The People's Perspective on Medicine

Stopping Xyzal Triggers Horrible Itching

Many readers have found that stopping Xyzal leads to horrible itching. It may take several weeks for this withdrawal symptom to subside.
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Allergy season has already begun in some parts of the country. Sufferers are reaching for antihistamines to reduce the runny nose and calm the itchy eyes and other pollen reactions. There is a new option on the OTC shelves this year: Xyzal (levocetirizine). It is an effective antihistamine, but many readers report that stopping Xyzal can cause trouble.

What Is the Story on Stopping Xyzal?

Q. My doctor prescribed Xyzal for allergies. When I stopped this antihistamine a few days ago, I started to itch. This is unbearable. Is there an antidote?

Xyzal Is an Antihistamine for Seasonal Allergies:

A. Levocetirizine (Xyzal) is, like its cousin cetirizine (Zyrtec), used to control seasonal allergies. Some people report dreadful itching that lasts for several weeks when they stop either medication. This appears to be a rebound histamine reaction (Ekhart et al, Drug Safety Case Reports, Dec. 2016).

Trouble Stopping Xyzal or Zyrtec:

There are numerous reports from readers who have had difficulties stopping Xyzal or Zyrtec on our website.  Leanne wrote:

“I took Zyrtec Aug-Feb for my fall allergies. When I thought allergy season was over, I discontinued the drug. I started itching, just a bit but after about four days I peaked and thought I might have to go to the ER. Two days later, after a cool shower and a Benedryl, I have only sporadic itching.

“Zyrtec works great for my allergies but the withdrawal is horrible. I am going to research alternative allergy remedies.”


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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I have been on Xyzal for nine years. I did not think it was helping my allergies anymore, so I weaned off of it. I took 1/2 dose for a few weeks, then 1/4 dose for a few weeks, then 1/4 dose every other day for a week, then every three days. Then I was done with it. After a few days I started itching: my scalp is the worst, but also the palms of my hands, and in between my fingers. This has been happening every day for a week now, it is terrible! And, I slowly weaned off this pill!

Do you know if Stinging Nettle Leaf will work for a dust allergy? Also do you take pills, tea?

I had to go off of my Xyzal after taking it for several years to have more allergy testing done. I could not figure out why I was itching so badly, and today after itching for 6 days now decided to see if the Xyzal could be why. I am so glad to know that this is probably the reason for my itching from head to toe. I did take Benadryl once on the weekend, and it did help for probably 12-24 hours. I am going to tell my allergist and will not go back on it.

Every time i stop taking xyzal, i think i get away with it until about 2 days later when the itching starts. Then it becomes unbearable. I have struggled with this for over two years trying to stop depending on this medication and my doctors think I’m nuts. They tell me it’s all in my head. This has caused me to develop severe anxiety and now I’m terrified to quit taking it. Every time that i begin to quit and the hives start, my throat feels tightened. That’s something i won’t mess with, so i pop another xyzal. What can we do about this. I feel like we need to really raise awareness about this. This is the most depressing and lonely thing that somebody can go through.

I’ve started and stopped Zyrtec over the years and never had one withdrawal symptom. This Xyzal is another story altogether. At first, I did not know why I was so itchy. I thought it was overly dry skin so I increased my moisturizer to no avail, then I thought I might have gotten bed bug bites from a recent business trip hotel stay, then my other thoughts ran to my little mini-poodle. After careful examination he didn’t have a flea on him (he gets a chewable flea med). Then it dawned on me, the only thing I had not done for a few days (5) to be exact was take the Xyzal because I’d run out on Wednesday and forgot for a couple of days to call it in. Then when I did call the Pharmacy, it was both on a Friday evening, and I was out of refills which took an extra day to hear back from the doctor’s office. Sorry I digress, anyhow I thought maybe it’s that allergy medication, so I googled itching after not taking Xyzal for several days, and found this page. I am still itching like crazy but have decided I will just see it through until it stops, and I’ll go back to Zyrtec for my allergies. It’s BEYOND AWFUL the itching. The only way to stop the itch I was told is to start back on the medication. That’s a resounding NO from me!

If stopping this drug causes itching, why don’t patients taper off slowly? That’s the classic answer, and no one has mentioned it.

I wasn’t aware that itching was associated with ceasing use of certain antihistamines. Good to know. Explains a lot! I have been on them for twenty years. I can’t recall any ever being completely effective, however I do have severe year round allergies and they do change somewhat from year to year.

If my body had a voice and could speak, I think it would tell me it is fed up with prescription & OTC allergy medicines. With each new allergy medicine, course of prednisone or antibiotic, I experience side effects of greater intensity or frequency and new ones altogether.

In my experience, Zyrtec causes altered thinking and depression after a few weeks of use. Xyzal caused me to gain 9lbs of water weight in a week. I lost 8 of it in 3 days. Frankly, it scares me to think that I am taking something for allergies that is altering my moods and mind, or possibly stressing my heart or system with excessive fluid.

For quite a few years I’ve suspected that even the newer non-drowsy antihistamines had affected my mood and “flattened” my personality to some degree. If only I could convince the new allergy doc that the prednisone and I are not compatible! I’ve been labeled a difficult patient before for refusing to take drugs or questioning the necessity of them.

If something works for you, that is great. Just be aware of the side of effects and pay attention to your body.

For many years I have had restless leg syndrome. Nothing seemed to help including NSAIDs, and massage. I have not tried the soap or raisins. What did work was stretching my leg with a belt looped over the sole of my foot. If you lie on your back in bed and elevate your leg to 90 degrees or as high as you can with the belt over the sole of the foot and slowly stretch the foot and leg.

The goal is to feel the stretch along the whole leg, buttocks and back. I think by doing this I am stretching my pyriformis muscles which relieves pressure on the sciatic nerve. For me this results in immediate relief. I have found that if you point the elevated leg to the right or left while stretching it results in even better and longer relief.

Can I switch to Xyzal from Zyrtec without itching?

Best remedy for allergies is getting the air in the house clean with a purifier that cleans the air, preferably in the whole house. The technology is there already here, it is used on the space station. I am proof of that it works. Look for Activepure technology. I’ve been allergy free for over 18 years, no meds, no Hepa, no itching, no hives, no runny nose or red eyes. Almost heaven.

It would be nice to know what these people used to stop the itching. I’m currently suffering through withdrawal from Benedryl. I’d had itching for 2 1/2 weeks. I’m using a prescription topical steroid which helps a bit and I’m finally feeling the itching is subsiding.

I haven’t tried the new levocitirizine, but I did take citirzine / Zyrtec for several years, and had no withdrawal symptoms or problems at all when I stopped taking it.

I’ve stopped and started Zyrtec many times over many years and never have had a problem. I’ve not tried Xyzal.

Thanks for alerting readers to the withdrawal problems many encounter. Am bringing my MD similar info every few months; glad to have an MD who is eager to learn. Most are not.

I suffered in increasing misery for nearly a year (first stopped taking Zyrtec because it appeared on a list of drugs associated with Alzheimers, got itching and hives, started taking it again while waiting to see a specialist, then stopped because of article in People’s Pharmacy, and finally ended up screaming with unbearable itching). Then an ear doctor prescribed Prednisone for a week and, as if by magic, my suffering went away! Finally got to see an allergist who didn’t believe the Zyrtec connection but suggested antihistamines for 4-6 weeks. Allegra is the main one not on the list of those associated with Alzheimers, so that’s what I’m using for this period. My experience is completely in line with what the Dutch doctors reported in their article. I also listed my experience on Med Watch and hope there is some solid research here soon, so the medical profession will get on board. My PPC doc could have used the prednisone treatment earlier and saved me a lot of agony.

I have had tremendous success in nearly eliminating seasonal allergies with the supplement, Stinging Nettle Leaf. For years, I took Zyrtec or Claritin, thinking those were my only options. Because of the dry eyes side effect, I discontinued those. For 3 seasons now, I have had success with the Stinging Nettle. It even helps minimize my allergic reaction to perfumes. Recently, I heard that having some local honey is helpful, so I have that once a day with herbal tea.

I’ve had the same problem trying to stop Allegra! Arms chest, other locations

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