Why is this medication prescribed?
Erythromycin is an antibiotic used to treat certain infections caused by bacteria, such as bronchitis; diphtheria; Legionnaires' disease; pertussis (whooping cough); pneumonia; rheumatic fever; venereal disease (VD); and ear, intestine, lung, urinary tract, and skin infections. It also is used before some surgery or dental work to prevent infection. Antibiotics will not work for colds, flu, or other viral infections.
This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
How should this medicine be used?
Erythromycin comes as a capsule, tablet, long-acting capsule, long-acting tablet, chewable tablet, liquid, and pediatric drop to take by mouth. It usually is taken every 6 hours (four times a day) or every 8 hours (three times a day) for 7-21 days. Some infections may require a longer time. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take erythromycin exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
Shake the liquid and pediatric drops well before each use to mix the medication evenly. Use the bottle dropper to measure the dose of pediatric drops.
The chewable tablets should be crushed or chewed thoroughly before they are swallowed. The other capsules and tablets should be swallowed whole and taken with a full glass of water.
Continue to take erythromycin even if you feel well. Do not stop taking erythromycin without talking to your doctor.
What special precautions should I follow?
Before taking erythromycin,
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to erythromycin, azithromycin (Zithromax), clarithromycin (Biaxin), dirithromycin (Dynabac), or any other drugs.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking, especially other antibiotics, anticoagulants ('blood thinners'), astemizole (Hismanal), carbamazepine (Tegretol), cisapride (Propulsid), clozapine (clozaril), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), digoxin (Lanoxin), disopyramide (Norpace), ergotamine, felodipine (Plendil), lovastatin (Mevacor), phenytoin (Dilantin), pimozide (Orap), terfenadine (Seldane), theophylline (Theo-Dur), triazolam (Halcion), and vitamins.
- tell your doctor if you have or have ever had liver disease, yellowing of the skin or eyes, colitis, or stomach problems.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking erythromycin, call your doctor.
- if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking erythromycin.
What special dietary instructions should I follow?
Take erythromycin at least 1 hour before or 2 hours after meals. Do not take this medication with, or just after, fruit juices or carbonated drinks. Certain brands of erythromycin may be taken with meals; check with your doctor or pharmacist.
What should I do if I forget a dose?
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
What side effects can this medication cause?
Although side effects from erythromycin are not common, they can occur. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- upset stomach
- stomach cramps
- mild skin rash
- stomach pain
If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- severe skin rash
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- yellowing of the skin or eyes
- dark urine
- pale stools
- unusual tiredness
- vaginal infection
What storage conditions are needed for this medicine?
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store the capsules and tablets at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Keep liquid medicine in the refrigerator, closed tightly, and throw away any unused medication after 14 days. Do not freeze. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.
In case of emergency/overdose
In case of overdose, call your local poison controlcenter at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsedor is not breathing, call local emergency services at911.
What other information should I know?
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain lab tests to check your response to erythromycin.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Your prescription is probably not refillable. If you still have symptoms of infection after you finish the erythromycin, call your doctor.