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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  1. NP
    Reply

    My 10 year old was born with severe eczema and itching.. but over the years, it became manageable. It was worse than normal, but life went on. In Sept 2013, I started to give her Zyrtec about 5x/week for seasonal allergies. It didn’t seem to work but we stuck with it because I recall hearing a doctor tell me you have to keep taking it for it to work. On June 1, 2014, we completely stopped Zyrtec because it seemed useless.
    Since June 1st, my daughter has been 24×7 itching very severely, covered in rash, hives. She even hived up to Target-brand benadryl the other night and that’s what she’s always taken for itch.
    She takes cold or warm shower- and hives up. She is so itchy we put her on 8 day course of oral steroids.. but as soon as the 8 days were over, she started to itch again.
    We are going detergent-free as written on http://www.solveeczema.org (written by a mom I personally know.. highly educated engineer). My daughter is still a complete mess. One doctor wants to test her for mastocytosis but I think this is from Zyrtec withdrawal? What have people done to get through this? Do I have to get her back on and wean her off? Or keep going cold turkey? She cannot function now. Super super itchy and depressed, quick to anger, etc. Thank you so much for any comments.

  2. SY
    Reply

    Hey guys,
    Like most of the people here I’ve suffered Zyrtec withdrawal from taking it consistently for a few months. The first few days after quitting cold turkey, I had uticaria which was crazy itchy that affected my sleep cycle. I was unable to sleep due to severe itching.
    I recommend using the following methods to help with the hives:
    A) vitamin C (natural antihistamine, antioxidant)
    B) probiotics (be sure to get those that are histamine-inhibiting. The popular bacteria – lactobacillus casei is actually a histamine-producing bacteria so be sure to ask your pharmacist or google)
    C) nappy rash powder (the ones for babies)
    I did A+B diligently for a couple of days beginning day 4 or day 5 and the symptoms started to ease. After a week or two I was perfectly fine.
    However, few weeks after getting over the withdrawal I notice I still do break out in hives every now and then. And it is especially prevalent after I wake up in the morning. Be sure to use C to prevent the itching! And don’t forget to do A+B for a long term use until you are sure you can survive without it.
    You can also increase the dosage of A to 4 pills a day and then wean off it to 1 a day when you feel that you are fine after a while. Your doctor can’t really help you on this as they are usually quite clueless.
    Good luck!

  3. JE
    Reply

    I started taking Zyrtec over 5 years ago for allergies to pollen, dust whatever. Stuffing, runny nose itchy eyes. I tried to stopped several times, even trying to taper off gradually. I started having terrible headaches and nausea. Started zyrtec and symptoms went away. For several years at night I had unbelievable post nasal drainage. Doctors decided it was sinus infections and put me on antibiotics but it never went away. I decided to go to an allergist and he said I had to stop all antihistamines for a week, so I stopped Zyrtec. I got the headache and was nauseated, but I stuck to the plan. By the third day I was feeling weakness in my legs, extremely tired and started to break out in cold sweats. I would be soaked at least twice a day. This lasted six days and I finally started to feel better. My night time post nasal drainage is almost gone. I’m still more tired than I normally am, but feeling better. It has only been three weeks. I’m so glad to read other people have had reactions. Nobody I talked to has ever heard of it. I’ll never take another antihistamine. I thought they were harmless.

  4. Teresa
    Reply

    For those suffering from antihistamine withdrawal, while you detox, try cutting back on foods, beverages, herbs and spices that are high in histamine (search Google for a list). This natural approach seems to be working for me.

  5. mcp
    Reply

    Hang in there, I have been going through bad withdrawal too–inability to sleep, aching legs, liver pain, migraines, etc I am at 2 weeks now and it is getting better. I recommend a good liver detox–I am taking Thorne’s Mediclear and it is helping me a lot. I also use lavendar essential oil–I put it in baking soda and add to bath water along with epsom salts. I rub lavender oil on liver 8 acupuncture point near the knee at night, and thankfully the last 3 nights I have slept like a baby which is a miracle because sleep has always been a struggle for me, and even worse during zyrtec withdrawal. My body definitely gets hooked on zyrtec.
    Missy

  6. Trish
    Reply

    I had tried to stop Zyrtec for 2 years, trying 3 times, but the withdrawal was awful! I have had a great success in using lavender Essential Oil. I have been totally off Zyrtec for 1 week. The only symptom that I had this time was some minimal itching.

  7. Charlie
    Reply

    I’m on my seventh day of Zyrtec withdrawal. It has been an absolute nightmare. I started taking Zyrtec for seasonal allergies. Then after summer I tried stop taking the drug and after 48hrs I started experiencing chronic general itchiness all of my body. Lips, arms, feet, hands, scalp, you name it. I attributed to a new allergy (thinking I that after 10 years of owning animals, I developed an allergy to my pets.)
    So I went back on Zyrtec. The symptoms went away after one hour. 2 years later after taking Zyrtec once every two day or until symptoms returned. I finally got fed up and went to a dermatologist. He diagnosed me with “Chronic Demographic Urticaria” and and told me to double my does of Zyrtec to two pills a day vs my one pill every other day. I did and now it’s three months later. Now after even a day of skipping a dose, my body goes into INSANE itchiness, Hives skin writing, hot spots, needles on scalp.
    I did some research and came across this website called http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2013/02/21/zyrtec-withdrawal-is-a-nightmare/ . After reading through hundreds of consumers horror stories I am now convinced that the Chronic Demographic Urticaria is caused by Zyrtec withdrawal.
    After a week of trying to stop cold turkey I am in hell. I can’t function at work, I can’t sleep, I can’t get anything done. I am in constant agony. My question is why doesn’t the FDA at least force the manufacturers to warn consumers about the withdrawal symptoms?
    Is there honestly no long term scientific research on this kind of stuff? If you are on zyrtec (cetirizine) and have been taking it daily for a month to 2 years please try to go as long as you can without taking it, and I guarantee you will experience the same symptoms as myself and thousands of others. If anyone has any legal or medical advise please contact me! I am in hell! 

  8. JA
    Reply

    I have been on cetirizine for 2 years following an initial problem with itch/rash. My husband had similar symptoms but his settled after a few days so he didn’t end up taking cetirizine long term. Wonder if our symptoms were due to environmental allergens or a virus.
    Anyway, I now get urticaria at times and if I miss cetirizine by more than a couple of hours I become very itchy, especially my hands, feet and scalp. I have had allergy testing which hasn’t identified an allergen. I have only just come across this blog and am wondering if the itch is a withdrawal phenomenon.
    I’d appreciate comments from folk as to how long it has taken them to wean off, as I want to give it a go. I couldn’t cold-turkey as I suffer from insomnia too and just couldn’t manage at work. Thanks.

  9. Jo
    Reply

    Like so many of you, I have been experiencing awful bouts of itching from Zyrtec withdrawal. I thought I was going insane and that the itching was psychosomatic. I also thought that I was “free” once the original itching (which I had expected) stopped. Things seemed to improve after a two-week period of not taking the drug, but the itching has just moved to various parts of my body, including my stomach. There are no hives, just the incessant itching.
    I should have tapered off, because I have taken this drug religiously for more than fifteen years — really stupid! I am now in week three of the withdrawal and am trying so hard not to take anything else to stop the itching. Topical creams help a little, but there isn’t a tube big enough for this horrendous experience!

  10. J.R.
    Reply

    Oh my God, I thought I was the only freaky one! My family and friends think I’m crazy! I’ve been taking Zyrtec D for 3 years and not able to stop because of the horrible itching. I’ve also had some pretty intense night terrors while taking it, which is why I’ve tried several times to stop. I think it’s time to just suck it up and deal. I do not want to be dependent on this stuff for the rest of my life.

  11. N
    Reply

    @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.

  12. Jason
    Reply

    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.

  13. RR
    Reply

    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.

  14. KB
    Reply

    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

  15. KH
    Reply

    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?

  16. G. K. Pandey
    Reply

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

  17. Susan W
    Reply

    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.

  18. DW
    Reply

    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.

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