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Drug Dosing Toolkit

Tips for Common Side Effects

Here is a list of symptoms, or side effects, that some people experience when they start taking HIV medications, along with some suggestions for what you can do at home to manage them. Because what seems like a side effect may actually be a sign of a more serious condition, such as a drug toxicity or an infection, be sure to discuss your symptoms with your medical provider.

If you are having a serious or persistent side effect, you should seek medical attention promptly.
Side EffectWhat to Do
Headache
Maintain adequate fluid intake
Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) as directed by your provider
Keep lights dim, wear sunglasses, or stay in darkened rooms
Try to get plenty of rest
Fatigue
Try low-impact exercise such as walking or low-impact aerobics as directed by your provider
Drink 8-12 glasses of water per day (may have a caffeinated beverage in the morning)
Take a short nap during the day
Lessen your work schedule if possible
Eat well-balanced meals every day
Insomnia
Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day
Do not read or watch television in bed
Limit daytime naps
Limit fluid intake for 2 hours before bedtime to avoid having to get up to go to the bathroom
Avoid caffeinated products, especially in the afternoon and at night
Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime
Take warm baths, read or listen to music, get a massage
Try a glass of warm milk (contains tryptophan, a natural sleep agent)
Your medical provider may recommend other treatments
Poor appetite
Eat smaller, more frequent (4-6) meals throughout the day
Drink protein drinks (such as Carnation Instant Breakfast, Ensure, or Boost)
Nausea and vomiting
Eat small meals
Avoid foods or smells that trigger nausea; try eating cold foods and avoiding cooking smells
Eat healthy foods; avoid greasy, spicy, acidic, or sweet foods
Try eating ginger: in ginger tea, ginger ale, or gingersnaps
Eat some crackers or dry white toast if you feel sick in the morning
Over-the-counter antacids or other medications may be recommended by your provider
Diarrhea
Eat more soluble fiber such as Bananas, white Rice, Applesauce and white Toast (the "BRAT" diet)
Avoid foods that are spicy or acidic (such as citrus)
Avoid dairy products until diarrhea resolves
Maintain adequate fluid intake (at least 6-8 8 oz glasses per day)
Your provider may recommend treatments such as calcium, loperamide (Imodium) or methylcellulose (Citrucel) or psyllium (Metamucil)
Dry skin/ rashes
Drink 8-12 glasses of water per day
Avoid long, hot showers or baths
Avoid soaps and skin products that contain alcohols or harsh chemicals
Use moisturizing lotion after showers (such as Aquaphor, Absorbase, Lac-Hydrin)
Use mild unscented laundry detergents and avoid fabric softeners
Use sunscreen
Try rubbing or pressing on the itchy areas rather than scratching
Use petroleum jelly on dry, itchy areas; your provider may recommend other agents to help
Injection site reactions
Before injecting, warm your medicine by gently rolling the syringe in your hands for a minute
Rotate your injection sites
Do not inject into an area that is irritated, bruised, or red
Apply a cold pack after injection
Review your injection technique with your provider; consider using smaller-gauge needles
Your provider may recommend medications to help
Contents
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