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Intense Itching From Stopping Zyrtec (Cetirizine) Suddenly

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"I took Allegra for years, and then switched to Zyrtec (cetirizine) about seven years ago. Over the years, when I tried to stop Zyrtec, I experienced intense itching EVERYWHERE -- feet, palms of hands, inside ears, throat, private areas, scalp, legs, arms, under arms -- no place was immune.

I finally found this website about six months ago when there was a news article in the paper about withdrawal, and I googled "Zyrtec withdrawal".

I have been weaning myself for six months and am almost completely Zyrtec free. I couldn't do the cold turkey because it was publicly embarrassing. Itching would begin at hour 23 without the antihistamine in my system. I began trying to hold off as long as I could on taking the next pill. Finally got to 36 hours, then 48, 72 hours and am now up to 4.5 days between pills.

I do notice my asthma (which had disappeared for years) is recurring more often, but if it gets really bad, I take 5mg of Claritin with my inhaler and all symptoms disappear. I think I'll be Zyrtec free within the next 30 days, and believe me, I will never take an antihistamine on a regular basis ever again!

A. You are among hundreds of other visitors to our website who have reported terrible itching or hives upon sudden discontinuation of cetirizine (Zyrtec) or other oral antihistamines. There is nothing in the medical literature nor in the FDA-sanctioned official labeling about this.

Although we have brought cetirizine withdrawal symptoms to the attention of the Food and Drug Administration, we have not received any recognition of the phenomenon nor any interest in following up with any of the people who have reported this reaction. It is almost as if the FDA would prefer this issue disappeared. The FDA executives who were notified seem to be treading water on this problem, hoping that it will sink without a trace.

We are including a few more stories below and welcome others to share their own experience in the comment section below. Many people have also shared their success stories about getting off Zyrtec. It may differ for each individual, but many of the stories are compelling. Here are some links:

Itching from Cetirizine Withdrawal

Cetirizine (Zyrtec) Withdrawal & Unbearable Itching

Zyrtec Withdrawal Is a Nightmare

Stopping Zyrtec Triggers Itch

Anyone who would like to learn more about other ways of dealing with allergy symptoms may find our comprehensive chapter on allergy treatment in Best Choices from The People's Pharmacy of great value.

STORIES FROM VISITORS:

"Hello. I'm from Portugal and for the last 10 years I have been addicted to Cetirizine (Zyrtec's generic name) due to the itchy withdrawal effects.
 The itching I've been subjected to is unbearable, UNBEARABLE!

"Several times I tried to stop taking Cetirizine but I just couldn't handle the horrible skin itching that seemed to get into my bones and burn my skin so eventually I had to take the pill again. For those who could overcome the addiction - you are my heroes!!

"I will write to the makers of Zyrtec and FDA to show my revolt as for the lack of listing the itching as a secondary effect and also to ask them for a solution to our problem. I beg all of you to do the same." J.P.


"I was taking Zyrtec for about a year for allergies. I stopped taking it because...well, because it wasn't working. Two days after my last Zyrtec dose, I started itching everywhere (really, everywhere! Even my earlobes itched). By the third day, I decided I couldn't stand it anymore and had an idea. I was pretty certain my extreme itchiness was caused by withdrawal from the Zyrtec, which we all know is an antihistamine. So my idea was to take a different antihistamine -- one that acted similar to Zyrtec but one made with a drug my body was unfamiliar with - i.e. Allegra.

"I bought a one month supply of Allegra and after taking the first dose, my itchiness was gone in two hours. I continued taking the Allegra for two weeks and then stopped without experiencing any further withdrawal symptoms.

"Perhaps the makers of Allegra should market Allegra as an antihistamine that alleviates the symptoms caused by allergies as well as an antihistamine that alleviates the symptoms of withdrawal caused by Zyrtec."

Judy
 in San Marcos, TX


"I am currently on day 9 of Zyrtec withdrawal. The itching and hives have been absolutely unbearable. Every bit of my body has been affected throughout the days after quitting Zyrtec. Palms of hands, soles of feet, privates, scalp... you name it. I had no idea back in January of this year that Zyrtec withdrawal was causing the itching, so I took more Zyrtec. Then thankfully after reading websites like this I realized I was not alone. (Thanks to all who have posted here). There really was not much by way of over the counter creams to help the itch. Sarna cream kind of helps.

"For me extremely hot water on the site of the itch and hives helped some. By day 7 my symptoms were pretty extreme and I was in tears. I have really not been able to lead any kind of normal life for the past week. Additionally the agitation of the hives and itch and insomnia made me extremely irritable, moody, depressed. I have been through the recovery of two c-sections and wisdom teeth removal and the pain of this withdrawal has been the worst thing ever.

"Yesterday a friend convinced me to go to acupuncture. Thank goodness. Just having ear points done helped calm my system. The accupuncturist also gave me some Chinese herbs to combat the itching, hives and insomnia. I have seen some relief. I am going to continue going to acupuncture to get my body back in balance.

"Other side effects I encountered - weight gain, sensitive skin while on Zyrtec, and of course drowsiness. I am just starting to mildly feel better at day 9 of withdrawal. I am hoping that as many people have said that Day 15 is the day things start to really calm down. The days have gone by so very slowly." F.M.


Don't forget, if you want nondrug approaches along with other ways to deal with allergies, check out Best Choices from The People's Pharmacy. And share your own story below.

 

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I started taking Zyrtec years ago for chronic hives and my Dr. eventually weaned me off of all meds except for one Zyrtec every day. I ran out of it a few months ago and thought, "It's so expensive, I'll try not taking it", BIG mistake...my hives came back after just 24 hours! It was horrible! Now I panic when my Zyrtec bottle is almost empty. I'm glad I read this article today - I want to learn how to wean off this drug and live Zyrtec-free.

Wow.... I started using Zyrtec as an "anti sinus infection" prevention in the fall around Nov. each year. Now, as I try to stop it, I can go 3 days and then have to take one. I never thought it was he med. I thought it was my body telling me I had too many allergens and needed an antihistamine. I would tell people that I always knew when to take a Zyrtec, my hands and feet would start itching.

I will try the Allegra as mentioned by one reader and see now if I can wean off. And continue to consult The Peoples Pharmacy for other helpful information. Thank you so much for this newsletter.

I notice a definite decrease in urine flow while taking Zyrtec. Zyrtec helps relieve the hive reaction I experience to something every few weeks. I only take Zyrtec for two or three days at a time because of this side effect - just long enough to be sure the hive redness, swelling and itching are diminishing. If a hive appears while I am also experiencing an illness, I delay taking Zyrtec because I am in my 80's and don't want to impede the process of getting the illness out of my system. It can take up to 7 hours hours after not taking the morning dose to return to normal urine flow. I am curious to know if others have noticed this side effect.

I took Zyrtec for four years ago. Twice in the last 6 months I stopped taking it. Twice I broke out in a rash with itchy bumps on my stomach starting below my left breast down to the left pelvic bone. I did not realize there was an association between the rash and Zyrtec until the last month. My doctor placed me on generic Claritin which I began yesterday and have taken two 10mg pills in the last 24 hours. It seems that after a long period of time it is best to change out antihistamines. I wonder how my body will respond and will write here if the rash appears again.

After carotid artery surgery in Feb 2011, I developed sudden itching, then hives, then swelling, lips, chin, ears, feet, hands, fingers, genital area, eye lids, and tongue, I have been to an allergist and dermatologist, taken Atarax, allegra, benedryl, even drinking liquid benedryl when my tongue was too swollen to swallow a pill, I am now on zyrtec, zantac and doxepin, I have been told I have acquired angioedema, I carry an epi pen at all times and have been told to call 911 when I give myself an injection, I must wear a medic alert bracelet and have instructed all family and friends how to use the epi pen, no one has been able to determine what triggers it, a visit to the dentist for a cleaning triggers facial swelling, and it has gotten so bad that my ears are so swollen they pull away from the head and the skin tears behind the ears, I have to go get a steroid shot and steroid prescription, I can not survive without antihistamines, hopefully the h1 and h2 histamine blockers together will be the answer.

Bingo! I'm 70 yrs old been taking Zyrtec in varying amounts for 15 years. I would take it at night which helped me stay asleep as well. Three months ago a feeling of dullness and listlessness began to get to me during the day. I have started back on immunotherapy for my allergies which is helped that problem.

I tapered of Z for a month and didn't think anything about it but I was having this itch on my hands feet and legs and arms for a while. I complained to my doctor. He tested my blood for thyroid deficiency, negative results. The itching has stopped now but I bet that's what it was.

You know, I think this website and you people are VERY important for the information available here - how many people does it take to be adversely affected by drugs before the US and Canadian government start making them truly inform consumers of the risks inherent in taking some of these drugs.

Thank you !!!!!

I had a rash on my legs which reoccurs a couple of times a year and this has been going on for 7 years. I saw a new dermatologist and she prescribed Hydroxyzine .25mg 1-4 tablets in the evening and two Zyrtec morning. I followed her treatment plan for 8 days with little to no results. I stopped the meds three days ago and haven't stopped itching. I haven't slept for two nights and just now decided to search the web for stories of similar stories. At the very least I know I'm not loosing my mind. No more meds for me! This is the most miserable feeling I have ever experienced.

Thank you to everyone who takes the time to share their story.

After taking Zyrtec (now Costco generic) for 6 years to help with stuffy nose and sneezing I decided to quit the drug due to dry eyes & light sensitivity. I also experienced (and was treated for) acute back pain, muscle spasms,nocturnal leg cramps, urinary urgency, acid reflux & stomach pain, and hair loss during this time but attributed it to age. I began to experience malaise and became less social due to the symptoms.

Shorty after stopping the Zyrtec the back and muscle pain stopped and the urinary urgency subsided. The light sensitivity was less and and I felt my energy returning. This could not be a coincidence. I am now dealing with such intense itching that at one point actually considered going to the ER. After reading what others experienced with this drug I know life is worthwhile if I can live through the withdrawal. I am trying to ease off the med by taking 1/2 and now 1/4.

I am appalled that there is no warning on the label. This was a life changing experience. There must be a better way to deal with allergies. I think of this as an addictive medication and I must live through withdrawal a day at a time and wait for the itching to stop so I can live a normal life again.

After reading the comments posted here, I decided to try weaning off of Zyrtec. This is my second week taking 1/2 pill (5mg.) every day and I haven't had any hives! Yipee, I'm excited and hopeful.
Thanks for the help everyone!

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