How does this medicine work?

Cytarabine (sye-tare-a-been) is a chemotherapy medicine that destroys cancer cells in all phases of cell life.

How should I give it?

Cytarabine is given as an injection into a vein (IV), under the skin (Sub-Q), or into the spinal fluid (intrathecal). It is given in the hospital, clinic, or home.

What are the side effects?

Intrathecal cytarabine may cause:

  • nausea
  • vomiting


  • headache


  • fever
  • irritation of the lower back
  • stiff neck
  • seizures
  • learning disability

High-dose IV cytarabine may cause:


  • low blood counts


  • severe nausea and vomiting
  • peeling of the skin on hands and feet
  • conjunctivitis (redness irritation of the white part of the eye)


  • fever
  • flu-like symptoms (achy, tired)
  • diarrhea


  • confusion
  • seizures
  • walking imbalance
  • slurred speech
  • headache
  • liver damage

When should I call the clinic?

Call hematology helpline 982403210 if:

    • fever or chills
    • cough
    • sore throat
    • bleeding or unusual bruising
    • skin rash or irritation
    • continued vomiting or diarrhea
    • mouth sores
    • hoarseness
    • seizures
    • confusion
    • changes in speech
    • changes in balance
    • back pain
    • signs of allergic reaction
      • sudden rash or hives
      •  itching
      •  wheezing
      • trouble breathing – call 112

What else do I need to know?

All caregivers should wear gloves when handling urine, stool, and vomit while your child is receiving the chemotherapy and for 48 hours afterward. Urine, stool, and vomit can be safely disposed of in septic tanks and the sewer system.

Any clothing or bed linens that are contaminated with urine, stool, or vomit should be washed separately from other laundry in hot water and detergent. Anyone handling the contaminated laundry should wear gloves.

Blood samples may be needed to check the effects of the medicine. Blood counts are lowest at 1 to 2 weeks after the medicine is given and may be prolonged.

Fever may occur when cytarabine is given and within 24 hours afterward. Eye drops may ease conjunctivitis and are given with high doses of cytarabine.

Children have more problems with vomiting after intrathecal cytarabine than after intrathecal methotrexate. Give the antinausea medicines on the schedule that is given to you.

It is important to take good care of the mouth to help prevent mouth sores.

To prevent sunburn, wear sunscreen and protective clothing when outdoors. During treatment and for 1 year afterward, all patients should wear sunscreen. Avoid extensive exposure to sunlight.

You and your child should know the names of all the medicines he or she is taking. It is important to share this information with anyone involved in your child’s care.


This sheet is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call:

Hematology Clinic
3rd floor, Kedar
Opp.Krupa Petrol Pump,
Parimal Garden, Ambawadi
Clinic: 07926463219
Whattsapp: 8238065890