Anti-Itch Drugs

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Anti-Itch Drugs



Anti-itch drugs are medicines taken by mouth or by injection to relieve itching.


The medicine described here, hydroxyzine, is a type of antihistamine used to relieve itching caused by allergic reactions. An allergic reaction occurs when the body is unusually sensitive to some substance, such as pollen, dust, mold, or certain foods or medicine. The body reacts by releasing a chemical called histamine that causes itching and other symptoms, such as sneezing and watery eyes. Antihistamines reduce the symptoms by blocking the effects of histamine.
Hydroxyzine is also prescribed for anxiety and to help people relax before or after having general anesthesia.


Anti-itch drugs, also called antipruritic drugs, are available only with a physician's prescription and come in tablet and injectable forms. Some commonly used brands of the anti-itch drug hydroxyzine are Atarax and Vistaril.

Recommended dosage

When prescribed for itching, the usual dosage for adults is 25 mg, three to four times a day. For children over six years of age, the usual dosage 50-100 mg per day, divided into several small doses. The usual dosage for children under six years of age is 50 mg per day, divided into several small doses.
The dosage may be different for different people. Check with the physician who prescribed the drug or the pharmacist who filled the prescription for the correct dosage, and take the medicine exactly as directed.


This medicine should not be used for more than four months at a time because its effects can wear off. See a physician regularly while taking the medicine to determine whether it is still needed.
Hydroxyzine may add to the effects of alcohol and other drugs that slow down the central nervous system, such as other antihistamines, cold medicine, allergy medicine, sleep aids, medicine for seizures, tranquilizers, some pain relievers, and muscle relaxants. Anyone taking hydroxyzine should not drink alcohol and should check with his or her physician before taking any of the above.
Some people feel drowsy or less alert when using this medicine. Anyone who takes it should not drive, use machines, or do anything else that might be dangerous until they have found out how the drugs affect them.
Anyone who has had unusual reactions to hydroxyzine in the past should let his or her physician know before taking the medicine again. The physician should also be told about any allergies to foods, dyes, preservatives, or other substances.

Key terms

Anesthesia — Treatment with medicine that causes a loss of feeling, especially pain. Local anesthesia numbs only part of the body; general anesthesia causes loss of consciousness.
Antihistamine — Medicine that prevents or relieves allergy symptoms.
A woman who is pregnant or who may become pregnant should check with her physician before taking this medicine. In studies of laboratory animals, hydroxyzine has caused birth defects when taken during pregnancy. Although the drug's effects on pregnant women have not been fully studied, physicians advise against taking it in early pregnancy.
BREASTFEEDING. Women who are breastfeeding should also check with their physicians before using hydroxyzine. The medicine may pass into breast milk and may cause problems in nursing babies whose mothers take it.

Side effects

The most common side effect, drowsiness, usually goes away as the body adjusts to the drug. If it does not, reducing the dosage may be necessary. Other side effects, such as dry mouth, also may occur and do not need medical attention unless they continue.
More serious side effects are not common, but may occur. If any of the following side effects occur, check with the physician who prescribed the medicine as soon as possible:
  • Twitches or tremors
  • Convulsions (seizures).


Hydroxyzine may interact with other medicines. When this happens, the effects of one or both of the drugs may change or the risk of side effects may be greater. Anyone who takes hydroxyzine should let the physician know all other medicines he or she is taking. Among the drugs that may interact with hydroxyzine are:
  • Barbiturates such as phenobarbital and secobarbital (Seconal)
  • Opioid (narcotic) pain medicines such as meperidine (Demerol) and oxycodone (Percocet)
  • Non-narcotic pain medicines such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil).
The list above may not include every drug that interacts with hydroxyzine. Be sure to check with a physician or pharmacist before combining hydroxyzine with any other prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicine.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.