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Atarax

Generic name: hydroxyzinehye-DROX-ee-zeen ]
Drug classes: Antihistamines, Miscellaneous anxiolytics, sedatives and hypnotics

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Nov 23, 2022.

What is Atarax?

Atarax reduces activity in the central nervous system. It also acts as an antihistamine that reduces the natural chemical histamine in the body. Histamine can produce symptoms of sneezing and runny nose, or hives on the skin.

Atarax is used as a sedative to treat anxiety and tension. It is also used together with other medications given for anesthesia.

Atarax is also used to treat allergic skin reactions such as hives or contact dermatitis.

Atarax may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Warnings

You should not use Atarax if you are allergic to hydroxyzine, or if you are pregnant.

Before you take Atarax, tell your doctor if you have a seizure disorder, liver disease, or kidney disease.

This medication may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be alert.

Stop using Atarax and call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as tremors, confusion, seizures, or restless muscle movements in your eyes, tongue, jaw, or neck.

Drinking alcohol can increase certain side effects of hydroxyzine.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use Atarax if you are allergic to hydroxyzine, or if you are pregnant.

To make sure you can safely take Atarax, tell your doctor if you have any of these other conditions:

  • epilepsy or other seizure disorder;

  • asthma, emphysema, or other breathing problem;

  • glaucoma;

  • heart disease or high blood pressure;

  • stomach ulcer, blockage in your stomach or intestines;

  • thyroid disorder;

  • enlarged prostate or problems with urination;

  • liver disease; or

  • kidney disease.

Do not use Atarax without telling your doctor if you are pregnant. It could harm the unborn baby. Use effective birth control, and tell your doctor if you become pregnant during treatment.

It is not known whether hydroxyzine passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

Older adults may be more likely to have side effects from this medication.

How should I take Atarax?

Take Atarax exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not take in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended. Follow the directions on your prescription label.

Take this medicine with a full glass of water.

Measure Atarax syrup with a special dose-measuring spoon or cup, not a regular table spoon. If you do not have a dose-measuring device, ask your pharmacist for one.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

Overdose symptoms may include extreme drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, feeling like you might pass out.

What should I avoid?

This medication may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be alert.

Drinking alcohol can increase certain side effects of Atarax.

Atarax side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction to Atarax: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Stop using Atarax and call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • restless muscle movements in your eyes, tongue, jaw, or neck;

  • tremor (uncontrolled shaking);

  • confusion; or

  • seizure (convulsions).

Less serious Atarax side effects may include:

  • dizziness, drowsiness;

  • blurred vision, dry mouth; or

  • headache.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect Atarax?

Before using Atarax, tell your doctor if you regularly use other medicines that make you sleepy (such as cold or allergy medicine, sedatives, narcotic pain medicine, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, and medicine for seizures, depression, or anxiety). They can add to sleepiness caused by Atarax.

This list is not complete and other drugs may interact with hydroxyzine. Tell your doctor about all medications you use. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin, and herbal products. Do not start a new medication without telling your doctor.

Where can I get more information?

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use Atarax only for the indication prescribed.

Popular FAQ

How long does hydroxyzine stay in your system?

Hydroxyzine will stay in your system for about 100 hours, on average, but its clinical effect may wear off before this time. Hydroxyzine has a half-life of about 20 hours. The half-life of a drug is the time it takes for the plasma (blood) concentration to be reduced by 50% from its original value. It takes about 5 half-lives for a drug to be eliminated from your body, so after about 20 hours x 5 half-lives (100 hours), most of hydroxyzine is gone from an adult’s system.

Does hydroxyzine make you sleepy?

Yes, hydroxyzine is an antihistamine that can cause drowsiness and sedation. It can be used to  treat anxiety and tension due to its sedative properties. It is also used as an adjunct medicine for general anesthesia during surgery and for itching or hives. Hydroxyzine can affect your thinking or reaction time and may make it dangerous for you to drive or operate dangerous machinery. Drowsiness and confusion may be more common in older patients.

How long does it take for hydroxyzine to work?

Hydroxyzine starts to work in about 15 to 30 minutes but its drowsy effect may last for 4 to 6 hours. Hydroxyzine can reduce itching and redness due to allergy skin tests for up to 4 days. Hydroxyzine is used to relieve anxiety, itching due to allergies, and as a premedication prior to surgery. Do not drive, operate machinery, or perform tasks requiring alertness if this medicine makes you drowsy.

Atarax was most likely discontinued in the US due to business reasons by its manufacturer. It was not removed from the market for safety or effectiveness reasons, according to the FDA. A generic version, known as hydroxyzine hydrochloride, is available at pharmacies. Continue reading

Hydroxyzine is intended for short-term use only (less than 4 months) when used to treat anxiety. Using hydroxyzine long-term would be considered an off-label use for the drug because there are no studies looking at the long-term effects of hydroxyzine. Some research suggests a link between long-term use of medications with anticholinergic properties, such as hydroxyzine, and dementia, particularly in older adults. Brain fog has also been reported with long-term use. Continue reading

If you have stopped taking hydroxyzine, then you should wait for at least 48 to 60 hours (2 to 2.5 days) before drinking alcohol again. But before you start drinking, be aware of the risk of replacing hydroxyzine with alcohol, especially if you have been taking hydroxyzine to treat anxiety. Alcohol, particularly frequent or large quantities of alcohol, can increase your anxiety. Other medications used to treat anxiety can also interact with alcohol so ask your healthcare provider to determine the effects of drinking alongside your new medication.
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