Hydroxyzine Atarax

Authored by , Reviewed by Sid Dajani | Last edited | Meets Patient’s editorial guidelines

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Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine. It is taken to relieve itching.

The most common side-effect is drowsiness. This may affect your ability to drive.

Type of medicineAn antihistamine
Used forItching
Also calledAtarax®
Available asTablets and oral liquid medicine

Hydroxyzine belongs to a group of medicines known as sedating antihistamines. It is used to relieve itching caused by some skin conditions, such as nettle rash (urticaria).

Exposure to substances such as pollen, pet fur, house dust or insect bites can cause some people to produce an excess of a chemical called histamine. This release of histamine can then cause a skin rash and/or itchiness. Because hydroxyzine blocks the effects of histamine, it helps relieve symptoms like these.

To make sure that this is the right treatment for you, before you start taking hydroxyzine it is important that you discuss the treatment with a doctor or pharmacist if:

  • You are pregnant, trying for a baby or breastfeeding.
  • You are over 65 years of age. This is because you could be more susceptible to side-effects.
  • You have a problem with the way your liver works, or if you have a problem with your kidneys.
  • You have a condition which causes increased pressure in your eyes, such as glaucoma.
  • You have prostate problems, or if you have been experiencing any difficulty passing urine.
  • You know you have an unusual heart rhythm.
  • You know you have a blockage in your small intestines.
  • You have epilepsy.
  • You have any long-term breathing problems, such as asthma or bronchitis.
  • You have a rare inherited blood condition known as porphyria.
  • You are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • You have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The manufacturer's leaflet will give you more information about hydroxyzine and will provide a full list of the side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Take hydroxyzine exactly as your doctor tells you to. Usually, it is sufficient to take one dose at night to control symptoms. Where this is not the case, you may be asked to take 2 or 3 doses during the day in addition to your dose at night.
  • You can take hydroxyzine before or after food. Some people find it helps to swallow the tablets with a drink of water.
  • If you are giving hydroxyzine liquid medicine to a child, make sure you follow the dosing instructions on the bottle carefully so that you measure out the correct dose for the age of your child.
  • If you forget to take a dose, don't worry, just take the next dose when it is due and then continue as before. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • Most people only need to take an antihistamine for a short while when they have symptoms. You should stop taking hydroxyzine once your symptoms have eased. 
  • Hydroxyzine can cause drowsiness. If this happens to you, do not drive and do not use tools or machines. Alcohol will make the drowsiness worse, so it is best not to drink alcohol while you are on hydroxyzine.
  • If you are having an operation or any treatment or tests (particularly if it is to test for an allergy), tell the person due to carry out the treatment that you are taking an antihistamine. This is because you may be advised to stop taking hydroxyzine for a short while before some allergy tests.
  • Hydroxyzine may cause some people's skin to become more sensitive to sunlight than normal. Use a sunscreen that protects against UVA light and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, especially in strong sunlight or until you know how your skin reacts. Do not use sunbeds.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with an antihistamine. This is because a number of other medicines can interfere with the way hydroxyzine works and can increase the risk of side-effects.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains the most common ones associated with hydroxyzine. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any continue or become troublesome.

Hydroxyzine side-effectsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Feeling dizzy or sleepy, and blurred visionDo not drive and do not use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol
HeadacheDrink plenty of water and ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If the headaches continue, let your doctor know
Dry mouthTry sucking sugar-free sweets or chewing sugar-free gum
Difficulty passing urineSpeak with your doctor if this becomes troublesome
Stomach upsetStick to simple meals - avoid rich or spicy foods

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

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