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Allergy Medicine and Dry Mouth

Q. I have suffered from hives for about eight years. I was prescribed Zyrtec (cetirizine) and have been using it daily since. It has greatly alleviated the hives.

During the past few years, though, it has caused the side effects of dry mouth and dry eye. The result has been periodontal problems.

Only yesterday I connected the dots between cause and effect: Zyrtec for hives led to dry mouth and dry eyes; dry mouth has led to a failure to control bacteria and fungi in the mouth, which has led to periodontal problems, cracked lips and sores in my mouth.

I have decided to cease taking Zyrtec. Is there an effective treatment for chronic hives that does not have these side effects?

Astonishingly, although I provided all of my health care providers (family physician, allergist, dentist and periodontist) with a list of my medications and supplements, none of them suggested that I had dry mouth and that Zyrtec played a role.

A. A surprising number of medications can cause dry mouth. They include allergy medicines such as cetirizine (Zyrtec), desloratadine (Clarinex) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl), antidepressants like duloxetine (Cymbalta) or escitalopram (Lexapro) and sleeping pills such as zolpidem (Ambien), to name a few. As you point out, a dry mouth can have serious consequences for dental health.

Herb expert James Duke, PhD, suggests freeze-dried stinging nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) to treat hives. Although the evidence for this treatment is not strong, the capsules don’t appear to cause dry mouth.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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