“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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  1. Brian
    Ma
    Reply

    I’ve been on Zyrtec for apx 4 yrs. If I don’t take it I have sneezing fits and my nose runs like a faucet in the morning. I constantly feel spaced out, have had episodes of vertigo. I’ve also noticed a sensitivity to natural light and fluorescent lights. Taking it every day makes me feel stuffed up, with very dry nasal passages. These symptoms cause me to feel somewhat dizzy which makes me anxious all the time. I want to get off but can only stop for 2 -3 days before itching starts. Anyone else have these same symptoms ? Any suggestions to get off it?

  2. Thomas
    Texas
    Reply

    I have been taking zyrtec for some time now. I recently ran out and was going to get it filled again I’m taking A&P and figured I should let my body build up on its own and not be too dependent on a pill. 2-3 days without it and I have had ridiculous scalp itch, thigh itch, inner ear itch, pretty much all over. Since I have allergy related asthma I was told to take it continuously. This itching is definitely a withdrawal and makes everything worse. Stopping cold turkey. Wish me luck.

  3. Karen
    UK
    Reply

    I was so relieved to find this site and see that I’m not going crazy. I’ve been taking generic Zyrtec for 15 years and the few times I tried to stop I’ve started itching and burning in varyng parts of my body from my scalp to my feet. It feels like someone is doing chinese burns all over me and I’ve always had to go back on them. I’m currently on day 3 of withdrawal and that was from a starting point of only half a tablet for the last few months so goodness knows how bad I’d feel if I was on a higher dose! I just hope I can put up with this and not go back to it. I’ll let you know how I get on

  4. Maureen
    Massachusetts
    Reply

    I’m so glad I found this article! After reading about “Urticarial drug eruptions” on another site and trying to figure out what I have, it occurred to me to search on Zyrtec withdrawal / med switching. I’ve been on Zyrtec for years, but wasn’t sure it was as effective as it once was for me as a lifelong allergy/asthma sufferer. Last week I switched to Claritin, which I’d taken years ago and then stopped when it had become ineffective. Bam.

    I thought initially I just had poison ivy or sumac, but then it spread to places that would not have had exposure. Now my hands, legs, feet, knees, back, EAR LOBES (as others have commented) are broken out in hives and skin eruptions or are red and intensely itching. Unfortunately I usually succumb to scalding myself to obtain relief, and then have to deal with burns and blistering. But I cannot stand it.

    Fortunately it has not yet triggered my asthma. After reading an initial article on this phenomenon, I ended up taking a Zyrtec. Clearly this is a dangerous medicine in that it is controlling our body more than they want us to know and creating a syndrome.

    • Maureen
      Reply

      Oh, and ELBOWS – another tell tale sign apparently!

  5. Mac
    USA
    Reply

    Wow, this forum is fantastic. Thank you to all who have contributed and especially Judy from San Marcos. Your Allegra worked! My doctor was confident that the allergies were worsening and all the itching and burning was the symptoms I needed to bare. BS!! Doctors are really just prescription writers. Sad but true. I did go to a naprapath, (doctor who practices natural cures and addresses the CAUSE and not the symptom as most western medical doctors do) and she told me it could be Zyrtec or the generic brand.

    Sure enough it was. I would go to sleep at night and my feet would be DEEP RED on FIRE to the touch in 32 degree weather for I only keep my home at 68 degrees. Oh yes, I had the same type of itching, EVERYWHERE, all the time and yes even my ear lobes.

    Since I tried the Allegra to wean my body off thanks to Judy, I am good!

    Shame shame on FDA. Falls Deaf Always. They DON’T protect the consumer. Just look up pesticides and you will see how they support but GMO as well. Our government agencies are big profits at the cost of everyone’s health. It’s the reality.

    These forums help us all be more informed and healthier.

    Good will to all,

    Mac

  6. Mary S.
    United States
    Reply

    After 3 days of intense itching, and almost scratching my skin off, I decided to google Zyrtec withdrawal. I am comforted by the fact that I do not have some horrible disease, but now have to decided what to do. I just took another pill until I decide what to do. I am going to try the Allegra for 2 weeks and see what happens. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try to wean off a little at a time. I’ll come back to post what happens.

  7. J.S
    Buffalo
    Reply

    How long has an individual gone after stopping Zyrtec for symptoms of withdrawal to begin? I am attempting to decide out if the indicated is my predicament. Surely seems like this. Though, I was off for a Zyrtec a few weeks before the present itching begun

    I have presently taken three Zyrtec the last 3 days of the indicated itching; however, it does not seem to make a difference.

  8. Jackie
    New England
    Reply

    I started taking Zyrtec 8-10 years ago for nasal allergies. About 6 years ago, I went to a music festival in another state and forgot to bring my pills. I was fine till the third day, when I broke out in hives all over my body and had to buy some more Zyrtec.

    From that day on I was never hive free- even with the Zyrtec. It certainly helped take away most of the hives, but they would recur nightly, just before I took my next dose. I thought it was a topical skin problem, and spent all my money on fragrance free soaps, laundry detergents and creams. At one point, I actually thought we had bedbugs in our house and bought all sort of trap for those and also for fleas and the like. I considered giving away my dog as well, thinking it was an allergy.

    Over the next few years, I became unable to eat many foods – corn, apples, grapes and other fruits, onions and garlic, and other items. If I ingested these things I would break out worse than usual. I spent $800 on allergy testing, but the doctor had not listened to me about my major food issues and the tests turned out to be useless nasal tests… more money wasted.

    Over the last two years, I have weaned myself off of wheat, soy, rice and dairy, and now sugar, finding a bit of relief with each cut in my diet. My doctor has told me to ‘live with it’ and that I would never know why I had this horrible condition. I cannot enjoy meal with my family, and going out to eat is a nightmare. I have stopped having sex, because it is too painful, I am swollen down there too much. Inflammation has caused me to lose teeth, my appendix and my gall bladder.

    The good news is I have found this site and now know the truth. I am on day three of my detox and it’s bad, but not so bad that I will give in and EVER go back on the Zyrtec. Eating only organic meat and veg has spared me the worst of the agony so far. I am dealing with migraine, sporadic hives, and an itch in my private parts, but I feel happy that these symptoms mean I am detoxing FOREVER. I got really depressed after the first day, but feel a hundred times better than I did when taking the Zyrtec, which I think dulled my essential happiness as well. I can’t wait to get through this. I WILL! After all the bad things that have happened since I went on Zyrtec, this momentary agony is not so bad. I see a light at the end of the tunnel and can deal with ANYTHING to get there.

  9. Kyle
    Oklahoma
    Reply

    I have been taking Zyrtec for 4-5 years now, and every time I try to quit I experience such intense itching that I feel like I’m going to go insane. I’ve currently gone three days without taking Zyrtec and I have random patches of red skin and severe itching throughout the day. At one point my stomach will be red and itchy, then thirty minutes later my shoulder, back, or legs will itch like crazy. I feel like movement or physical exertion makes the symptoms worse. I went running and became so itchy I almost went to the hospital. The withdrawal symptoms are awful, but it’s reassuring to know that I’m not some random freak having an incredibly unusual reaction to quitting Zyrtec. I was half-convinced for a while that I had developed some terrible autoimmune disease from years of depriving my body’s histamine receptors.

  10. Nicoletta
    Australia
    Reply

    I have been taking Zyrtec for roughly 3 years. I have to take the pills every 2 – 3 days or I get really bad hives.

    After googling Zyrtec it then occurred to me that I have been taking the pills for so long because my body is addicted. It is not allergies giving me hives anymore – its the bloody pills that are doing it to me.

    I am currently on day 3 without Zyrtec and I am beside myself. I am itching everywhere. It is unbearable. I am praying that it doesnt take 4-6 weeks to get this out of my system because I dont think I will be able to cope.

    I refuse to take another of these terrible tablets. And I am going to make sure I tell everyone I know not to take them so they dont have to experience the same thing.

  11. Kelley
    USA
    Reply

    I’ve always had seasonal allergies and taken allergy medicine when my allergies would flare up but in the past 2 years I’ve been needing to take cetrizine (generic) daily otherwise I would start getting itchy. I thought maybe my allergies were just getting worse. I would sometimes forget to take it but then have to get up in the middle of the night to take a pill. I’m having similar symptoms to others. After 24 hours from the last dose I start getting an intense itch all over that doesn’t let up until I take another dose. My hands will get red, swell, sometimes I’ll get welts on my skin. It’s miserable. I decided to do a little online research and realized that I’m not a looney tune and that there are lots of people suffering through this. I’ve decided to try and wean off of the stuff, I tried cold turkey and made it 48 hours before giving in and taking half a pill. I’ve been slathering lotion on which seems to give me a little relief but I’m still itching like a dog with fleas. I’m praying that I’m able to get this drug out of my system and find relief soon. Unfortunately, other peoples comments make me think I’ve got a long road ahead of me.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply

      I am exactly the same. I did cave though and ended up taking 1/2 a tablet so I could sleep. Now I have to start again and am feeling frustrated about it :(

  12. Sharon
    Steuben County, NY
    Reply

    I was on a daily regiment of Zyrtec every day after a severe bout of hives which landed me in the Emergency Room. At the hospital they told me to take Benadryl several times a day, but since it made me so tired the doctor suggested I try Zyrtec. I was taking Zyrtec for approximately 4 years. This past summer under my doctor’s direction I tried to gradually reducing the Zyrtec – first 1/2 pill a day, then 1/2 pill every other day, and then 1/2 pill every two days. Within 2 days of no zyrtec I had severe itching so resumed the zyrtec. I tried this method 3 times, without success. My doctor referred me to an Allergist to do allergy testing, but the Allergist said there was nothing to test for. I just needed to get the Zyrtec out of my system.

    I am now on the same method as above. The last pill taken was on January 3rd. Starting the evening of the 5th I got severe itching in my scalp and various places on my body. I used Scalpicin to try to reduce the itching in my scalp. When I woke up the next day the itching seemed ok. Then about 6 pm the same severe itching began. I’m not sure what I will do now, but some of the suggestions of others seem like a good thing to try. Last night I took a prescription Pepcid at bedtime which had been prescribed for me when I had the Hives to take along with Benadryl. It did seem to help with the itching and does help me sleep. I am hoping I can endure this to get rid of the Zyrtec. But I have no idea what I can do if I do need an allergy pill later on.

  13. James
    New Jersey
    Reply

    I found this thread while searching for possible side effects from taking Allegra. After reading these accounts, I believe I have found my problem! 5 days ago, I visited my doctor for what was diagnosed as contact dermatitis on my elbow. I was prescribed a steroid cream and the doctor suggested taking Allegra to help sooth itching.

    I have been taking generic Zyrtec (cetirizine) pretty much daily for over a year to control pollen and dust allergies. Since I didn’t want to mix antihistamines, I stopped taking the Zyrtec (immediately following doctor visit). Well 2-3 days later, I started to develop itching on my hands, legs, neck, head, chest and shoulders, accompanied by small red bumps (ironically, the only thing that no longer itches is the contact dermatitis). It is now day 5 and the itching is insane!!!! I am now trying to make the decision to continue cold turkey and never take the Zyrtec again or try the weaning off process. I guess it will depend on how much of the itching I can take and still accomplish my daily tasks. (Note: the red bumps associated with my itchiness appear very different from what is now the almost gone elbow patch that was diagnosed as contact dermatitis)

  14. teri
    Reply

    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!

    • Rajlaxmi
      India
      Reply

      Hello Everyone,

      This is Rajlaxmi from India. I’m writing my story because I want you people to know there is nothing impossible in this world.

      A few days ago, I was also very tensed about how to get rid of this medicine. When I found severe pain in my feet and visited doctor, I told him about Cetirizine. He told me to immediately stop this medicine. Then I was so worried because I was started regularly taking this pill When I was just 15 yrs old. Now I’m 29yrs. Can you imagine for almost 14yrs I was taking this pill everyday/every alternative day. It was like nightmare when ever I tried to not take this pill. It’s not like that I’ve not tried to withdraw from it. But each time I tried, I failed. I got itchy with hives all over my body when I was very little, say about 7-8yrs old. My mother was also having the same issue. We then took 1-2 pills of Avil and then it gets cured. But when I was 15yrs old I suffered from severe itchiness and hives that lasted for about 3-4 days. So my father took me to a dermatologist who prescribed me to take Polaramine (one kind of anti-histamine tabs) for about 15days. When 15days were over and I stopped taking the pills, and once again I got itching and hives. Then I went to that doctor again. He told me to continue with Polaramine. I’ve continued it for about 1.5yrs then it got banned. When asked my doctor what to take, he suggested that I take Cetirizine. And from that day I was taking Cetirizine until last month.

      But this time my husband forced me to stop taking those pills, as he knew that how much I got addicted to Zyrtec. I was also very determined this time. I then googled Zyrtec side effects, then I got know that I’m not alone. A lot of people are facing the same issue as mine. I’ve gone through various reviews, and some success stories. I’ve read each review on this particular site. I then I got very motivated. Which is why I’m writing this review– so that when someone else goes through it he/she will get inner strength go fight this nightmare.

      I then stopped taking Zyrtec pills. Believe me it was very much painful going away from Zyrtec. My body, hair, and eyes got severe itching, hives, and red marks. The first 2 weeks were terrible. I started taking more and more water. Taking lots of water will help you a lot. I read about this in one of the reviews here. And someone wrote that the removal process will take 4-6 weeks. So I’ve decided to wait for that time. After 2 weeks the itching and hives get lesser towards the 3rd week and again some lesser about 4th week. Now I’m in 5th week of Zyrtec removal process and believe me now I’m getting a very little itching and that for only 2-3hrs a day. I’m still waiting for that day when I’ll get fully cured. During these days I’ve not controlled any food however I’ve read in some articles that taking food rich in anti-histamine will help you better. Also, taking cold water showers will help you a lot and you can apply pure coconut oil after shower to get the best results. Now I’m very happy–finally I’m going to be fully withdrawn from this horrible pills. I’ll never suggest anyone to take Zyrtec/Cetirizine. I don’t want anyone to face all those troubles I’ve faced for 14yrs of my life. I want everyone to try this.

      Thank You for your patience.

      Rajlaxmi

  15. BAK
    Reply

    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.

  16. Janette
    Reply

    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.

  17. LC
    Reply

    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 !!!!!

  18. Svea S.
    Reply

    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.

  19. katy
    Reply

    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.

  20. GS
    Reply

    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.

  21. Abigail
    Reply

    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.

  22. EJ
    Reply

    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.

  23. TS
    Reply

    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.

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