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Stopping Cetirizine Led to Itching Like Crazy

Many people find that stopping cetirizine suddenly leads to itching that cannot be ignored. It may take several weeks of withdrawal for the itch to subside.
Stopping Cetirizine Led to Itching Like Crazy
Young woman back with allergy skin problem

Who would guess that stopping an antihistamine taken for allergies could lead to dramatic hives and itching? Although it may seem improbable, scores of readers report that they developed dreadful itching upon stopping cetirizine (Zyrtec). In some cases, the itching lasted for weeks before disappearing. Apparently, levocetirizine (Xyzal) may also trigger a similar withdrawal syndrome.

Does Stopping Cetirizine Make You Itch?

Q. I stumbled across your site while looking for withdrawal symptoms of cetirizine. I took this medication for years to treat severe allergy problems.

Recently I ran out of the med. I was waiting on the shipment and I started feeling bad all over: tired, depressed and itching like crazy. I assumed that the itching was my allergies asserting themselves because I had not taken the med.

This morning I woke up to itching on my upper abdomen, which was very red. I made a quick trip to the store and got some cetirizine. I took one pill, and in about two hours the itching was subsiding.

Not Crazy!

I am glad to know I’m not crazy after all. What I read at PeoplesPharmacy.com was that cetirizine withdrawal was causing my problem. Now I would like to know what OTC allergy med I can take.

A. Cetirizine (Zyrtec) and levocetirizine (Xyzal) are popular over-the-counter allergy medicines. However, stopping either one abruptly may result in unbearable itching (Ekhart, van der Horst & van Hunsel, Drug Safety – Case Reports, Dec. 2016). We have heard from hundreds of people who have experienced severe itching after stopping cetirizine.

Most other OTC antihistamines do not seem to trigger this type of withdrawal reaction, though some people may be especially sensitive. As an experiment, you might try loratadine (Alavert, Claritin) or fexofenadine (Allegra) to see if they help your allergy symptoms without making you itch when you stop.

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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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