Skip to Content

Antiretroviral Medication Allergy


An antiretroviral (ARV) medication allergy is a harmful reaction to an ARV medicine. An allergic reaction may happen when you start a new ARV medicine or after you take the medicine for a few weeks. Your immune system may become sensitive to the ARV medicine the first time you take it. You may have an allergic reaction the next time. You can have a reaction within an hour, or the reaction can happen days or weeks later.


Call 911 for signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis,

such as trouble breathing, swelling in your mouth or throat, or wheezing. You may also have itching, a rash, hives, or feel like you are going to faint.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have severe swelling, redness, or pus where an injection was given.

  • You have swelling or blisters in your mouth or throat.

  • You have trouble swallowing or your voice sounds hoarse.

  • Your skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You think you are having an allergic reaction. Contact your healthcare provider before you take another dose of your ARV medicine.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have a rash that is flat, red, and has small bumps.

  • You have a sore throat or swollen glands. You will feel hard lumps when you touch your throat if your glands are swollen.

  • You have muscle or joint pain and feel tired.

  • You have diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea.

  • You have questions or concerns about your ARV medicine.


  • Steroids: This medicine may be given to decrease inflammation.

  • Antihistamines decrease mild symptoms such as itching or a rash.

  • Epinephrine is used to treat severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis.

  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Ask if you need to avoid other medicines you may also be allergic to. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Steps to take for signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis:

  • Immediately give 1 shot of epinephrine only into the outer thigh muscle.

  • Leave the shot in place as directed. Your healthcare provider may recommend you leave it in place for up to 10 seconds before you remove it. This helps make sure all of the epinephrine is delivered.

  • Call 911 and go to the emergency department, even if the shot improved symptoms. Do not drive yourself. Bring the used epinephrine shot with you.

Safety precautions:

  • Keep 2 shots of epinephrine with you at all times. You may need a second shot, because epinephrine only works for about 20 minutes and symptoms may return. Your healthcare provider can show you and family members how to give the shot. Check the expiration date every month and replace it before it expires.

  • Create an action plan. Your healthcare provider can help you create a written plan that explains the allergy and an emergency plan to treat a reaction. The plan explains when to give a second epinephrine shot if symptoms return or do not improve after the first. Give copies of the action plan and emergency instructions to family members and work staff. Show them how to give a shot of epinephrine.

  • Carry medical alert identification. Wear medical alert jewelry or carry a card that explains your ARV medicine allergy. Ask your healthcare provider where to get these items.

  • Read medicine labels before you take any medicine. Do not take it if it contains the ARV medicine that you are allergic to. Ask a pharmacist if you are not sure.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Antiretroviral Medication Allergy (Discharge Care)