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Ribavirin (By breathing)

Ribavirin (rye-ba-VYE-rin)

Treats severe lung infections caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Brand Name(s):


There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used:

You should not use this medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to ribavirin. This medicine is usually given to young children and babies. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, you should not receive this medicine or be nearby while someone is having a treatment with this medicine. Ribavirin may be very harmful to an unborn baby.

How to Use This Medicine:


  • Your doctor will prescribe your dose and tell how often it will be given.
  • A machine called a SPAG-2 (small particle aerosol generator) is usually used to give your treatment. The machine turns the medicine into a mist that you breathe into your lungs. You will wear a mask or hood or be in an oxygen tent so you can breathe in the medicine.
  • A nurse or other caregiver trained to use the SPAG-2 will give your treatment. The medicine may be given nonstop for 12 to 18 hours a day and is usually given at a hospital.
  • Ribavirin comes as a powder that needs to be mixed with sterile water before it given.

If a dose is missed:

  • If you miss a dose, call your doctor for instructions.

How to Store and Dispose of This Medicine:

  • After the powder is mixed with sterile water, it can be kept for up to 1 day (24 hours) at room temperature. After 24 hours, it should be thrown away.
  • Any medicine that is still in the SPAG-2 after 24 hours should be thrown away.
  • Keep all medicine out of the reach of children.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • You should not use any other medicines that are inhaled (breathed into your lungs) unless your doctor tells you to.
  • The SPAG-2 should only be used to give ribavirin. You should not use it to give other medicines.

Warnings While Using This Medicine:

  • Talk with your doctor before using the medicine if you are breastfeeding.
  • Before you start treatments with this medicine, tell your doctor if you are pregnant. If you become pregnant while you are being treated, tell your doctor right away. Ribavirin may be very harmful to your unborn baby.
  • Do not have pregnant family members or friends nearby when you are having your treatments. They may breathe in enough of the medicine to put their unborn baby in danger.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine:

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Wheezing or breathing problems that are worse than before using this medicine
  • Very slow or fast heartbeat
  • Blue fingernails or lips

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Eye irritation, redness ("pinkeye"), or itching
  • Dizziness
  • Mild rash

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Last Updated: 5/1/2020

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