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Is Hydroxyzine Effective for the Treatment of Allergies?

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Updated October 31, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Is Hydroxyzine Effective for the Treatment of Allergies?
Answer: Hydroxyzine is a first-generation, sedating antihistamine, which means it has similar side effects to Benadryl. It is marketed under the brand names Atarax and Vistaril, but is also available in generic form. Hydroxyzine was originally developed as a sedative during the 1950’s, but was found to have significant antihistamine properties.

Hydroxyzine is commonly prescribed for the treatment of various allergic conditions, particularly hives, but is also commonly used to treat itching, anxiety, insomnia, as well as nausea and vomiting. The dose of hydroxyzine depends on the condition being treated, although a common dose is 25 to 50 milligrams every six hours. Hydroxyzine is also used for children, although the dose is calculated based on a child’s weight.

The active metabolite of hydroxyzine is cetirizine (Zyrtec), which is available over-the-counter as a low-sedating antihistamine. The active isomer of cetirizine is levocetirizine (Xyzal), which is available only by prescription, but has recently become available in generic form.

These medications are better for the treatment of allergic rhinitis than hydroxyzine, based on few side effects and longer duration of action, and are also effective for the treatment of hives and itching. Zyrtec and Xyzal are not effective for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia or nausea and vomiting. Despite hydroxyzine being a 50-year-old medication, it still has benefit for the treatment of various medical conditions.

Learn more about antihistamines.

Sources:

De Vos Ch, Bachert C. Business and Science: A Partnership for the Benefit of Allergic Patients. Clin Exp Allergy Rev. 2006;6:25-29.

DuBuske LM. Clinical Comparison of Histamine H1-Receptor Antagonist Drugs. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1996;98:S307-18.

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