged prostate glands is a serious one that everyone should heed. Having a catheter inserted in the emergency room is no picnic!


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My allergist prescribed zyrtek after describing that the allegra has corn in it. I am allergic to corn. I will go to get the quercetin and hope to sleep through the night without restless dreams.

In 1995 I broke out in hives and got progressively worse. The doctor tried many meds, including antidepressants, Zyrtec, etc. I would even take 6 aspirin a day to get relief. It was very frustrating not knowing what was causing these terrible hives. Finally it seemed Allegra was the answer.

So for the last 16 years I took 60mg 2x a day. If I tried to get off I would immediately get hives all over, my eyes and lips would swell. But I knew I had to wean myself off somehow. It took about 2 years to go from 2x a day to 1x a day. Finally 1 every other day and then only when I would feel them starting to come on.

I am happy to say I no longer get hives and no longer take Allegra. I kept thinking I was addicted to the Allegra. I have also stopped having hallucinations at night. To me they are associated to this medication. I do keep Allegra on hand just in case. Sometimes I think I can feel the hives coming on but I try to let my body fight them off instead of immediately taking any drugs and it seems to be working.

Doctors could never pinpoint the why I had hives for so many years, although one doctor suggested I stop coloring my hair, which I did. Now I use only alcohol free hair color.

There are lot of homeopathic remedies for allergy without any side effects
GKP

I am cold-turkeying now from zyrtec. I started with sneezing and plugged nose and am now itching, hiving and blistering. Had cancer 5 years ago and was extremely allergic to temoxefin so started the zyrtec. Keep trying to get off but had not been persistent enough to survive the swollen, itchy eyes, plugged sinuses, runny nose, sneezing and feeling so awful!

I think I'm finally through the intense sneezing, etc, but still have horrible itching and, now, hives. Spent some time in the sun this week - 9 hours two days in a row, and the hives and welts and itching are tough. I have been trying to eat clean, but this has been going on for over a month. I feel like I've made some progress because of the end of the nose thing, but how long does anyone think this hivy itch will last? Will I die trying to quit?

Was prescribed cetirizine (aka Zyrtec) to reduce the itchiness around a chronic leg ulcer. The ulcer is not usually itchy, but had become so itchy that I had begun scratching (not good for an ulcer). The cetirizine reduced the itching around the ulcer to the point that if I forgot to take it in the morning I would be reminded by the itching, which would then disappear within 20 min after taking the dose.

Took it everyday for 3 weeks. My lips became very dry, which is unusual for me, and some small itchy blisters appeared along the edges of one finger. When I looked online I came across the withdraw stories. Thought I should check what happens when I forget the dose and _don't_ take it.

Within a few hours of missing my dose, I got itchy spots on the insides of my wrists. Latter that day, on the insides of my elbows. This got me very worried and I decided not to take any more. The itching has spread and gotten more intense. Now on Day 5, painful itchy blisters on the edges of all fingers and around my lips. More spots on inner wrists and elbows. Random itchy spots everywhere, especially on arms and forehead. Mostly successful in not scratching. The original itching around the ulcer is still there but is not so bad compared with all the new itching - and now if I break down and scratch a bit there are lots of places to choose from away from the ulcer!

I have never in my life had any allergies or an allergic reaction to anything I am aware of. Indeed, as far as I can remember, this is the first time I have ever taken an anti-histamine.

Color me unimpressed,

Karin

A few years ago, I randomly began to have itchy skin, all over. I went to the doctors, who said I was having an allergic reaction to something. He told me to take cetirizine, and I have been taking one tablet everyday for 6 years.

However, sometimes when I run out of tablets/forget to take one my skin gets extremely itchy! (Worse than it did originally) I just thought, it's because I forgot to take the tablet...but from reading the other people's responses it seems that cetirizine is the problem.

I don't want to become even more dependent on them. I'm currently not taking any cetrizine at all, my skin feels like it's on fire an sometimes my eyes itch, but I'm just trying not to itch, and wait it until it stops. Hopefully as time goes by my skin will stop itching?

Thank you all for sharing your experiences, I thought I was the only person with this problem.

I take Zyrtec to reduce the itching caused by Kimura's disease. I can get of it anytime without withdrawals, I've done so several times. Sure I'll itch more without it but I used to tear my skin until I bleed all over before I ever took it. I think you all just get so used to an itch free life that when you stop taking it, it seems worse. I have blood tests all the time and zyrtec has never given me more inflammation only less. I bet "zrytec withdrawal" is just a case of conditioning rather than a real effect.

@Jason, NO this is not true. Just because YOU can stop it without withdrawal symptoms does NOT mean that there are not any.

I took Zyrtec throughout my life but 1 tablet daily for 1 year without stopping due to a nasal allergy that came with a neighbor who moved in above us that was a smoker, when she left the building my allergy went away and I began to need the zyrec less and less, eventually I stopped. I had NO previous itching and that was not at all why I began taking the drug. Immediately upon stopping cold turkey, the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet would itch incredibly bad. About 1 week later it spread the entire length of my body. Imagine, constant itching & stinging from the top of your head to the soles of your feet, with no relief. This went on for SIX WEEKS.

I reached out to another user who used to hold the blog that discussed all of the effects and even discussed a conversation she had with a scientist in the medical field on what his thoughts were on the withdrawal symptoms. I believe if you search using the wayback site you might find it. She advised her readers to NOT stop cold turkey unless you are able to stand the itching, instead she advised to wean yourself off of them over a course of a few months. She also cautioned that she took a benadryl while going through the itching process and it seemed to 'reset' the symptoms to the beginning whenever another antihistamine was taken (you must go through the entire itching process all over again).

It is a VERY REAL thing and hearing it downplayed like this is frustrating by those of us who have lived though it.

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