How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Ribavirin belongs to the group of medications known as antivirals. It is used to treat serious infections caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which can cause severe lung infections in newborns and infants. Premature babies and infants with heart, lung, or immune system problems are most likely to be affected by this virus. Ribavirin works by killing RSV.

This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are being given this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop receiving this medication without consulting your doctor.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

Each 100 mL glass vial of sterile, lyophilized powder contains ribavirin 6 g. The medication is administered only by a small particle aerosol generator (SPAG-2).

How should I use this medication?

Your doctor will determine the dose your child should receive. The medication is given using a device called a small particle aerosol generator (SPAG-2). The generator creates a fine mist that contains the medication, which the child breathes in through a special hood, facemask, or oxygen tent. The treatment usually lasts 3 to 7 days.

This medication is usually given by a health care professional in a hospital.

Many things can affect the dose of a medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. It is important that this medication be taken exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not change the way that your child is receiving the medication without consulting your doctor. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that your child is receiving the medication without consulting your doctor.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Do not use ribavirin if you:

  • are allergic to ribavirin or to any ingredients of the medication
  • are pregnant or may become pregnant during exposure to the medication

What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent. The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who uses this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

Although most of these side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not check with your doctor or seek medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • symptoms of a lung infection caused by bacteria (e.g., high fever, chills, shaking, chest pain, or shortness of breath)

Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • blue skin or nails
  • difficult or rapid breathing
  • symptoms of a serious allergic reaction (such as hives, swelling of the face or throat, or difficulty breathing)

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Allergic reaction: In rare cases, this medication may cause a severe allergic reaction. If you notice hives, swelling of the face or throat, or difficulty breathing, stop the child from inhaling the medication and get immediate medical attention.

Pregnancy: Ribavirin may be harmful to an unborn baby. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should not be exposed to ribavirin. To protect an unborn baby, women who are pregnant should not provide care to patients requiring ribavirin.

Breast-feeding: It is not known if ribavirin passes into breast milk. If you are breast-feeding and are exposed to this medication, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

There may be an interaction between ribavirin and any of the following:

  • alfa interferons
  • azathioprine
  • influenza vaccine
  • reverse transcriptase inhibitors (anti-HIV medications; e.g., abacavir, didanosine, lamivudine, zidovudine)

If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.

Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.

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