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What to know about Zyrtec withdrawal

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Withdrawal symptomsDuration Treatment optionsTapering offAlternative treatmentsSpeaking with a doctorSummary
Zyrtec is an over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine that may cause intense itching as a withdrawal symptom. Several home remedies can help ease symptoms, such as applying a cool compress.
Medically reviewed by Alyssa Peckham, PharmD, BCPP
Written by Mathieu Rees
Updated on

Zyrtec is a second-generation antihistamine medication, also known by its generic name, cetirizine. It’s available OTC and helps treat allergy symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, and a runny nose.

Zyrtec works by stopping the effects of histamine, a chemical that causes allergy symptoms, in the body.

But stopping Zyrtec can cause withdrawal symptoms, like rebound allergies and itchy skin. Tapering off the medication may help lower the risk or severity of these withdrawal symptoms.

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What are the withdrawal symptoms of Zyrtec?

Withdrawal symptoms may occur when you stop taking certain medications. This is because the body can form a dependence on the drug. This, in turn, may lead to physical and psychological symptoms if you suddenly stop the drug.

A 2016 study suggests that stopping Zyrtec might lead to intense itching (pruritus). The study found 12 cases of intense itching after stopping the antihistamine.

A 2019 study found 146 cases of pruritus in people who stopped Zyrtec since 2008. But both studies suggest that this withdrawal symptom is rare.

As Zyrtec is an anti-allergy medication, you may also develop rebound allergies when you stop taking it. It’s important to know that allergy symptoms can come back if you do not replace Zyrtec with a different anti-allergy medication.

For some people, allergy symptoms may be more common when the pollen count is high.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), seasonal allergies can cause the following symptoms:

  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • a runny nose
  • itching in the eyes, nose, mouth, or throat

How long does Zyrtec withdrawal last?

There’s limited research on how long itching from Zyrtec withdrawal can last. The duration can also be different for each person.

Rebound allergies after Zyrtec withdrawal can last for any length of time. If you take Zyrtec for long-term (chronic) allergies, your symptoms might last for weeks at a time. They might also go away temporarily before coming back at a later date.

If withdrawal symptoms, such as itching, are affecting your day-to-day life, consider speaking with a healthcare professional. They can recommend treatment options that can help ease symptoms and provide relief.

How to get over Zyrtec withdrawal

Someone passing a cold compress to another person.
Boogich/Getty Images

As there have been rare cases of Zyrtec withdrawal, scientists are still working to determine the best way to stop withdrawal symptoms. But a 2016 study suggests that corticosteroids may help with itching from Zyrtec withdrawal.

A common example of a corticosteroid is hydrocortisone (Cortef). Usually, a doctor will only prescribe this medication if your symptoms are severe and lead to further complications.

According to a 2018 review, there’s no standard form of treatment for itching. But anecdotal evidence suggests that some home remedies might help. These include:

  • maintaining hydrated skin
  • applying a cool and wet compress to the skin
  • taking a lukewarm bath

Why is it important to gradually taper off the medication?

Slowly tapering off Zyrtec may help lower the risk of developing withdrawal symptoms, such as intense itching. This is because it allows your body some time to adjust, which may help reduce symptoms.

If you’re taking Zyrtec and wish to stop it, consider speaking with a healthcare professional. They can advise you on the best way to come off the medication and avoid possible side effects.

Alternative treatment options

Several other antihistamine medications are available that can help with allergy symptoms. These medications include OTC options, such as:

In severe cases, a healthcare professional may suggest prescription-only medications, such as:

When to speak with a doctor

If you’re experiencing intense itching after Zyrtec withdrawal, consider speaking with a doctor about how best to manage this symptom.

It’s also advisable to contact a doctor if you experience any side effects from Zyrtec use. These include:

  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • tiredness
  • inflammation of the back of the throat
  • dry mouth

A doctor may also recommend some prescription antihistamines if OTC alternatives aren’t working.


Zyrtec is an antihistamine medication that can help ease allergy symptoms. If you stop taking this medication suddenly, there’s a small risk of developing intense itching. Some research suggests that tapering off Zyrtec can help lower the chance of this occurring.

If you stop taking Zyrtec, it’s possible that your allergy symptoms may return. In this instance, taking an alternative OTC may help. You may also consider contacting a doctor. They may recommend prescription antihistamines.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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