Hydroxychloroquine (children)

What is it?

Hydroxycholoroquine (brand name: Plaquenil) is a medicine 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 medicine that works by suppressing the immune system. 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 medicines in this group include leflunomide, methotrexate and sulfasalazine.

How will it help?

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

How is hydroxycholoquine given?

Hydroxycholoquine is given orally, one tablet daily.

What is the dose?

This depends on the size and 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, like all medicines, side effects can occur. Some are common, and some are rare. Most people don’t have any problems when they take hydroxychloroquine.

Things you need to know about this medicine

This medicine tastes bitter so it is best taken with food.

What to do if your child is sick

It is safe to give hydroxycholoquine even if your child has a fever or another illness.


Hydroxycholoquine is generally safe with other medications.


Follow the normal immunisation schedule.


There is no increased risk of infections if your child is taking hydroxycholoquine. If your child is taking hydroxycholoquine you should see your paediatric rheumatologist regularly to make sure the treatment is working and to minimise any possible side effects.

This medicine suppresses the immune system. Keep it in a safe place as accidental overdose can be serious.

© Copyright Arthritis Australia March 2015. Reviewed December 2017. The Australian Paediatric Rheumatology Group contributed to the development of this information sheet.  This sheet is published by Arthritis Australia for information purposes only and should not be used in place of medical advice.et.