Azithromycin is an antibiotic. It can be prescribed for a wide range of bacterial infections including chest infections, sinusitis, skin infections, some sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia, and Lyme disease.
- Azithromycin treats a variety of bacterial infections
- It is often taken just once a day
- For sexually transmitted infections just one dose might be needed
- Some people take azithromycin every day to prevent a chest infection occurring
- It is important to read the patient leaflet for a full list of side effects and cautions.
How Does Azithromycin Work?
Azithromycin is a type of antibiotic called a macrolide antibiotic. It works by stopping the bacteria’s proteins from working properly. This in turn slows their growth and kills the bacteria.
Azithromycin is broken down by the digestive system and absorbed into the blood. Once it is in the blood stream, it travels around the body and can begin to target the infection.
The symptoms of the infection can start to resolve within a day or two. However, it is important to complete the course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from recurring. Finishing the course also helps to prevent antibiotic resistance across the population.
Azithromycin can be used to treat chlamydia, a sexually transmitted infection. The symptoms of chlamydia include pain on urinating (peeing), and discharge from the vagina, penis or bottom. Women may notice abdominal (tummy) pain, bleeding after sex or bleeding between periods. Men may have pain or swelling of the testicles.
Some people with chlamydia may not have any symptoms. Chlamydia can cause damage to your reproductive organs, even if you don’t have symptoms. It is therefore important to have regular sexual health screening if you are sexually active so that antibiotics can be started if required.
How is Azithromycin Taken?
Azithromycin is available as a tablet, capsule or liquid.
The tablets can be taken with or without food, whereas the capsules need to be taken on an empty stomach.
Tablets and capsules should be swallowed whole with water.
Dosage of Azithromycin
Your dosage of azithromycin will depend on the infection that you are being treated for.
A common dose for a range of infections is 500mg for 3 to 10 days.
When treating chlamydia, a one-off dose of 1 gram (2x 500mg tablets) is often prescribed.
Are there any Side Effects?
Azithromycin has some common side effects. These include:
- Nausea and vomiting (feeling sick and being sick)
- Reduced appetite or changes to your sense of taste
- Feeling dizzy
These are likely to settle, but if they do not you may wish to speak to a healthcare professional.
Occasionally, more serious side effects can occur. Speak to a doctor straight away if you:
- Have chest pains or your heartbeat becomes fast
- Have yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes
- Have pale pee and dark poo
- Notice changes in your hearing, or feel dizzy
- Have severe (abdominal) tummy or back pain
- Have diarrhoea that contains blood or mucus
- Have diarrhoea that last for more than four days.
If you have a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) including breathlessness, lip or tongue swelling, call 999 immediately.
Azithromycin might not suit everyone. Tell your prescriber if you have:
- Liver or kidney problems
- Problems with your heart including an irregular heartbeat
- Myasthenia gravis
- Had diarrhoea with antibiotics in the past
- Ever had an allergic reaction to a medication in the past.