Updated February 2023

What is hydroxychloroquine?

Download button - information sheetHydroxycholoroquine is a medication used to treat certain childhood rheumatic conditions (diseases which may affect joints, muscles, skin or eyes). It is most commonly used to treat lupus (also known as SLE). Hydroxycholoroquine was originally designed to treat malaria.

It is a medication that works by modifying the way the immune system works. It reduces the damage done by inflammation, rather than just reducing pain. Because of this, it is called a disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD). Other medications in this group include leflunomide, methotrexate and sulfasalazine.

Important things to remember

  • You must see your rheumatologist regularly to make sure the treatment is working and check for possible side effects.
  • You should have regular blood tests as suggested by your rheumatologist.
  • If you are worried about any side effects, you should contact your rheumatologist as soon as possible.
  • If you stop hydroxychloroquine for any reason, you must contact your rheumatologist.

How will it help?

It is a medication that works slowly. It may take 2-3 months before you notice your child improving. It is often used in combination with other medications to control the disease.

How is hydroxychloroquine given?

Hydroxychloroquine is given as an oral tablet.

What is the dose?

This depends on the weight of your child. 

How long will it be used for?

It may be continued for many years particularly for treating lupus.

Are there any side effects?

Hydroxychloroquine is usually very effective in improving your child’s condition, but as with all medications side effects can occur. Some are common, and some are rare. Most people don’t have any problems when they take hydroxychloroquine.

Most common side effects


Nausea & diarrhoea

  • Take with food

Rare side effects



Sun sensitivity

Allergic reactions

  • Hats and sunscreen
  • Usually improves when hydroxychloroquine is stopped

Serious eye problems are extremely rare, if you are on this medication for more than a few years your doctor may recommend an annual eye check.

Things you need to know when your child is taking this medication

This medication has a bitter taste, so it is best taken with food.

What to do if your child is sick
It is safe to give hydroxychloroquine even if your child has a fever or another illness.

Hydroxychloroquine is generally safe with other medications.

Follow the normal immunisation schedule.

There is no increased risk of infections if your child is taking hydroxychloroquine 

Myths and misconceptions
You may hear a lot of different information about hydroxychloroquine from friends, pharmacists or people that you know. If you are worried about anything, please talk to your child’s doctor or nurse. If your child is taking hydroxychloroquine they should see their paediatric rheumatologist regularly to make sure the treatment is working and to minimise any possible side effects.