Side Effects of Antivirals


If you have a viral infection, you may be prescribed an antiviral drug. Certain antivirals are prescribed for specific viruses. Names of medications include PegIntron, Pegasys, Combivir and Atripla. It’s important to carefully follow all of your doctor’s instructions regarding dosing. Even if you’re feeling better, do not stop taking your medication. Be aware of all the possible side effects of your medication. If you experience a serious side effect or any bothersome side effects, check with your doctor for advice.

Side Effects

Depending on what antiviral medication you are taking and your reaction to it, possible side effects can vary widely. However, some possible side effects that are common to many antiviral drugs include dizziness, fatigue, joint or muscle pain, headache, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, insomnia, and mild anxiety or irritability. If you’re taking a medication that is injected, you may also experience pain, swelling or redness at the injection site. You may also experience a cough, a runny or stuffy nose, numbness, tingling, diarrhea and alterations in the shape or location of your body fat (e.g., on your arms, legs, face, breasts and neck).

Serious Side Effects

You may also experience more serious side effects from your medication, in which case you should call your doctor immediately. These side effects may include fever, chills, flu symptoms, a slow or irregular heartbeat, trouble breathing, body aches, unusual weakness, easy bruising or bleeding, trouble swallowing, difficulty climbing stairs or standing up, stomach pain, jaundice, white patches inside your mouth or lips and pancreatitis (severe pain in the upper stomach). Additional serious side effects include urges to hurt yourself or others, aggression, severe depression, confusion, vision problems, speech problems and bloody diarrhea.

Allergic Reaction

Never take a drug that you know you are allergic to. Carefully discuss all of your allergies with your doctor. If you do experience an allergic reaction, go to the emergency room immediately. Typical symptoms of an allergic reaction include tightness in your chest, problems breathing, a rash and hives. You may also have swelling in your facial area, including the mouth, lips, tongue and throat. Antiviral medications may cause you to have more specific allergic reactions. For example, if you continue to take Trizivir after you’ve experienced an allergic reaction to it, within hours you could develop very low blood pressure. This reaction could be fatal. Another antiviral drug, Relenza, could cause both rashes and edema. Edema is an excess of fluid in the throat and facial tissues. If you are allergic to Epzicom, you may develop a fever, a rash, body aches, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Your doctor can administer a test to determine if you are allergic to the drug.


Before adding any new medication, disclose to your doctor all of the other drugs you are taking. This includes prescription, non-prescription and over-the-counter supplements. Depending on the antiviral drug your doctor prescribes, drug interactions can vary. However, some common medications that interact with antivirals include blood thinners, ADHD medication, antidepressants, cough medicine, diabetes medication, anti-psychotics, heart or blood pressure drugs, a sulfa drug, methadone and cancer drugs.

Pre-existing Conditions

Discuss your complete medical history with your doctor before taking a prescription drug. Some medical conditions may preclude you from taking antivirals. Though this list can vary widely depending on the specific drug, some common conditions include liver or kidney disease, heart disease, hypertension, a thyroid disorder, HIV and AIDS, an autoimmune disorder, drug or alcohol addiction, suicidal thoughts and pancreatitis.

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