Atarax (A complete guide)

Atarax or Vistaril (Hydroxyzine) is a medication from the class of antihistamines.

It is used in the treatment of discomfort, nervousness, and nausea. It is taken by mouth or can be injected into a muscle. 

Atarax is used to regulate nervousness caused by anxiety-inducing and emotional situations.

It can also be used to promote anesthesia before surgery.

This medication is also used to relieve the symptoms of an allergic reaction (for example, hives, itching skin) caused by chronic urticaria, and atopic and interaction dermatoses.

Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine. It works by preventing the signaling of a substance called histamine, which is produced by the body.

This medication is available only with your doctor’s prescription.

This product is obtainable in the following dosage forms:

·       Capsule

·       Tablet

·       Syrup

What is Atarax?

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Atarax (hydroxyzine), as an antihistamine, which decreases the histamine response throughout the body.

Histamine is a chemical naturally made by the body that causes symptoms such as sneezing and runny nose, or rashes on the skin.

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

It can also be used as a short-term anxiety medication to treat nervousness and tension.  

What should I know before taking Atarax?

Before taking this medicine please adhere to the following guidelines to ensure your safety:

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

To make certain you can securely use Atarax, tell your doctor if you have any of these other conditions:

  •  epilepsy or other appropriation complaint
  • asthma, emphysema, or another breathing problematic
  •  glaucoma;
  •  heart illness or high blood pressure
  • stomach carbuncle, obstruction in your stomach or intestines
  •  thyroid complaint
  •  distended prostate or difficulties with urination
  •  liver disease
  • kidney ailment.

Do not use Atarax without telling your doctor if you are pregnant. It could damage the unborn baby. 

It is important to tell your doctor if you are planning to 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 medicine without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

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

What can happen if I take more Atarax than prescribed?

If you have taken too much Atarax, directly contact your clinician or the nearest emergency medical services.

This is especially important if a child thinks he or she has overdosed on Atarax.

An ECG should be obtained because of the possibility of abnormal heart rhythms such as QT interval prolongation or Torsade de Pointes.

Indications of an overdose can vary and may contain:

  • Decline of your cognitive abilities, indistinct speech and experiencing fidgety, involuntary or slow movements
  • Dry mouth, hallucinations, fast heartbeat, difficulty passing urine and feces
  • Slowing of your sympathetic nervous system, which can decrease your breathing and heart rate, cause you to feel sleepy or become unconscious 
  • Activation of your central nervous system, which may cause spurts of excitement, fits, trembling and illusions.

Atarax can cause considerable sedation that requires treatment.

If any other medicines or substances have been taken at the same time as Atarax tell the medical staff carrying out the treatment of the overdose.

What should I do if I forget to take Atarax?

If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as possible, unless it is time to take the next dose.

Do not take a dual dose. Then go on as before.

If you have any further queries on the use of this product, ask your doctor or pharmacist.


The management of hydroxyzine in great amounts by incorporation or intramuscular administration during the beginning of pregnancy can cause fetal abnormalities—when administered to pregnant rats, mice and rabbits, hydroxyzine produced irregularities such as hypogonadism with doses meaningfully above that of the human beneficial range.

In humans, a therapeutic dose has not yet been recognized in studies, and by default, the FDA has introduced contraindication guidelines in regard to hydroxyzine.

Similarly the use in those at risk from or showing preceding symbols of sensitivity is also contraindicated.

Other contraindications include the supervision of hydroxyzine together with depressants and other mixtures which affect the central nervous system and if unconditionally necessary, it should only be administered concurrently in small doses.

If administered in small doses with other materials, such as stated, then patients should refrain from using dangerous machinery, motor vehicles or any other practice necessitating absolute attentiveness, in accordance with safety law. 

Studies have also been demonstrated that long-term use of Atarax can lead to  tardive dyskinesia.

Symptoms of dyskinesia have also been anecdotally stated after periods of 7.5 months, such as repeated head rolling, lip thrashing and other methods of athetoid drive (slow, involuntary movements).

In certain cases, elderly patients’ previous interactions with phenothiazine derivatives or pre-existing neuroleptic treatment may have had some contribution towards dyskinesia.

Because of this, contraindication is given to the short-term management of hydroxyzine to those with previous phenothiazine use. 

What are the common side effects of Atarax? 

Get emergency medical assistance if you have any of these symptoms of an allergic reaction to Atarax: hives, trouble breathing, swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat. 

Stop using Atarax and call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following adverse side effects:

·      restless muscle movements in your eyes, tongue, jaw, or neck,

·      tremor (uncontrolled shaking)

·      confusion

·      seizure (convulsions).

Less serious Atarax side effects may include:

·      dizziness, drowsiness

·      blurred vision, dry mouth

·      headache.

How should I store Atarax?

Keep this drug out of the sight and reach of children.

o  Do not take Atarax after the expiration date which is specified on the bottle or box after EXP. 

o  Do not store above 25°C.

o  Atarax should not be discarded in wastewater or the household garbage can.  Ask your pharmacist on how to dispose of Atarax that is no longer needed. 

What are the interactions between Atarax and other medications? 

This drug may influence your cognitive abilities such as thoughts.  Be cautious if you drive or do anything that requires you to be attentive.

Drinking whiskey with this drug can cause side effects such as drowsiness.

Taking this medication with other painkillers that make you sleepy can amplify this effect.

Ask your doctor before taking hydroxyzine with a sleeping pill, tranquilizer pain medicine, muscle relaxer, or medicine for anxiety, depression, or seizures.

Hydroxyzine can cause heart problems, especially if you use certain medications at the same time, including antibiotics, antidepressants, cardiac medication, antipsychotic medicines, and medications to treat cancer, malaria, HIV or AIDS.

Tell your doctor about all drugs you use, and he or she will advise you which medications to stop taking during your treatment with hydroxyzine.

Other drugs may cooperate with hydroxyzine, including medicine and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. 

In this blog, we discussed how Atarax works, who should take Atarax, and the dangerous side effects and interactions. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Atarax: 

1.   What is the drug Atarax used for? 

Atarax (generic name hydroxyzine) reduces the activity of the central nervous system.

It also acts as an antihistamine to reduce the natural chemical histamine throughout the body.

Histamine can cause sneezing, runny nose, or hives.

Atarax is also used as a sedative to treat anxiety and tension.

2.   Does Atarax make you sleepy?

Since Atarax is an antihistamine, it can make you sleepy.

Side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, or dry mouth.

If any of these effects worsen or are not going away, tell your doctor or pharmacist immediately. 

3.   Is Atarax a narcotic?

Atarax, or hydroxyzine, is one of the oldest antihistamine drugs created and is capable of creating a ‘hydroxyzine high’ which induces euphoric sensations without becoming addictive.

This medication is primarily used to treat allergies and can provide relief for itching, motion sickness, and hyperalgesia (pain sensitivity).

4.   Are Atarax and Xanax the same thing?

No, Atarax and Xanax are not the same medication. They belong to different classes of drugs.

Atarax, or hydroxyzine, is an antihistamine with anticholinergic (drying) and sedative properties.

Xanax is an anti-anxiety medication that belongs to the benzodiazepine class.

Is Atarax the same as Benadryl?

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Atarax (hydroxydine hydrochloride) are both antihistamines that are used to treat symptoms of itching due to allergies.

Benadryl is available over-the-counter but Atarax is only available by prescription. 

6.   Is Atarax habit forming?

The Vistaril brand of hydroxyzine is sometimes used to treat anxiety and is not habit-forming.

It does not cause tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, or memory impairment.

7.   How fast does Atarax work?

The sedative properties of Atarax usually kick in after about 15 to 30 minutes from oral administration.

These effects last for around 4-6 hours following a single dose. 

8.   Is Atarax bad for your heart?

Atarax (hydroxyzine) has been used for almost 60 years as an antihistamine, antipsychotic, and sedative.

It does increase the risk for QT-interval prolongation and of Torsade de Pointes, which can cause arrhythmia and cardiac arrest.

Can Atarax cause irritability?

Atarax (hydroxyzine) is used to treat difficulty sleeping, nausea, itching, and allergies.

Irritability is a possible side effect of Atarax. 

10.                 Can Atarax stop panic attacks?

Atarax (hydroxyzine) has been used to treat anxiety disorders, and is most often used for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). 

11.                 Is Atarax a stimulant?

Atarax is not a stimulant. In fact, it is the opposite.

Atarax works by reducing the activity of the central nervous system.

It acts as an antihistamine, which reduces the effects of the chemical histamine.

Histamine is naturally produced in the body and causes itching or hives on the skin.

Atarax can also be used as a sedative to treat anxiety and tension. 

HYDROXYZINE (Hydrochloride): Treats Anxiety, Nausea, Vomiting, Allergies, Skin Rash, Hives, Itching, and Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

This book by James Lee Anderson provides information about Atarax in paperback form.

It discusses what Atarax is prescribed for, how it works, and how it should be taken.  

Hydroxyzine Hydrochloride: A Complete Guide

G. J. Blokdijk goes into detail on the appropriate questions you should be asking your doctor about Atarax. Some questions include: do vitamins interact with Hydroxyzine hydrochloride medications?

Can natural products be just as effective as Hydroxyzine hydrochloride prescription medications?

What happens if I am willing to try new medications if the current Hydroxyzine hydrochloride regiment is not working?

This guide will help you formulate the right questions to ask your doctor and includes room for notes so you can jot down important information during your appointments.

In addition, if you are a healthcare provider and want to make sure you can answer every question your patient has, then this guide book is for you as well. 

References November 25th, 2019. 

Atarax.Psych Central. October 8th, 2018.

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