hydroxyzine, Vistaril, Atarax
Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD
Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD
Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.
Medical and Pharmacy Editor:
GENERIC NAME: hydroxyzine
BRAND NAMES: Atarax, Vistaril
DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine with anticholinergic (drying) and sedative properties that is used to treat allergic reactions. The body releases histamine during several types of allergic reactions and, to a lesser extent, during some viral infections, such as the common cold. When histamine binds to its receptors on cells, it causes the cells to release chemical messengers that lead to sneezing, itching, and increased mucus production. Antihistamines, like histamine, binds to the histamine receptors, but when they bind to the receptors they do not stimulate the cells to release chemical messengers. In addition, they prevent histamine from binding and stimulating the cells. Hydroxyzine itself has no histamine-like activity. After ingestion, it is converted to its active form. The active form of hydroxyzine is a drug called cetirizine (Zyrtec). Although, both hydroxyzine and cetirizine act as antihistamines, hydroxyzine causes more sedation than cetirizine. The FDA approved hydroxyzine in 1956.
GENERIC AVAILABLE: Yes
STORAGE: Capsules, tablets, and liquids should be stored at room temperature 15 C to 30 C (59 F to 86 F). Liquid should not be frozen and should be shaken well prior to each use. Injectable hydroxyzine should be stored below 30 C (86 F).
PRESCRIBED FOR: Hydroxyzine is used for the relief of pruritus (itching) caused by various allergic conditions. Hydroxyzine is also used for treating anxiety and tension, and inducing sedation prior to or after anesthesia. Nausea, vomiting, and alcohol withdrawal are also uses for hydroxyzine.
DOSING: Hydroxyzine has its maximal effect about 30 to 60 minutes after it is taken. Its effects last for 4 to 6 hours.
Hydroxyzine can be taken with or without food.
DRUG INTERACTIONS: Hydroxyzine adds to (exaggerates) the sedating effects of alcohol and other drugs that can cause sedation such as the benzodiazepine class of anti-anxiety drugs (for example, diazepam [Valium], lorazepam [Ativan], clonazepam [Klonopin], alprazolam [Xanax]), the narcotic class of pain medications and its derivatives (for example, oxycodone and acetaminophen [Percocet], hydrocodone/acetaminophen [Vicodin], hydromorphone [Dilaudid], codeine, propoxyphene [Darvon]), the tricyclic class of antidepressants (for example, amitriptyline [Elavil, Endep], imipramine [Tofranil], desipramine [Norpramin]), and certain antihypertensive medications (for example, clonidine [Catapres], and propranolol [Inderal]). Hydroxyzine can also intensify the drying effects of other medications with anticholinergic properties (for example, dicyclomine [Bentyl], bethanechol [Urecholine], Probanthine, amitriptyline [Elavil, Endep], and chlorpromazine [Thorazine]). When using these drugs, the dose of hydroxyzine may require reduction.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/16/2013
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Need help identifying pills and medications?
Back to Medications Index