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A comparison of cetirizine and terfenadine in the management of solar urticaria.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, United Kingdom.


Many solar urticaria patients may benefit from the use of antihistamines. Historically, the value of such therapy was limited by sedation. Newer agents such as terfenadine and cetirizine that are relatively non-sedating appear to be better tolerated by patients. The latter drug, in addition to its antihistamine effect, also appears to inhibit eosinophil migration, which terfenadine and other potent H1 antagonists do not significantly affect. Eosinophils have been reported as early migrating cells in induced solar urticaria, raising the possibility that the dual action of cetirizine may provide a greater potential benefit in the management of solar urticaria. Six patients with idiopathic solar urticaria were entered into a double-blind, phototest study to compare cetirizine and terfenadine. Using the minimal urticarial dose as a phototest end-point, both drugs were equally effective in raising the threshold of sensitivity in 4 patients. Two patients failed to respond to either therapy, which is in keeping with the known variable response to histamine blockade in solar urticaria. At the dosage used, cetirizine therapy appears to be no more effective than terfenadine.

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