an itchy man scratching his back

Q. “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. Brent
    NC
    Reply

    It took me several instances of forgetting my cetirizine to conclude that the intense itching was a withdrawal symptom. Doctors have since told me if I don’t have any side effects while on cetirizine then continue taking it. I’m not ok with that since I now know how it affects my whole body. It is amazing that such a small dose (3mg) can completely eliminate the itch for 23.9 hours. I’ve tried weaning and cold turkey a few times.

    I’m currently in hour 44 and having some serious itching. Sudden changes in temperature such as removing a shirt or socks seems to trigger it the most. The scalp and eye itch is the worst for me!

    Thanks for your posts. They helped bust the thoughts of other things being wrong. Hopefully some research will be conducted and give us some relief.

  2. Esther
    UK
    Reply

    I’ve taken Zirtek for over 20 years from Spring through to Autumn for seasonal allergies and urticaria. When I leave it off in Winter (no allergens) its absolutely fine.

    While there is obviously a problem for SOME people, please don’t spoil it for everyone with all this scaremongering. Zirtek is a godsend to thousands of chronic urticaria sufferers that the other antihistamines just don’t touch.

  3. Patrick
    Upstate NY
    Reply

    I ended up here because I stopped zyrtec a few days ago, and suddenly began itching like CRAZY. I didn’t make the connection till today and googled to see if there was a connection between stopping zyrtec and itching. Ye gods this is hell.

    I think I’m going to have to start taking benadryl when it gets bad. Be nice if the FDA would at least investigate it.

  4. Carol
    FL
    Reply

    Omg! I took my last Zyrtec Sunday morning and Monday morning the itching began! I have been taking Zyrtek for 3+ years now at the suggestion of a dermatologist! This is insane! It’s Tuesday morning and the itching is almost unbearable. So glad I found this website I was starting to think I was nuts. I am going to try Allegra for a month as someone else here suggested.

  5. Amber
    Va
    Reply

    I am off now for 5 days bc of allergy testing and I itch so bad it’s unbareable. I have hives all over my body. I feel like there are needles prickling all over and itching every single inch of my body.

  6. LN
    New York
    Reply

    I tired to get off Zyertec cold turkey and three days in I had to rush to see my doctor. I had been taking the meds for over 15 years and wanted to build up my immunity. The intense itchiness is a problem – it will end you because it is public and it will itch and private places. The hives are huge, hot and can bleed. My face also had hives and I was embarrassed as heck. My doctor told me we have histamines in the belly and that when we stop taking meds, our bellies freak out. I got nausea, diarrhea and dizziness. It really is not worth losing a day of week, not being able to eat and my doctor told me that the hives are a result of my body reacting to my allergen (dust) and not withdrawal. So folks, of course do as you wish, but right now, I am in bed, in a cold type sweat, not being able to eat, taking 3 types of meds to get over my symptoms. I’m taking the Zyertec – there is no evidence that it will impact your central nervous system and homeopathic medicine is cool, but when your allergies are almost giving you panic attacks, enough is enough!

  7. Dolly
    USA
    Reply

    Frustrated with no solution as of yet…. I took Zyrtec for about three months last spring thinking I had seasonal allergies. When I tried to stop in the early summer I immediately had full-body, intermittent random intense itching with no visible symptoms – felt like it was coming from UNDER my skin, especially in my hands, feet, ankles and belly. Saw my dermatologist and my allergist and neither had a good answer for me other than “it’s ok to be on these types of drugs long-term.” But I don’t want to!!!! Gah. So after some internet research I found the rebound itch issue with Zyrtec and decided to switch to Allegra. Once daily Allegra completely eliminated the itch, but if I forgot to take my daily Allegra the itch came back with a vengeance. I have to take it within an hour or two of waking up otherwise I start itching in my palms and feet. So now I am stuck taking Allegra daily for the unforeseeable future because I simply can’t take the itch. With no visible symptoms the doctors can’t seem to help me at all. I have been able to cut back to 1/2 an Allegra pill each day, and plan to try to cut back further to 1/4 and see what happens, but now it’s been almost a year stuck on these meds. Itching is a million times worse than pain and I don’t wish it on anyone. If anyone has success getting off these pills, please share your strategies!!!

  8. Senthil K.
    India
    Reply

    Hello All,

    Im taking this Zyrtec tablet from 2004 to till date, almost 12 years. Initially it was prescribed to me for hives and rashes, daily 2 tablets of 10mg. Slowly the doctor asked to reduce after 15days to 1 tablet a day and then to half tablet a day. I was able to reduce the tablet to half a day, but couldn’t get rid of it.

    If I try to stop or not taking the tablet, after 2 days itching starts over the whole body along with chest congestion and cough. Once I take half tablet of zyrtec, I’m relieved in 20-30mins. looking at the hypertension and drowsiness, even I consulted homeopathic doctors… continued both Zyrtec and Homeopathic medicine for almost 3 years…still I was not able to stop this itching and consumption of zyrtec.

    Is there any permanent remedy or solution in the world to stop this itching due to zyrtec withdrawal? What are these scientists doing, who developed cetrizine and zyrtec tablets? It’s horrifying for our human to live with such drugs side effect. Could somebody help with any permanent solution to come out of this addiction?

    • Patrick
      Upstate NY
      Reply

      If the itching starts after 2 days, maybe you can try 1/2 tablet every 36 or 48 hours, and then increase the time between them by 12-24 hours over the next 2-3 months? I havent tried this, but I may have to. The itching is driving me mad.

  9. Lori
    Stephentown, NY
    Reply

    I am so glad I found this site. I stopped Zyrtec a few days ago after taking for years. I am going absolutely mad from the intense itching, especially on my hands. I do have all over my body but the hands are the worst. It is a hot burning sensation in my nerve endings. Running hot water helps temporarily. No lotions, anti-itch medications or creams of any kind help whatsoever. I’m going back to taking Zyrtec today!

    • Richard
      Northern Ireland
      Reply

      If you have been taking Zyrtc (cetirizine) for years I would disregard most of what you read here. I took it for over 20 years and have found the advice below largely unhelpful in my case. I tried weaning unsuccessfully (got down to 1/8 pill every other day but couldn’t get beyond that point). I tried replacing Zirtec with Allegra (Fexofenadine). This did not work for me and largely undid anything that was achieved through weaning. In my experience only a cold turkey approach is feasible. It is incredibly difficult but I dont think there is another way if you have taken these medications for prolonged periods. It is now almost 8 weeks since I stopped taking either drug. Most testimonials state that itching is usually gone in six weeks. This has not been the case for me. The itching is less frequent but as bad as ever when symptoms return. I will never take Zyrtek or Allegra again and live in hope that symptoms will one day stop. Good luck.

  10. Jackie
    USA
    Reply

    I thought I was going crazy and thinking that there was something seriously wrong with me (intense, painful itching on hands, feet, scalp, private, etc.). Nothing soothes the itch and will often scratch until it bleeds, bruises or welts.

    I have finally decided that it is the Zyrtec withdraw. I have been on Zyrtec for months due to allergies and tried stopping once before but going back on the Zyrtec was the only thing that made the itching stop. Recently switched to Allegra for the past few month and am on day 4 of trying to stop again and the same intense itching. Has anyone had any success with stopping the drug and getting rid of the itch?

    • Daniel
      United States
      Reply

      I am having the same symptoms wroth Allegra. I’m itching everywhere. I’ve tried cold turkey before and it drove me nuts. Im trying again for the second time. Does anyone know of a way to ease off it slower?

      • Evet Hall
        Edgartown, Ma
        Reply

        I have being taking Citirezine for chronic hives and seasonal allergy for 3 years, I tried weaning myself snd having severe itching all over my body, hot shower and Vanicream help calm the itching and Cola herbal tea.

  11. Balaji
    Chennai, India
    Reply

    Hi,

    I have been on levocetrizine (5mg) for the past 3 months, and in trying to wean myself away from this drug, have suffered the horrible itching and urticarial that results. However, I have been able to manage the suffering and symptoms of itching through Ayurveda – specifically the use of “Gandhaka Rasayana” pills once daily. This medicine uses Sulphur + herbs as key ingredients.
    Folks that have access to Ayurveda locally could try out this treatment, it worked for me. Some diet restrictions may be necessary though.

    • andy
      dubai
      Reply

      Dear All ,
      last few year i am taking levocetrizine (5mg) because of my itching in body and pain in hands after taking this table i will fill good , now i want leave this tablet i can’t so please provide me your suggestions so can leave this tablet , every two day i have itching start from hand and goes to all body and pain in hands.

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