A few weeks ago, I shared with you my experience of withdrawal from the allergy drug Zyrtec (read about it here). (I specifically took Costco’s generic version of Zyrtec called “Aller-Tec.” Both contain the same active ingredient, Cetirizine HCl – the generic name of the drug – but most people know the brand name of the drug, Zyrtec.) I chronicled the first few days in my last post but I wanted to give readers an in-depth look at the rest of my withdrawal experience. Overall, it was a painful 21+ days dealing with the itching that came with discontinuing the medication.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the first days after discontinuing Zyrtec were the worst. Day 1 was surprisingly tolerable but on day 2, the itching worsened. In order to rate my pain, I decided to use the medical community’s pain scale that assigns numbers 0-10 to judge one’s pain (with 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever experienced) and use this to describe my itch. For day 2, I was at an 8-9. This severe itch lasted until day 7, when my itch scale was a 7 out of 10.
During these early days, I tried to keep busy. Anything to keep my mind off what my body was feeling.
I’m fortunate that I am unemployed and was able to deal with this hell from the comfort of home. I had my daughters and husband to help me around the house when necessary.
For me, exercise was my only escape. Spending time on my rowing machine each day, I was forced to focus on something else. My hands, arms, and legs were occupied, and it was a welcome relief to both my brain and my skin to ignore the itch and give my skin a break. Not that I didn’t itch while exercising – I did! I just pushed through and tried not to think about it.
During these horrible seven days, I felt like insects were crawling all over my skin. Weird places itched like my ears and even my eyeballs! I think the worst areas were my palms, hands, chest, and forearms. Hives showed up on my chest and hands and I itched like crazy everywhere. With all the scratching and bleeding, I looked like myself with the chicken pox at age 6, with all of the hives, redness, and lesions in various states of healing on my body.
Scratching and scraping my body was the only thing that relieved the disturbing itch. I often dug my fingernails into irritated skin, activating pain signals and temporarily blocking the itch. My hands looked ghastly, covered in sores and wounds, hiding them whenever out in public.
Nights were the worst. I stayed up late at night to be sure I’d fall asleep quickly and didn’t spend hours itching in bed, but the itching came anyway.
Upon starting my second week of withdrawal, the itching was still pretty constant, but the intensity had lowered. I was incredibly relieved to be through the worst of it! I was now a 6 on my itch scale. During this second week I had a lot more variation in the intensity of the itch. I’d itch a lot in the morning, then have a decent afternoon with only slight discomfort, and at night the the itch would intensify. The worst itching still came late, after 10 pm. Apparently, histamine levels peak in the middle of the night (1-3 am) for most people, which would explain why I dreaded nights and felt uncomfortable in my own skin.
Around day 10, my itch was a 4-5 out of 10 which made it more tolerable. However, it was always lurking in the background. Even though the urge to scratch was not debilitating, it was still there and would flare up at night. I had real doubts as to whether or not I was doing the right thing. “Should I have consulted with a doctor first? Maybe I really do have some bad allergies. Why am I still experiencing so much painful itching?”
At this point, I was getting depressed, mostly because I was sick of dealing with this sh*t. I figured I’d suffer for a week, 10 days max. Why was I still hurting? My strength was waning. My determination to conquer Zyrtec withdrawal was dwindling. Feeling heartbroken and defeated, I wondered if I’d ever get past this.
I cried. I scratched. I felt sorry for myself. And I was mad. Mad at the drug manufacturers, mad at myself for taking the damn drug, and mad that my body was reacting so horribly off the medication. Withdrawal from an allergy medication should NOT happen, should NOT take this long, and should NOT make a person miserable for WEEKS.
I continued to itch, still broke out in hives, and scratched and tore at my skin until day 12. It was on this day that I went a few hours without any itching, and finally realized that yes, there would be an end to this.
At two weeks of life without Zyrtec, itching was not the focus of my day. Finally! I could go about my day much more normally because I wasn’t feeling crawling sensations on my skin constantly. The itch was a 3 out of 10, but still flared up to a 4-5 at night.
During my third week off Zyrtec, my skin was healing from all the trauma I inflicted on it from scratching constantly. The itch was minimal (or gone!) during the day but was still around at night. If I didn’t preventatively use ice packs on my forearms and hands, I would mildly itch until I fell asleep. By the end of this third week, I definitely felt much more like myself and was happy to be returning to “normal.”
During this fourth and final week of documenting my withdrawal, I was more or less itch free. Some evenings I had alcohol and I believe that caused a little itching on my skin, but it was tolerable. At this time, I learned that some people actually have a histamine intolerance and have to avoid certain foods and medication. This includes alcohol, fermented foods, and some artificial colorings and preservatives because they can trigger histamine release.
If I stayed away from alcohol, I didn’t itch. So, by and large, on this 4th week I considered myself completely free of Zyrtec withdrawal symptoms. It was an incredibly satisfying feeling to be completely done with this horrible drug that I clung to for so many years. Yes, I did itch every now and then, but staying away from alcohol and being well-hydrated was the combination that worked for me.
(Below are some Amazon affiliate links to products that helped me cope with Zyrtec withdrawal. I earn a small commission if you make a purchase.)
Here’s what I did, what meds I took, and how I coped with my 2+ weeks of misery:
Patience – Patience is the most important thing. Withdrawal from this drug is going to take some time. It will take days and weeks for your body to get used to not being on the drug and regulating your histamine levels. Be strong, be patient, and you will persevere.
Taper Your Dosage – The second most important piece of advice is to taper your dose. Draw up a plan for decreasing your dosage over time until you’re barely taking any. Give your body time to adjust to the new amount of Zyrtec you take, from a week to a month, before cutting back again. I tapered down to a 1/4 of a 10 mg tablet and then quit. Some say to taper with children’s liquid Zyrtec because you can dial in the dose reduction more accurately, until you are hardly taking any.
Cold Water and Ice Packs – Super cold water soothed my itchy hands. During the first week of withdrawal, I took cool showers, as that brought me more relief than heat. Some nights I’d use an ice pack on my hands or keep my hands in super cold water, which tamed the itch.
Exercise – If you can, I recommend exercising to help your body heal and rid itself of the excess histamine in your body. It helps if you can take your mind off your suffering, if only for 30 minutes.
Stay Hydrated – Drink plenty of water to flush your body of histamine build up. Staying well hydrated will also keep your skin from drying out and causing more itching.
Use Lotion – Keeping your skin moisturized and healthy is important when you scratch yourself silly. I did purchase some lotions that help to numb the skin, including Sarna Anti-Itch Lotion, Bengay with Lidocaine, and I bought hydrocortisone cream to relieve the itch. Even though these lotions helped, be careful using lotions with alcohol in them. Alcohol is a drying agent and can make your skin drier and more itchy.
Peppermint Soap and Shampoo – If you’ve ever used peppermint soap or shampoo, you know that they cause a tingling sensation. As I was desperate to not feel an itch, I used Dr. Bronner’s Hemp Peppermint Pure Castile Soap for shampoo and body soap. I left it on my scalp and body until I felt the tingle, then rinsed off. The slight numbing effect was glorious. This peppermint soap was really helpful for my scalp, which definitely got it’s fair share of the scratching.
THC – Yes, THC helped me. Recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois and I have a medical marijuana license due to my degenerative disc disease. Around the fourth day of withdrawal, I medicated my back pain with THC and realized that the itching had lessened. Every time I took the THC, within hours I was much more comfortable and scratched less. Once I realized this, I medicated with THC once or twice a day. Please keep in mind I was micro-dosing THC, only ingesting 5 mg of THC at a time. Five milligrams was usually enough to get me through the bulk of the day, quieting the angry itch, but some evenings benefited from an additional dose.
Using a Body Brush – By the second week of withdrawal, I was carrying around a body brush to scratch every itch. Scratching with fingernails left me with open wounds that easily got infected, so switching to a body brush was a gentler alternative. I also used the softer side of a pumice stone while in the shower to soothe the itch. Lightly raking my skin with the pumice stone brought me some much needed itch relief while getting rid of dry, dead skin.
Get Comfortable – I made sure that anything that was touching my body was comfortable, so I wore long sleeved shirts, workout leggings, and cozy socks. I also removed any jewelry that bothered my hands and neck. Keeping my body comfortable in any way possible, was a primary objective.
Ester Vitamin C – I took Ester Vitamin C based on online recommendations from others who have gone through Zyrtec withdrawal. Vitamin C is crucial during illness/ infection and most of us don’t get enough in our daily diets. Ester Vitamin C is not only less acidic than regular Vitamin C, but it goes into your white blood cells and stays there for up to 24 hours, much longer than regular vitamin C. Since it is so important in repairing tissues, overall immune system functioning, and is a powerful antioxidant, I decided to take the supplement. I have no idea if this helped, but I took it everyday.
Red Wine/Alcohol – Red wine is a big no-go with Zyrtec withdrawal. One night I learned this the hard way, as I laid in bed til 3 am scratching. Red wine is high in histamines, compared to white wines and sparkling wines (which still flared up my itching a bit). I sure hope I can return to drinking red wine, as it is my favorite, but for now I’m avoiding it with no regrets.
Hot Baths – I only had to take one hot bath to learn my lesson. Thinking that a hot bath would help, I sat in one for almost an hour. The hot water did feel nice while I was in it, but it caused extreme itching later. I’m not sure if the bath simply dried out my skin or if it brought too much histamine to the surface of my skin; whatever the reason, I never took another one.
I can’t stress enough the importance to taper yourself off the drug. Be sure to do it slowly. Let your body adjust with every dose alteration you make. I took Zyrtec for about 5 years, tapered my dose for about 6 weeks, until I was taking to 1/4 of a 10 mg pill (2.5 mg) and it still took a hard 2-3 weeks to break free.
Also, try to withdrawal when you have limited distractions. I realize I was lucky because I could do this at home with minimal obligations. Just try to withdrawal when things are slower or easier with work or school and don’t try this during busy months. It’s important for you to be your number one advocate at this time and take care of yourself first. Plan out when you’ll start and prepare by getting in the right headspace to tackle this challenge. This will increase your chances of success.
Not everyone will have the same experience with withdrawal. Some will have it better, others worse. Some recommend taking antihistamines like Benadryl, Allegra, or Claritin when you stop taking Zyrtec since these drugs will get rid of the itch and not complicate withdrawal. I didn’t want to introduce ANY antihistamines into my body because I wanted to body to go back to normal and back to its normal histamine levels. I didn’t want to make withdrawal any longer, harder, or impede the process.
After 20 days I still had minor flare ups of itching, and by the 4th week, I was back to normal. Sure, every now and then something makes the itching flare up, but it’s nothing like it was before. As my body finds homeostasis again in its histamine levels, I can confidently say I am free from Zyrtec and no longer dependent on a pill that forced my body to become addicted to it.
Are you going through Zyrtec withdrawal? Got any tips for others? Let us know in the comments!
You can do this. Go Zyrtec free!
To Your Health,
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information provided on this web site is for general information purposes only.
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KIMBERLY SNOW | 24th May 21
I have been on zyrtec for 2 and 1/2 years. Originally started taking it on my doctors recommendation for Chronic Urticaria possible brought on by menopause. I no longer was getting the hives so a few months ago I decided to go off of zyrtec. But every time I did, 24 hours from the last pill, like clockwork, I experienced horrible itching all over. The moment I would give in and take a pill, it would go away, until the next day. I started looking up my symptoms on the internet and found an enormous amount of people going through the same withdrawal symptoms as me. I’ve been zyrtec free for almost a week now and the itching is horrid. my ankles, my neck, my scalp, my lower back, forearms and hands, feet…moves around and comes and goes but constant all day and night. I’m hoping next week might bring some relief, but so far not much change. It’s excruciating. Can’t wait to finally be rid of this once and for all.
Julie | 25th May 21
Zyrtec withdrawal is truly torture. And the fact that it lasts so long (at least for me) is a true test of strength. I still itch a little every night (I wonder if I have a histamine intolerance) and I do fine with an Allegra or Benadryl. No issues with those meds. Thanks for sharing your story and best of luck to you as you continue your withdrawal. 🙂
Katherine | 24th May 21
Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m currently on day 8 of withdrawal from Claritin (which has even less info about withdrawal than Zyrtec unfortunately) and I am SO itchy. These tips have helped a ton. I’m sleeping with an ice pack on my chest and legs to sooth the hives/bumps. It’s infuriating that the FDA has allowed these medications to be OTC with this kind of withdrawal mentioned almost no where. I even read a study done in Europe that found antihistamines were linked to liver failure and brain tumors. All that to say, thank you for taking the time to write this up. It was so helpful to me.
Julie | 25th May 21
I hadn’t heard of Allegra or Claritin causing the same degree of withdrawal problems that Zyrtec does. But I suspect that stopping any antihistamines is going to produce some kind of rebound histamine production. The body needs to get back in balance without meds and that can take some time. Glad you found some helpful tips in this post. Best of luck with your withdrawal. Things will get better soon – hang in there! 🙂
Lori | 28th Jun 21
For the last two days, I’ve been incredibly itchy and have felt like bugs are crawling all over my skin and I couldn’t figure out why. Then, it dawned on me that I had run out of Zyrtec when I was filling my pill minder last week. I’m not sure how many days I’ve been without it, but it’s excruciating. Thanks for sharing your experience and helping me confirm it’s real and I’m not crazy!
Julie | 28th Jun 21
That’s exactly how it feels – like bugs crawling on your skin. You are most definitely not crazy. Good luck to you! 🙂
Austin | 20th Jul 21
Wow, thank you for sharing this. I also am going through tons of hives and itching and am grateful to hear how you overcame and the itch DID GO AWAY after you waited. I’m being patient so my severe itching and hives also go away. I also decided not to throw other antihistamines into the mix while I’m recovering/getting off zyrtec.
Definitely clinging to Philippians 1:19 that the living God will see me through.
Julie | 21st Jul 21
Thanks for commenting. It’s not easy but it will get better! Best of luck to you 🙂
Jeremy | 5th Aug 21
This needs to get researched! Hopefully my itchiness will come to an end. Wanted to stop Zyrtec/Allertec/Xyzal because it would make me feel fatigued and “clouded” all day. 48 hours after my last pill I began itching like crazy. Popped another Zyrtec and it went away. This continued for a good year. Went to an allergist that did a blood allergen test. Pretty much came back for negative except for very little grasses/pollen and dogs. I grew up with dogs and never had hives/itchness like this! I’m one week since I’ve taken the last one. Itching like crazy and pretty much experienced everything you have so far. Hot showers makes it worse while cold compression/showers are magic. Same with pepperminty shampoo and oils. Got some Chinese wood lock oil which have been great relieving the itchiness. Glad to see it ended for you. Looking forward to the next 4 weeks for me!
Julie | 6th Aug 21
I’m glad you found remedies to help with the itch. Thanks for sharing those with us! Yeah, this itch is ungodly but everyday is a step closer to the end. Best of luck to you!
Amy | 13th Aug 21
I do have a histamine intolerance – I’ve had it since I was a teenager – and have been on allergy meds my entire adult life. Several years back, my MD switched me over to Xyzal because my body had now built up an immunity to all of the other standard medicinal histamine treatments. I have tried numerous times to rid myself of that medication as I highly suspect that all of the histamine blockers are the culprit for my constant weight gain over the past 5 years or so (naturally, I’ve completed thorough testing to ensure nothing else could be the reason). I’ve done the tapering down process to quit each time, and the ‘crawling bugs’ always arrive by Day 2. I’ve not been able to make it more than 10 days of the severe itching before I’ve become totally deranged. This time, I must come off of it, I have to do it quickly, and there is no option but success, so I wanted to thank you for very much for posting your article with tips and tricks so that I can be assured that patience and perseverance will get me to the other side. I’ve already ordered all of the helpful items you recommended such as the body scrubber and the lotion to help alleviate the symptoms. Thank you again for taking the time to do post this!!
Julie | 13th Aug 21
Best of luck to you. It’s a horrible withdrawal. You can do this! 🙂
Lukas | 28th Sep 21
quertecin will help too. you have to do frequent dosing. get a good brand. dose every 2-3h at roughly 500mg at a time.
Julie | 28th Sep 21
Thanks for the tip. I’ve tried Quertecin in the past but might not have taken enough of it to feel the benefits. Thanks!
Adrian O’Farrill | 25th Nov 21
I’m so glad I found this blog. Im so incredibly miserable right now on day 5. Even the inside of my mouth itches… I stopped cold turkey after almost 10 years of use. Im taking it like a marathon, and looking forward to the finish line but I know it’s going to be misery until then. Im so frustrated that there was no warning and my doctor doesn’t even know what I’m talking about 🙁
Julie | 25th Nov 21
Not many people know about the effects of withdrawing from long term use of antihistamines. And it’s frustrating thinking that you are alone. You’re not! You can get through this! 🙂
Dale Antonik | 3rd Dec 21
I too am trying to rid zyrtec of my system. Been taking for approximately 6 months. I am trying the weaning route. Hopefully that will work. Trying to be patient!
Julie | 3rd Dec 21
I truly believe that weaning off is the best route. Best of luck to you!
Mim | 6th Dec 21
Zyrtec caused my left ear to lose hearing. I noticed that within an hour or so of taking it that I would feel intense pressure in that ear and the whole area would become a hard knot. This all began over two years ago when I began taking it daily. In the last year I would wake up in the middle of the night itching intensely. Taking my morning pill took the itch away but then my ear would hurt. I am on day six of the itchy withdrawal slog and my hearing has begun to return in that ear. The hard painful areas have begun to soften and I have a very foul taste in my mouth, but I can hear again. It has helped make this hell of withdrawal worth it. The hives are the worst. I wake up at night freaking out that bugs are crawling on me. It has been terrible! Why are there no warnings on these medications?
Julie | 6th Dec 21
Wow, you’ve been through a lot with Zyrtec! I don’t understand either why there are no warnings on these drugs. Clearly they cause problems for so many people. I wish you the best of luck through your withdrawal. Glad you got your hearing back!
Kat | 12th Jan 22
I’m on day 5 of Zyrtec withdrawal (which I didn’t even know existed) I’ve been taking it for a year and a half and I decided to go off it since it’s not ragweed season or Spring pollen season yet and wanted to see if I did okay in the winter without a daily allergy pill. I’m so itchy all over. Even my ears, face, throat, and feet are itchy. I want to cave and take a Zyrtec but then I’d have to start all over.
Julie | 12th Jan 22
It is torture but you can get through this! After a few weeks, I took a half of a Benadryl just to take the edge off. Benadryl is not known to be habit forming, and it helps. Best of luck to you!
Alyssa | 17th Jan 22
I’ve been trying to stop taking Zyrtec for many years. In the winter when my allergies are non-existent, I resigned myself to just taking 1/2 tablet daily, but would someday like to quit completely. I’m currently on week 1 of 1/4 tablet, but I already feel itchy. An the full-blown itchiness is just.. torture. I can mentally handle the itchiness that occurs all over my body when I’m sedentary, however, when I exercise at all and begin to work up a sweat, my skin gets flooded with histamines and the itch is so painful that it feels like my skin is literally burning off. I wish I could just stop and take a month off of life but I have a very active lifestyle: exercise regularly, have a super active dog that requires daily walks/hikes, and I’m on my feet running around at work all day too. I work in the medical field (ICU nurse) and not a single person I mention this to has any idea that it’s a thing. It’s just baffling.
Julie | 18th Jan 22
I agree. And the allergist I went to see (as I am still itching a bit even a year after being off zyrtec) didn’t have any clear cut answers. I’ve had the best luck with Benadryl (with breakthrough itching) as it doesn’t seem to have any withdrawal symptoms. First generation antihistamines like Benadryl, don’t cross the blood-brain barrier. They make you sleepy but have worked better for me. Maybe you can take a 1/2 Benadryl just to be able to work and exercise. I believe I’ve also developed Dermatographia, or skin writing, from this whole mess. Zyrtec really messed me up. Best of luck to you! Let us know if you find a miracle treatment!
Jessica | 31st Jan 22
Three years ago decided to cold turkey with no knowledge that withdrawal from Z was thing. Oh. My. Goodness! Had no idea what was going on, covered in hives, went to the urgent care, they had no clue, gave me steroids. After the hives came back, my brain said ‘take an allergy med’ and the hives went away. That’s when I knew what was happening. I started a very slow wean. For a year (yes, a year), I took a Z every other day. The next year, I took one twice a week. Now, I’m on once a week. The day before Z day, I still get the hives. Albeit, smaller ones that the initial attack in 2018. Fingers crossed that as the year progresses the histamine response lessens and I’ll be Z free in 2023.
Julie | 1st Feb 22
I really like your approach to the withdrawal. Slow is good! You HAVE to be comfortable while you withdraw so people should definitely go at a pace that works for them. Thanks for sharing your story! Best of luck 🙂
Pam | 20th Feb 22
I quit 3 days ago and I am also microdosing with THC at night to force some sleep. I think THC has some great anti inflammatory properties. I’ve also been avoiding sugar because that raises inflammation which leads to itching. I’ve also been taking a supplement containing Bromelain, and a bunch of stuff (opti-recovery from vitanica) so far the itching has been super mild thank goodness.
Julie | 20th Feb 22
Sounds like you’re on a great plan. Thanks for sharing! Best of luck 🙂
Susan | 25th Feb 22
As a Hospice nurse, I contracted scabies mites (a skin infection) from a patient that I was caring for. The itching and discomfort was intense, especially at night and the psychological effects were debilitating. It took 3 months to finally rid myself of the infestation. In addition to treatment with Permethrin, a limited course of steroids and Ivermectin, I was prescribed double doses of various oral antihistamines (Allegre, Zyzal, Zyrtec) to relieve the symptoms of what is known as “post-scabies”, which was basically more intense itching and hives! I could take Benadryl 50 mgs as needed. Apparently it takes as many as 6 weeks after being “cured” for your body to work through the remaining allergens left by the mites under your skin. It has been 5 months now and every time I try to stop taking Zyrtec (which is promoted as being the best to control hives) I start having the same symptoms that others have described…..hives, horrible itching and pure misery. Since these are the same symptoms of the original infection, it has been extremely difficult trying to believe that I am cured of the original infection. Ice packs work, as does Clobetasol ointment. Coincidentally, I am scheduled for knee replacement surgery in 5 weeks, so have decided to continue taking 2 tabs of Zyrtec 10 mg every night until after the surgery and subsequent PT. Despite my dermatologist downplaying my experience and symptoms, I feel encouraged after reading this blog, as I now understand why I’m having these symptoms. It is unconcionable that this is not widely known. As soon as I can, I plan to titrate the dose as described by Jessica (over a very long period of time) and am already supplementing with Quercetin/Bromelain (like Lukas and Pam) I will look into taking THC. Thanks!
Julie | 25th Feb 22
Good call to wait on withdrawal until after your surgery and to do it slowly! Thanks for commenting. Best of luck to you!
Nicki | 15th Mar 22
So glad I found this article! I was on Costco generic Zyrtec for so many years, I’ve lost count! Maybe 10? I have tried many times to get off it bc I hate taking a pill everyday when I don’t know if it’s helping anything.Every time I made it to 24 hours I would get rashy and itchy, which made me believe that I must have horrible allergies and so I’d pop a Zyrtec and then be fine! Today was day 5 of going off cold turkey, because I’m getting allergy skin testing done and it was a requirement to be off all allergy meds. Each day has been worse than the day prior. This morning I made the mistake of taking a warm/hot shower….that kicked off a 3 hour long burning hell all over my body! I had to call in sick to work because I was crying, scratching, and wriggling in pain. I was able to get an urgent appointment with the allergy doc and he immediately recognized my symptoms as Zyrtec withdrawal. I was shocked! Why is this not listed on the bottle?! Finding this article makes me feel sane…no one around me can feel how this feels, even though they see the red blotches, it doesn’t look as bad as it feels. As Susan said, this feels similar to scabies mites, which I have had years ago. The intensity/severity of this itch is just like scabies. But the locations are not as isolated as scabies. Susan, I’m sure you have ptsd from scabies, but I assure you that those damn bugs are gone and this is a different beast! I hope you can find a way off Zyrtec and then in time be completely itch free! I’m taking the advice from this article, nothing but cold showers til this is over…and I’m going to make it to the finish line this time!! I filed my fingernails down to nubs because I was starting to claw at myself but I don’t want to hurt myself. It’s preventing me from breaking the skin, so I offer that as my advice to others. Best of luck everyone!
Julie | 20th Mar 22
I feel for your misery! Withdrawal from Zyrtec was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Best of luck.
Tidy | 19th Mar 22
I recently (literally yesterday) discovered about Zyrtec withdrawals. I’ve been taking allergy medicine for over 20 years now. Initially it was Claritin, and eventually switched to Zyrtec when I felt that Claritin didn’t work as well. There were moments in the past where my skin would constantly itch and I did not know why. I thought because it itched, I needed to take Zyrtec to get rid of the itch (which it appears to have worked). So it’s a circle of constantly having to take it, and yet, I didn’t have the slightest idea getting off Zyrtec was the direct cause. Now I want to plan and get off this ridiculous medicine. I’m glad it worked out for you, but my question for you and other allergy sufferers out there, is that once you are off Zyrtec, what are you doing now, or planning to do to alleviate the other allergies problems that we suffered before Zyrtec? Go back to Claritin and hope for the best, or something else. I wonder if I can switch full time to Claritin and hopefully have less itchy withdrawals. I’ve tried that before without knowing, and always switched back to Zyrtec because I ‘thought’ it worked better due to the itchy skin issue. Anyway, good luck to all who goes through this. They really should stop selling Zyrtec, or have this printed on the box. Worst is that I also have my son on Zyrtec, and I’m at a loss for what he will have to go through as well to get off this.
Julie | 20th Mar 22
Read up on the difference between first generation H1-antihistamines (diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and hydroxyzine (Vistaril/Atarax) and second generation H1-antihistamines (fexofenadine (Allegra), loratidine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec)). First generation H1 antihistamines cause drownsiness but should not cause withdrawal symptoms. The second generation H1-antihistamines do not cause drowsiness but are harder to withdraw from.
I take Benadryl from time to time to help with allergies. I may get drowsy but I just deal with it. On the occasion I’ve taken an Allegra, I will itch again after 24 hours of the dose. I have now vowed to NEVER take another second generation H1-antihistamine again. I can’t go through another withdrawal.
Best of luck to you!!
Courtney | 13th Apr 22
Has anyone else experienced heightened anxiety or depression while getting off of Zyrtec? I quit cold turkey after being on it for at least 15 straight years. I quit 1.5 months ago. Still itching….but I’m super depressed and having the worst panic attacks ever.
Evelyn | 17th Apr 22
I am experiencing anxiety real bad right now. I took Zyrtec for about 3 months and quit cold turkey because it was causing my heart to race and I couldn’t sleep. I’m in week 2 of the anxiety and it is terrible. I don’t know what to do about it. Been to doctors and hospital. Found nothing wrong with me and I told them about stopping Zyrtec and they say they never heard of anyone having withdrawal or anxiety by quitting Zyrtec. I can’t function going through this anxiety. Anything I can do to stop the anxiety? Please help!
Ann | 19th Apr 22
Courtney, oh you poor thing! I have been on Zyrtec daily for 12 years for allergies and itchy rash. Decided 4 months ago to come off it. Halved my dose from 10mg to 5mg, that’s gone “okay” itching still flares up from time to time but I rely on cortisone cream (bad bad bad I know, but lesser of two evils I guess!).
Trying to eliminate artificial additives in processed foods and increasing my protein intake have helped my skin recover much better.
My plan is to reduce to 2.5mg in the next couple of months (wintertime in Australia) so that in spring I will be able to come off it completely.
Having been dependent for so long I know it will be a slow process but I’m willing to tough it out.
Had a tough time over Christmas with anxiety which is somewhat better now, maybe the tapering of the drug has brought it on.
Hope you all are doing well!
Brent | 26th Apr 22
I’ve been taking Zyrtec daily for almost 10 years. I don’t necessarily take it for allergies, but for silent reflux. It helps keep the drainage to a minimum, and I found it to be a great relief when I was diagnosed in 2012. About 7 years ago, I decided to quit cold turkey. I had terrible itching for about a week, but it went away. I eventually started back on the Zyrtec when the reflux drainage got worse. I quit cold turkey after about two years, and had NO side effects! Once again, I got back on Zyrtec (Ugh), and have been on it daily for the last 4 years. Since that time, I have steadily gained about 30 lbs, and have constant tiredness and brain fog. (I am a healthy 37 y/o male). I’ve had multiple tests done (thyroid, blood sugar, etc.), and the doctors don’t know what caused the weight gain. I began reading that Zyrtec could be the cause, so I have decided to quit once and for all. I started weaning today (1/2 dose), and 5 hours later I’m already feeling the itch. I’m hoping that it won’t last long, and I will be able to see if the Zyrtec has contributed to the unexplained weight gain!
BARBARA | 20th May 22
Thank you for this blog. Well done you! I too have been experiencing the itching and the anxiety and the depression when trying to quit.
I have been taking Cetirizine (Zyrtec) for at least 10 years now. I have tried to quit a few times with no success. Then about 4 weeks ago, I tried a new shampoo “free from parabens and sulfates”, supposedly “natural” and discovered I was allergic to one of its ingredients (cocamidopropolyl betaine). My scalp, my ears (even inside), my mouth and throat, my eyes were itching like hell. I decided to try another antihistamin called “fexofenydril”. After a week I felt wheezy and my tongue felt a bit swollen. I think I was allergic to this fexofenydril too. I think I now have developped an intolerance to any antihistamin but if I don’t take any Zyrtecat all, the itching is horrible. I tried 1/2 every 2 days but last night I gave in and took a whole Zyrtec. I slept really well but in the morning felt horrible. Really tired, dizzy and skin tingling. Eyes and hairline still itching a bit. Because I had Covid beginning of April, I have been taking supplements to build my immunity, it has a lot of Vitamin C, zinc and selenium. Plus I take Vitamin D. They all help a bit. I am going to try weaning off Zyrtec slowly, 1/2 a dose then less, have ordered supplement with quercetin and beta glucan alongside the vitamins A, C, and D, and the minerals selenium and zinc. I AM DETERMINED THIS TIME I WILL BEAT IT.
What I don’t get is WHY doctors are not aware of this. WHY can you buy Zyrtec and other antihistamins at the supermarket in the UK and the US. In France you need a prescription. There are articles about how Zyrtec creates this “addiction” due to the itching also in the French press but again, NO study and NO WARNING on the labels in France either.
I wonder has anyone tried Homeopathy?
Tatiana S Cupello | 14th Jun 22
I am on Vistaril withdrawal , It is a first antihistamine generatiion. I took it for only 1 month but It is hell. Especially my eyes are itching like crazy. Feels like there is glass inside my eyes. I could not taper it off because I developed chronic cough as a side effect. I switched to allegra, which is also cetirizine to be able to taper off. But I am scared as hell to become addicted to it too. Really dont know what to do. I am also on Trazadone for insomnia and just found out that not only blocks serotonin receptors but also H1 and since I have been taking it for 2 years probably that is why my CNS is so sensitive and I am experiencing vistaril withdrawal, despite the fact that I only took a small dose for just 1 month. I feel overwhelmed because I started taking vistaril first place as a bridge to opioid withdrawal, as it put me in deep inssomnia.
Julie | 16th Jun 22
Thanks for sharing your story. I feel for you! I hope your doctors can help. Best of luck 🙂
Maryam | 27th Jul 22
Thank you for writing this article, it makes me feel like I’m not alone in this and there are a lot of people going through the same problem. I’ve been taking Zyrtec for years and it got to the point that it’s not even helping anymore so I decided to quit it. I’ve always wanted to quit it before but I never got the courage to do it but this time I felt like this it. Anyways so like everyone the first week was the worst, sometimes I couldn’t even carry a slightly heavy grocery bag or my hand would get puffy. When I reached the 3rd week the itchiness started disappearing but I started getting allergy symptoms like coughing and chest tightness( difficulty breathing). So I’m wondering if anyone went through that and what helped?
Julie | 27th Jul 22
I never went through coughing or chest tightness. Could it be due to seasonal allergies? Best of luck to you on your journey. It sucks but it feels so good to be Zyrtec free!
Barbara | 29th Jul 22
Hi I do get cough and slightly weezy a bit. I am only at approx. day 50 of slowly removing bits from the 10mg tablet. I am taking 3/4 at the moment.
I wanted to mention to you guys based in the States, that I have seen that there is a Class Action. Unfortunately, I am in the UK.
Here is the link http://www.floodlawgroup.com/zyrtec-withdrawal-lawyers/
Worth looking at it?
Also, I found a free meditation(if you are into that) that has helped me: Allergy Relief Hypnosis for Allergies by Jay Corbett on YouTube. I was surprised how good the results were.
Julie | 29th Jul 22
Thanks for the information!
Brent | 29th Jul 22
I just wanted to follow up to my earlier post. I had tried to quit taking Zyrtec cold turkey, and that went terrible. The next time, I cut one in half for 3 days. The itching was there, but not unbearable. After 3 days, I quit. I then took Claritin for 3 days. (I found this method on a Google search) I stopped the Claritin after 3 days, and there was no itching! That was in April, and I’ve felt great ever since. It went much better than when I quit the first time years ago. I have also dropped 10 lbs. since I quit in April. I’m thinking it’s because my appetite has decreased significantly, but I also read that Zyrtec from hinder fat burning. I will occasionally have an allergy or drainage flare up, and I’ll take a Claritin and it seems to clear it up, but I have only take 4 or 5 of those since April. I hope this approach helps someone else!
Julie | 29th Jul 22
Thanks for letting us know what worked for you. Glad to know you are doing so well post Zyrtec!
Barbara | 12th Sep 22
Hello, my experience after reading Brent’s message: I took 1/2 Zyrtec for 3 days, then 1/2 a Claritin for 3 days. Then I went cold turkey. For about a week scalp, eyes, arms were itching a lot and all in all it took 2 weeks. I have been taking quercetin from citoplan.co.uk, called AllerG. What has helped a LOT was the meditation. I found two: both on Youtube, Allergy Relief Hypnosis for Allergies by Jay Corbett and this one https://youtu.be/knweG6OLtQg Meditation to Heal Allergies: Based on the teachings of Joe Dispenza, it’s shorter so I did it every morning and every time I couldn’t overcome the itching. Really helped.
I have now been free from Zyrtec for 4 or 5 weeks. I feel my body is detoxing, I have been more stressed and have had spots (acne?) I am pretty sure it’s my body getting rid of those chemicals. I am proud of myself. 😉
Julie | 12th Sep 22
So glad for you Barbara! Thanks for sharing what worked for you!
Roni Wise | 20th Sep 22
I developed Urticaria for unknown reasons and was advised by my Allergist to take Zyrtec increasing the dose up to 60mg a day. The hives did go away after 3-5 months, but having misunderstood I was taking 4 pills 2x a day (80mg). Weight gain was my reason to stop Zyrtec. My allergist then started to wean me from Zyrtec by halving the dose. I was taking 30mg am and 1 Allegra at night for the past month. I then had to take Prednisone for complete relief, as well as Synalar ointment with Cereve cream. I also used 2% Hydrocortisone ointment to my face and scalp. Its been absolute hell, and The headache that feels like a migraine has also been intense, but is improving a bit each day, along with sleep and weight loss.
Tammy | 28th Sep 22
I have often wondered if Zyrtec addiction was possible, but the relief I felt after taking it always outweighed anything else when it comes to my chronic urticaria and 100s of allergies. I am now pregnant with my first child and have been on Zyrtec for years so I worry about the baby developing some sort of dependency or lack of histamines due to my continued use, even though my midwife and doctor both say it is fine to take. I am going to start the tapering so that it’s not a complete shock to our systems, but appreciate everyone’s stories here!
Julie | 10th Nov 22
I’m on day 6 of no Zyrtec after a couple weeks of tapering. My last dose was 1/4 of a pill. I’ve been eliminating foods for months trying to figure out what was causing the itch. My mom is going through the same thing. I started taking the Zyrtec about 8 years ago when I became itchy and a friend with dermatographia recommended it. Recently though, I was reading up about chronic urticaria and an article mentioned the typical duration is less than a year, so this eight year itch situation didn’t make much sense to me. I’ve never eaten more clean or been in better shape than I am now, so I decided to test out the Zyrtec withdrawal theory. Days 3-4 were the worst. I used a hair dryer to blast the itchy spots. I used to use this method for poison oak back when I was bad at avoiding it on hikes. I know for some people the heat made things worse, but I find that if I bring the area to the point of pain without burning it provides a couple hours of relief. In the shower I bring the water to almost scalding and then all the way down to cold and the few hours after are the longest periods of relief. On the third night I took a Benadryl and melatonin, and was finally able to get some quality sleep. Every day since then the itch has subsided more and more. Hopefully in a week it’ll be even less and this whole ordeal will be done and the mystery of the itch solved. I will for sure report back because these comment threads of fellow sufferers are the only things that give me hope.
J | 5th Dec 22
My child has been on Zyrtec since infancy due to asthma and all sorts of allergies. I want to take him off of it but I don’t know how to manage environmental and seasonal allergies without it. How do you manage seasonal allergies now? Thanks for the insight as to what he will experience during withdrawal.
Julie | 5th Dec 22
I only take Benadryl when I need an antihistamine. Yes, it will likely make me sleepy, but I don’t experience withdrawal symptoms after taking it. Some do ok taking Allegra or Claritin, but I stick with Benadryl. Best of luck to you!
Michael | 20th Dec 22
Very informative article AND comments here below. I was diagnosed with Alpha Gal Syndrome this year in May, and for the hives and reactions I got then, I started taking Zyrtec mostly because of no drowsy thing. I never researched between 1st and 2nd generation back them. I was told by an allergist to take 2 Zrtyec a day from May to August where i went down to one pill – and then in September, i was told to stop. Well, I tried – the itching was too bad and i had work things come up SO here i am in December 5 days into cold turkey and the ITCH & HIVES are really bad. Three nights of practically no sleep. MEH, anyway – glad i found this article for the many ways I can try to find a fix and a way to stay Z free. Many thanks to you and all who wrote comment ideas above..
Julie | 20th Dec 22
Best of luck to your during this very difficult withdrawal! It does get easier. Hang in there! 🙂
Meghan | 25th Dec 22
I’m incredibly thankful that I found this page. It kept me grounded and sane as I went through my painfully itchy month from hell withdrawing from Zyrtec. It also gave me something to share with my PCP, who is an open-minded FNP. At first I thought that the bumpy hives were athlete’s foot because they started on my feet- three days after stopping Zyrtec, which I thought still could have been a coincidence… at first. As it spread, I thought maybe poison ivy. Finally, as nothing was working to treat either, my husband said it looked like hives. And it clicked. This was about a week after stopping the Zyrtec. The next day I had an appointment with my PCP to have a biopsy of the rash. She said she had never seen anything like it and could not readily identify it. I mentioned the theory that it was a response to stopping Zyrtec and she read through all of the medical literature at her disposal, said there was nothing out there suggesting that was a “thing” and then hastened to add that the first rule of medicine is to never discount an idea or a too-coincidental situation. She actually mentioned writing a paper if we were able to conclusively prove this as an issue, and at the very least, if it ever happened to another patient, she could give them better guidance. She prescribed me an oral and topical steroid. I’m kind of a PITA about taking meds, especially one that kills your immune system during flu season, so I opted to only use the topical. It helped.
The results of the biopsy were that I was having an eczamous response to either a medication or an arachnid bite. Zyrtec theory still held strong.
As I said, the comments here were helpful because it gave me strength in my resolve, and I knew that if it was a Zyrtec withdrawal, it was a matter of time and patience. Here we are a month later and my body looks mostly healed. What a relief!
Now about writing that paper.
Julie | 26th Dec 22
Sounds like a wonderful NP! Keep us updated on that paper! 🙂
Jessica | 31st Dec 22
I went through this a few years ago. It was torture that lasted over a month. Allergist seemed to not believe a zyrtec withdrawal even existed. Months later I went back on it due to severe seasonal allergies. What will be your course of action if you develop seasonal allergies?
Stephen | 17th Jan 23
Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences! I stopped taking cetirizine a couple days ago and now I have an explanation for why I’m so itchy!
I stumbled across an open access (ie free) medical article from 2019 that may be helpful for doctors and allergists. It’s titled “Pruritus after discontinuation of cetirizine” and is available at:
Debbie | 19th Jan 23
I have been on Zyrtec for years. The last 4 weeks I have some serious sinus issues that led to an infection. Receiving antibiotics, I decided to stop the zyrtec while taking the antibiotic.24 hours off zyrtec and hadn’t started the antibiotics. I noticed my lips felt strange almost to a chapped lip feeling. My tongue felt about the same. I had never had this feeling so I held off on the antibiotic until I could figure this out. Maybe I ate something to hot or to spicy. I hadn’t, but maybe.. by day 2 I felt like my body was like bugs crawling on me. I’d scratch, I had gotten even more congested. Still holding on taking the antibiotic. The bug feeling became a cold tingle. I felt like I was having allergic reactions because I hadn’t taken the zyrtec for 4 days. Never dreamed it was a withdrawal from zyrtec. The 5th day the tingling of my tongue and lips was gone. 6th day the same. Felt pretty good. My allergies seemed to fade. Now day 9 and the tongue and lip thing was back. Body tingles back. I was getting worried maybe it was something more serious. I called the clinical nurse at my Doctor’s office. I explained to her my symptoms and my concern it may not be my allergies but something more serious. I told her I hadn’t started the antibiotics yet because of this. So no new meds recently and I had stopped my zyrtec. She asked how long had I been off the zyrtec. I told her about 10 days. And she told me that stopping zyrtec abruptly could have caused all these symptoms. That it was more of a withdrawal. So I am to monitor my symptoms and call if things get worse. She said sometimes it could last 6 weeks. Ok, so I am shocked. I decided to Google withdrawals of zyrtec. And oh wow… I found this page and read most of the comments. I feel so much better mentally now. I am not alone in this..
deedee | 5th Feb 23
4.5 years of Zyrtec use. Zombified, weight gain, joint and muscle pain, etc. for 4.5 years but didn’t realize until I accidentally missed a dose. Day 6 of withdrawal severe itching. Tylenol takes the edge off a little but doesn’t last. But I just found a godsend: Dermoplast First Aid spray!!! Spray on the really tough spots. Stops itch almost immediately. Ice packs help as well for general itching. THC just made me not care as much that I itched but didn’t take it away. Take Benadryl at night to help get sleep.
Rita Fricke | 21st Feb 23
I am going through similar withdrawal symptoms, but it’s not from Zyrtec it’s from claritin. I’ve been taking it for many many years and decided to stop when I heard that it has bad effects on the brain. The itching has been terrible and I just wanted to warn people that are substituting Claritin for Zyrtec that they may want to reconsider, as they might be going through another withdrawal if they decide to stop taking the Claritin.
Julie | 21st Feb 23
Thanks for letting us know! 🙂
Ivy | 25th Feb 23
OMG!!! It’s so hard to heal when the pharmaceutical industry is just making things worse!
I developed chronic hives about 6 months ago. At first, I’d break out in response to heat or severe stress. Then also alcohol, pressure. After a couple of months, my husband asked a pharmacist what the best options were and came home with zyrtec and a steroid cream. I really didn’t want to use either so I just left them in the cupboard.
But then coming home from dinner with friends, with a few glasses of wine into me, I decided to take a pill in the hopes that I wouldn’t wake up covered in hives.
It worked. And for about a week, the hives didn’t return. When they did, I took another pill, thinking that one a week wouldn’t be too harmful.
But then they started only working for 5 days, 3 days, 2 days, until I was taking one a day. And then I started still breaking out on one a day.
I decided to stop taking them and after 2 or 3 days I was in hell, covered in hives and also experiencing a newer symptom, localized swelling. So itchy I just wanted to scratch my skin off, so itchy I was on the point of insanity.
So I went to a naturopath who recommended weaning off it, while taking quercetin, nettle tea and etc. and following a low-histamine diet. So that’s where I am right now. I would love to never take another zyrtec but I don’t think I can put myself through that agony again.
Ann | 26th Feb 23
I’m going off Zytec for the second time as it was the only allergy medication that did not make me sleepy. Allergies were terrible but I’ve moved so am now off it for good. I ITCH. I knew I would, I was warned the first time, but itching inside the nostrils, inside the ears, even my tongue and roof of my mouth as well as all over outside, especially arms, back, sides, legs…..eye brows itch so much I worry I will itch the hair off! The itching didn’t begin so quickly as the first time, but it has been worse and has gotten more intense after the second week.
ANYONE gone through this a second time? How long did it take?
Ayla | 11th May 23
Thank you for sharing your experiences. Text you copy will automatically show hereYou’ve helped identify what has been plaguing my autistic child. We have started tapering the dose and using Benadryl to help with withdrawal itching between doses.
Currently down to 5mg every 3 days. I’ve bought liquid cetirizine and syringes to measure the smaller doses for when the time comes.
Because of my kid’s disabilities going cold turkey is not an option. The screaming and visibly red skin is terrible to witness when the withdrawal symptoms start.
Poor kid has been suffering for nearly 3 years. There is no warning on the packaging here in the UK.
Julie | 11th May 23
I’m so glad this helped! Best of luck to you and your child. I hope their withdrawal is over soon! 🙂
BK | 23rd May 23
Thank you for sharing your story! My daughter was on Zyrtec for a year & I stopped giving it to her a few weeks ago because I didn’t think she needed it anymore. My poor baby was itching for three days & we couldn’t figure out why… then I realized that whenever I would forget my own dose (I’ve been on Zyrtec for a decade) I would get very itchy. Since cutting her off I started tapering my dose & currently in on day four, I almost gave in today! I’m miserable but it’s nice to know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Both of my parents have been taking Zyrtec for over a decade & I’m not sure if I should tell them, but I would like to before they become too old to wean themselves off or suffer by forgetting to take it. It’s such an awful thing to become dependent on a medication that causes this type of reaction, especially OTC. I hope to be free of it soon.
Julie | 23rd May 23
A box of Zyrtec should carry warning labels all over it. It’s so unfortunate that it causes crippling dependence and terrible withdrawal. Thanks for sharing. Best of luck to all of you! 🙂
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