Q. When I stopped taking the antihistamine Zyrtec, I started itching like crazy! My scalp, my arms, my neck, my legs all itch. I just want to cry.
This awful reaction happened once before after stopping this allergy medicine. When I asked the pharmacist, he said it was unrelated. I just don’t believe that. How long will this itching last?
A. Hundreds of readers have reported experiencing uncontrollable itching after stopping cetirizine (Zyrtec) suddenly. Because this complication is not widely recognized, we are not surprised that your pharmacist assumed your symptoms were unrelated.
Visitors to our website report that it can take several weeks for the itching to subside. Some suggest that vitamin C may help ease the discomfort during this period. Here are a few comments:
“I used Zyrtec daily for years due to year-round allergies. When I decided to go off it since it didn’t seem like a wise idea to take anything regularly for years (unless it’s a potentially life threatening condition, like high blood pressure), I experienced INTENSE itching on my palms, feet, and scalp that lasted for three weeks. It was terrible coming off of Zyrtec.”
“I recently had to take a generic Zyrtec for allergies. I stopped taking it a few days ago, when the pollen count went down. With other allergy meds, there were no after effects.
“This generic cetirizine seemed like a wonder drug to me. Until — one day after I stopped taking it, I had itchy skin with small red bumps. I’ve never had hives, but I’ve heard about them, and I’m pretty sure that’s what I have. I cannot sleep in my bed because lying down seems to make it worse. I itch twenty-four hours a day.
“After eliminating everything else I could think of, I thought about my new, wonderful allergy medicine. I did a search on the web to see if others had the same problem, and many posted comments that echoed my complaints. Some resumed the Zyrtec and their symptoms immediately disappeared. Have you heard anything about these withdrawal “pains” of Zyrtec and its generic equivalents? I used the Equate brand ceterizine from Walmart. Today is Day 4 since I stopped, and I’m still itching. I am determined not to go back on the medicine, but I am basically a miserable insomniac right now. I will be calling my doctor tomorrow to see if there is something other than Zyrtec that I can take to eliminate the symptoms.”
“I started taking cetirazine (Zyrtec) 4 years ago, and have taken it daily ever since.
“However, at the weekend, as my prescription was getting low, I decided to withdraw instead and cut the dose from 10mg to 5mg.
“Initially, there were no apparent reactions, although I did notice that my elbows felt as if they had insect bites on them, which, if scratched, itched even worse.
“Then last night, I got up in the middle of the night for a couple of hours and noticed I had a really itchy forehead, which I kept scratching. After doing this for a while, I suddenly felt these lumps, two of them, and began to panic! I went back to bed and when I woke, the lumps had become one big lump, both tender and itchy.
“I called my GP as soon as it opened, but they wouldn’t see me, so I went about my day trying to let my imagination run away with me.
“I took the “zirtec” as soon as I began to suspect a connection, but am still waiting for it to work. Right now, my head and body feel as if they have things crawling over!
“One of these days I want to completely stop this drug, but the thought of having to go through this again at some point is NOT a welcome one!!”