an itchy man scratching his back

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 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).”

“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.”

“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.”

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. Gina

    I’m so grateful for this website and the information that I have learned from it. I’ve always had allergies and thought that I had found a wonderful drug to finally help me with my itching skin. I stared taking Zyrtec about 2 years ago and it worked beautifully at first. Then I had to keep taking it to keep the horrible hives from being so bad. I’ve suffered with all sorts of side effects and I never thought that it was the medication that was fueling this rebound itching. My blood pressure has gone up since I went off Zyrtec and my doctor wants me to take high blood pressure medicine. I stopped cold turkey and am still suffering from this drug. Zyrtec should be taken off the market immediately. Best of luck to everyone who is trying to wean themselves off.

  2. Lizzie

    I have been taking Zyrtec for over 20 years. I have been trying to come off it. Nausea, exhaustion, mild itching, feel awful. Glad to find this site. Hope to feel better soon. Any suggestion are natural remedy?

  3. Roma
    San Francisco

    I have been taking Zyrtec for 17 years – one pill a day. I just ran out 4 days ago and thought I’d see if I really need it anymore. The itching is real! It’s traveling around my body and I’m hoping it stops soon. I really would prefer to stay off the Zyrtec if I can. My nasal symptoms have been fine.

  4. Angela

    I took Zrytec at bedtime every night for about 4 years. Whenever I’d miss a dose, I would have severe itching and thought my allergies became so bad I couldn’t get off of it. I decided I was ready to get allergy shots, but I needed to be off Zrytec first. When I researched the severe itching and found out is was a withdrawal effect, I was shocked! Starting in January is this year, I decided I would slowly taper off. I began cutting my pills in half but I continued to take daily. In April, I started taking 1/2 pill every other day. 2 weeks ago I stopped cold turkey. After 5-6 days I do have an itch, but it’s been tolerable. I am having horrible nightmares still. Also, I’m now having bad headaches, but ibuprofen is helping. I am determined to not go back on Zrytec, and I’ve decided to fight it through. I know first hand how horrible the withdrawal can be. I would recommend doing what I did. I probably should have switched to taking 1/2 poll every third day for a few months, but I was anxious to get off completely. Best of luck to all of you!

  5. Becky

    I stopped taking zyrtec after 10 years 6 months ago and am still itching everywhere!

  6. Becky

    I stopped taking zyrtec after 10 years 6 months ago and am still itching everywhere! WTH?!?!

  7. Christine
    New Zealand

    Thanks for this information. My doctor told me to keep taking cetirizine several years ago after a series of allergy related sinus infections, so I have been taking the usual one tablet (10 mg) every morning for the past 4-5 years. I had my last tablet 5 days ago and couldn’t get to a pharmacy to get more, so stopped cold turkey. Two days without the drug and I started itching like crazy and was trying to find out why, when there has been no others change sin my lifestyle. I am still itching as I type on day four without. Thank you for this web site as it now makes sense. I will wait it out as I don’t want to take this anymore if this is the outcome of stopping.

  8. Mary
    Hartford, CT

    I started taking Zyrtec for my allergies and found that it helped me sleep better, decreased frequency of bathroom trips to urinate and seemed to cut down on my anxiety – so I thought it was a win-win. After about 5 months on it however, I noticed that I became irrationally angry very easily and then that my anxiety came back 100 times worse with full on panic attacks out of nowhere. When I stopped taking it I developed 5-10 painful hives around my body including several on my scalp. I also had itching issues. I expected this from reading online so I was not concerned. One day about a week after stopping Zyrtec I was washing my hair and several large chunks of hair dropped into the sink! I was horrified. It’s been about 2 weeks and I still lose a LOT of hair when I comb and my hair has noticeably thinned and the texture is odd. It occurs to me also that while on Zyrtec my hair really did not grow.

  9. Sam

    All experiences about symptoms and taken treatment , some of them beyond the textbook of medicines are very helpful to the people and doctors too .

  10. Rose

    When I was younger I used to have allergies, or so I thought were allergies my skin would get hives and I would get itchy everywhere (I wasn’t on any allergy medicine at this time). During allergy season my eyes would swell up. No allergy pills helped with the hives I tried Allegra and Benadryl ect. So I went to the doctor and he prescribed me ceterizine. Since then I’ve been taking Zyrtec for years. If I miss a dose I will start getting itchy and hives everywhere on my body. But this is not new as I’ve had these problems even before Zyrtec. Idk why out of Curiosity I decided to google This problem and found out about Zyrtec withdrawals. This is crazy who knew . I don’t want to stop taking them but these withdraw symptoms sound bad.

  11. Lacey

    I’ve been taking Zyrtec for about 6 months now. I started having heart palpitations and I found out that is a side effect of it. So I decided to stop it. I’m on my 3rd day off of it now. Yesterday I was dizzy headed and started sneezing worse than I was before I got on it. I also was itching really bad on my face, scalp, and neck area. Today I woke up with a bad headache. I took some Tylenol. It helped for a little bit but now my headache is back and my blood pressure is up now. I don’t know whether to go back on it and taper off of it or just suffer at this point.

  12. Anne
    New England

    I found this site while searching itching as a withdrawal symptom from Zyrtec. You can guess why I googled that. I took Zyrtec for several years to address migraine caused in part by allergies. I no longer get migraines and wanted to come off the Zyrtec. I took myself down slowly, to the point where I was taking only 5 mg every 3 days.

    I couldn’t get below that amount without experiencing horrible itching, headache and dizziness. I stopped the Zyrtec completely 5 days ago and I am miserable. Thus the Google search to see if anyone else experienced the same symptoms. I am appalled! I’m determined to get off this junk once and for all. I’ll post an update if and when the side effects finally subside. As for now, 5 days in and miserable.

  13. Andy

    As much as I can appreciate the anecdotes of those who seem to have drug-related side-effects (or interactions), wouldn’t it be potentially more productive to report them to an official adverse reactions database like MedWatch? That, along with actual initial and follow-up research, is the only somewhat scientific (and perhaps sometimes less biased) way of assessing the risk of such effects in the general population.

    • Dan

      Hello all,

      Firstly, I am a 20 year old healthy male… Apparently dependent on Zyrtec. I began experiencing severe sinus headaches and sneezing, so my doctor recommended Zyrtec. Long story short, Zyrtec worked wonders. Why did I decide to quit?

      I decided to stop taking Zyrtec after three months of taking it because I drink coffee daily, and Zyrtec was topping off my blood pressure, making it so I got headaches every time I worked out. Aside from my blood pressure rise, my allergy symptoms were relieved, but as with most medications, the medicine was becoming less effective over my prolonged use. I quit taking Zyrtec cold-turkey.

      The first day without taking Zyrtec, I felt fine. I only experienced vivid nightmares. Although, after sleeping that night, I woke up with a terrible headache that never went away. My allergies seemed out of control, and I was experiencing dizziness and sensitivity to light. Looking back, I would much rather have to sneeze and have bad headaches compared to the symptoms I’m experiencing now.
      I posted here because it seems like people here are at all different stages of taking and not taking Zyrtec. I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions to cope and go about my day with as few, or eased symptoms as possible? How long, in general, has it taken you to experience an “upside” to quitting Zyrtec, and is there any other advice any one could offer?



      • Nadia

        Well, I’d been taking Zyrtec (Citirizene) for over 10 years. I recently worked out that the terrible itching I kept getting had nothing to do with allergies. I never had allergies until I was about 30. Started taking it because I had become very sneezy and snotty and cetirizine worked. So I kept taking it. Never had any itchy skin or hives for that matter, before though! I stopped taking it last Wednesday, exactly 1 week ago. Yes, it itches. A lot, mostly in my hands. I keep it under control with half a tablet of Loratadine, Quercetin twice a day and Vitamin C, once or twice a day. The itching IS there, but its intermittent and and currently tolerable. My thinking is that as the Loratadine does not have this rebound effect (at least I hope not!!), it will keep the itching at bay, until the cetirizine dependency wears off. Week 1 completed, with only minor itching. I’ve read it can take up to 6 weeks for it to wear off!!

  14. Christie
    fayetteville ar

    I have taken myself off Zyrtec for 4 days now, I am about to itch myself to death!!!! I have taken it foe 6 years for seasonal allergies. What a horrible side effect!!! I decided to go on probiotics and that is why I wanted off the zyrtec. Never have I ever felt like this!!! It is hard to work or sleep. If anyone knows how long this will last please let me know. I am not going back on it but if anyone has a good lotion, bath soak, or natural remedy let me know. thanks

    • Beth

      I started taking Allegra for a few weeks to wean myself off of the Zyrtec withdrawals. I had been taking Zyrtec around the clock for about 8 months and this helped. After a few days I’d wait until I started to feel itchy to take the Allegra and it would be spaced out more and more as time went on. Probably was off of the meds entirely in about a month.

      • Lynn

        Thank you for sharing this information – i have been itching and feeling very dizzy (almost like super low blood sugar) – took the Allegra, and everything went away in less then 10 minutes.

    • Stephen

      I am having the same issue. I’ve been taking this medicine for 6 years now and have stopped cold turkey. I have been experiencing the worst itchiness on my hands and face. my ears are ringing. This is day 5.

  15. Jason

    I have been experiencing what most are saying here. I had a rather severe allergic reaction about 2 months ago…benadryl was working a little but my hives were unbearable. I tried Zyrtec and it worked within 15 minutes…my hives and severe itching went away an i felt great! The problem is i cant stop taking zyrtec for more than 3 days or i start to itch and burn lime crazy. Ive been trying to take it as infrequently as possible but right now 3 days is about it. Some say to try allegra so perhaps that will help me. Im also considering cutting the 10 mg. Pills in half and weaning myself off that way. Eithe way im glad to hea im not alone. I dont have a history of allergies and i was starting to think it was something in my environment but it looks like the solution is now fueling the problem. Good luck everyone!

  16. Agnes
    Houston, Tx.

    I had run out of Zyrtec & could not go to get more. Was on it for 5 plus years. I started itching all over my body. I do not want to get back on it. I will try Benedryl to see if it will help itching. I have also been losing hair. Zyrtec may have caused that too. So glad I came across this wen site.

  17. Kevin

    My Father gets horrible seasonal allergies. I got really sick last year (2015) and my dad recommended I take Zyrtec D for the running nose, drainage, and sore throat. It worked like a charm and I get better a lot faster from whatever cold I had. I was also able to function better since Zyrtec D was allowing me to breathe while sick.

    Flash forward to 2016, and I start to feel like I am catching a cold. Sinus headache, stuffy nose, and itchy throat. I take Zyrtec D and all the symptoms go away. Great, After a few days I took the pill once day. After about 2 weeks I stopped taking it. Within 2 days I had a killer headache in the evening. I would also like to report I had been having vivid dreams and generally more tired.

    I thought I must be getting sick so I take Zyrtec D again and the headaches go away. So after I a few days I forgot to take Zyrtec D again and headaches come back. I have had a dull headache all the time, get worse periodically for the 6 days I have not taken the pill. I took the pill today to test my theory and my headache went away. I also recently suffered chills/sweating during the night. I would say I could be truly sick, but I have not had a fever at all. Appears I am having withdrawals. I am 28 year old healthy male. I report back in the future if I am able to find any solution.

    I have not had any itching or hives that have been described.

    • Beth

      I had the same issue – I ran out and decided to stop as it was almost winter and I had a horrible sinus headache and even vomited. I thought oh maybe allergy season isn’t over and got more Zyrtec, it went away immediately. Try Allegra or something without Cetirizine to wean yourself off.

  18. Renee

    Well, Cetirizine works wonderfully for me! I had an allergic reaction (hives all over my body, but WAY worse than the withdrawal you all are describing) for 2 years nonstop and I took 3 or 4 Zyrtec every day (as prescribed–was not OTC at that time) and that was the only way I was able to survive the horrible allergic reaction. I eventually moved to a different country and stopped having the allergic reaction, so I was able to stop taking the Zyrtec every day, just as needed.

    If I get a bout of hives these days I take Zyrtec for a day or a week, or however long until I stop getting hives, and I have never had any problem with withdrawal. I would not consider taking these for a “runny nose and congestion” though, so that is probably why–if you are not having a histamine reaction then you probably should not take anti-histamines! (if you are dissatisfied with the advice your doctor gives you then find a new doctor! it’s hard to find a good doctor; I know because I still haven’t!!)

    • Renee

      Then again, I am probably the outlier actually, because most medicines that can make you drowsy make me SUPER drowsy, and I have never ever felt any remotely drowst effects with Cetirizine (which is another reason I love it so much)…hm

  19. Vicky

    After being on Zyrtec for at least a year, I decided I wanted to try and live without it, since I don’t like the idea of being dependent on any drug. I took my last dose almost 48 hours ago, and so far, I feel fine. I haven’t noticed any significant increase in my allergy symptoms (granted, it’s winter right now, so outdoor allergies aren’t an issue, but I also have indoor allergies) or any symptoms of withdrawal. I certainly don’t doubt that others have experienced genuine issues – the itching seems to be the most common complaint – but when you compare it to the millions of people taking Zyrtec or other antihistamines, it’s probably a relatively small number of people who experience that. My hope is that I can give my body a break from allergy meds each winter, and resume in the spring when I will definitely need it again. I just wasn’t comfortable with the idea of being on a medication for years and years without a break.

  20. Jim

    I am so glad that I found these posts. I have been suffering with intense itching (without irritation or inflammation) for the last several months, I’ve discussed the issue with several doctors (e.g., PCP, dermatologist, psychiatrist, and gastroenterologist). I switched to hypoallergenic everything, and the only thing that helped the itch was taking Zyrtec. During that time I’ve also experienced worse drowsiness, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and inability to focus then ever before in my life. Last night I was looking to buy more Zyrtec on Amazon and a reviewer perfectly described my symptoms after he discontinued use. Then I began researching the issue and came across hundreds of testimonials describing the same thing. I’ve decide to try quitting cold turkey. I’ve contacted my PCP and dermatologist to their opinions, but I can’t justify taking another dose. I’m angry at the manufacturers and the FDA for not do anything, but I’m so thankful for all of you who have shared your experience.

    It’s been 60+ hours since my last Zyrtec, and I feel exhausted, itchy, and unable to concentrate. I hope the symptoms get better (I will update here).

  21. Mona
    Annapolis, MD

    I, too , have experienced intense itching after taking Zyrtec for about 3 years and stopping it. For the last year, I have only taken 5 mg. daily. I stopped cold turkey because I felt it was raising my blood pressure. This is also a problem for me. After reading these entries, I realize that I am not alone. I have started vitamin C and will check the list of histamine producing food to avoid. I think after a week, it might be slightly better. There is hope. These drugs are terrible!

  22. Daniel
    Dothan, AL

    I’m glad I found this website and I wish I had found it sooner. I run into the same withdrawal symptoms if I miss taking Zyrtec for more than 2-3 days. I’ve been taking it for well over a decade. I get itchy all over and it won’t go away until I take some more. I’m convinced now I need to get off it and try something else.

  23. Dhruv

    Hi, I have been taking cetirizine for almost 8 years. Last 8 years i took several thousand pills. Last couple of months i notice that these pills don’t really work for me. After few hours of taking cetirizine 10 mg, hives and itching come back and i could not sleep without cetirizine.

    Today, it is my 13th day without cetirizine and trust me these 13 days are worst in my life. From second day i have hives all over my body, it itching like crazy. I itch myself till blood come out. My tongue, face, fingers, foot all got swell up. Every morning i wake up ( if i could sleep at night) with swell feet. It takes few hours before i can walk properly.

    Now something positive, Every passing days hives and itching become lesser and lesser and i am becoming more and more confidence that i could get rid from this poison, My head become clear and i get better sleep without those vivid dream like state ( i think that cause by cetirizine). I lost lots of hair i last few years, now my hair loss got almost stop. My skin feels better and less sensetive. But most importantly, i get this internal belief that i can kick this cetirizine habit and worst days already passed. I am not scared anymore ( i used to keep few cetirizine in my wallet) and can survive without cetirizine for rest of my life. As i read in many forum, that it takes 4-6 weeks to get rid from most hives and itch and 7 months to 1 year for full detox/recovery.

  24. Zaynab
    South Carolina

    I have been taking Zyrtec 10mg 1 pill everg single night for at least 5 years. If I skip 1 night and try to excerise or have sex, my skin starts feeling like it is on fire. I am still taking them. I started taking zyrtec for my year round allergies and now I am more concerned that I am extremely dependent on this drug. I am trying to use more natural remedies and I realized that I cannot function without zyrtec! I am going to try to wean myself as some others have done. Thank you for sharing your stories. I do not feel aline anymore.

  25. Shannon

    I stopped taking Zyrtec on about 5 days ago because I am trying to get pregnant. I am experiencing intense hot flashes followed by cold flashes, jittery feelings which come and go, insomnia, dizziness, and the worst itching I have ever experienced (besides chicken pox).

    I will never take Zyrtec again and recommend that everyone else stays away from it! The itching will make you crazy! It is on your fingers, hair, armpits, back, toes, and everywhere in-between. The bouts of dizziness are decreasing in intensity and frequency, but the itching remains strong, even after day 5. So glad I am not alone and also that I do not have any other scary skin disease or condition on google!!

  26. Lindy M

    OMG I am so happy I found this site. Thought I was going crazy. My doctor had me taking Singulair in the morning, Zyrtec at night and addditionally 3 different nasal sprays – on top of allergy shots for severe allergies I could not shake. I finally got a bit better and decided on my own to get off all of them (except the shots) because my vision was getting a little blurry. I was on these for probably 6 months. Well after I got off everything two or three days later my hands and feet itched and burned so badly I scratched until they bled. I nad no idea I needed to get off gradually. Nothing helped until I gave in and took some Benydryl. When the 4-6 hours comes to take another Benydryl everything starts burning like fire and itching. I did research on Singulair and then found this page about Zyrtec. Wow. I had called the doctor earlier and the nurse had no clue if stopping the pills could be causing it. There is no doubt for me that is the problem. Guess I’ll have to take Benydryl until I can gradually get off of it.

  27. Josh Salm

    I have been addicted to zyrtec ever since I was 11, Im 19 now, and I havent found out until today that it was zytec causing me so much pain. This stuff messes with your nervous system. Seasonal allegies are normal, but not on zyrtec. At the moment, im in guatemala and have not taken any zytec since I left, and my body is on fire. Coming on here, its making so much more sense. I would stop taking zytec for 2 days and my body would be on fire. Simple allergy medication right? These doctors want people to be completely dependant on a pill, so they just prescribe more pills. There is one alternative that has been the best coping mechanism for my withdrawl. Marijuana is a natural antinflammitory, and it helps almost immediately after my body is randomly itching. There is something being hiddin in the pharmaceutical community and i think its that there are NO natural alternatives. Think with common sense, try some weed, and it will help you with the insane itching guaranteed. Marijuana has NO sife effects, and the side effects of zyrtec just prove that any kind of chemical pill isnt good for the body. I will switch to natural remedies, and medicine. I hope this helps

  28. Breezy

    I suffered these same problems after stopping zyrtec. I had only taken it a couple months for my spring allergies. I had taken it before and stopped just fine. This year was different. I had hives and itched liked crazy. A doctor told me I was just having an allergic reaction to something and just start taking it again. I didn’t listen. I tried going cold turkey but it was impossible. I couldn’t function at work. I tried creams and they didn’t offer much relief. I did a lot of reading on this and other sites and decided to try to wean myself off with allegra. I also took solgar quercetin with Ester c and vitamin b. I also took stinging nettles to help with my regular allergies. I also carried around a bottle of after sun aloe (first with lidocaine and later without). I am now much better. I have been antihistamine free for about two weeks now and it is such a relief. I still sometimes get little hives/itches still but it is tolerable. I try to distract myself and it goes away. I don’t even need the aloe anymore. I’ll be glad when I’m completely normal, and I’ll never take antihistamines again including sleeping aids. At the time I felt so hopeless when first dealing with this. So I wanted to share what helped me and to say it will get better.

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