Erythromycin is a macrolide antibiotic that has an antimicrobial spectrum similar to or slightly wider than that of penicillin, and is often prescribed for people who have an allergy to penicillins.
What is Erythromycin?
- Erythromycin is part of a group of drugs called macrolide antibiotics. Macrolide antibiotics slow the growth of, or sometimes kill, sensitive bacteria by reducing the production of important proteins needed by the bacteria to survive.
- Erythromycin is used to treat many different types of infections caused by bacteria.
How should I take Erythromycin?
- Take Erythromycin exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not take in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended. Follow the directions on your prescription label.
- You may take erythrocin with or without food.
- Do not crush, chew, break, or open an Erythromycin tablet or capsule. Swallow it whole. Shake the oral suspension (liquid) well just before you measure a dose. Measure the liquid with a special dose-measuring spoon or medicine cup, not with a regular table spoon.
How does it work?
- Erythromycin works by preventing bacteria from producing proteins that are essential to them. Without these proteins the bacteria cannot grow, replicate and increase in numbers. Erythromycin doesn’t directly kill the bacteria, but leaves them unable to increase in numbers. The remaining bacteria eventually die or are destroyed by the immune system. This treats the infection.
- Erythromycin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic that is active against a wide variety of bacteria that cause a wide variety of infections. Erythromycin may be used to treat infections of the upper or lower airways, skin or soft tissue, eyes or ears. It may also be used to treat certain sexually-transmitted infections, oral and dental infections, and to prevent infections in people who are at risk, for example due to surgery, trauma or burns.
- Erythromycin is also used for treating inflammatory acne, as it is active against the bacteria associated with acne, Propionebacterium acnes. This is a common type of bacteria that feeds on sebum produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. It produces waste products and fatty acids that irritate the sebaceous glands, making them inflamed and causing spots. By controlling bacterial numbers, Erythromycin brings the inflammation of the sebaceous glands under control, and allows the skin to heal. (Other antibiotics may be preferred for acne however, as strains of the Propionebacterium that are resistant to erythrocin are becoming widespread.)
- To make sure the bacteria causing an infection are susceptible to erythrocin your doctor may take a tissue sample, for example a swab from the throat or skin.
- Erythromycin has a similar range of antibacterial activity to penicillin and so is also useful as an alternative to penicillin in people who are allergic to penicillins.
What is it used for?
- Bacterial infections of the lungs (chest or lower respiratory tract), eg bronchitis, bronchiectasis, pneumonia, Legionnaires' disease.
- Bacterial infection of the nasal passages, sinuses or throat (upper respiratory tract infection), eg sinusitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis.
- Whooping cough.
- Bacterial infection of the middle ear (otitis media) or outer ear canal (otitis externa).
- Bacterial mouth infections, eg gum disease (gingivitis), Vincent's angina.
- Bacterial infection of the eyelids (blepharitis).
- Bacterial infections of the skin or soft tissue, eg boils, abscesses, cellulitis, impetigo, erysipelas.
- Chronic inflammatory disorder of the facial skin (acne rosacea).
- Bacterial infections of the stomach and intestines.
- Inflammation of bone due to bacterial infection (osteomyelitis).
- Inflammation of the urethra due to bacterial infection (urethritis).
- Inflammation of the prostate gland due to bacterial infection (prostatitis).
- Scarlet fever.
- Prevention of bacterial infection following surgery, burns, trauma or dental procedures.
- What special precautions should I follow?
Before taking Erythromycin, tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to Erythromycin, azithromycin (Zithromax), clarithromycin (Klacid), or any other drugs.
- Tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking, especially other antibiotics, anticoagulants ('blood thinners'), astemizole, carbamazepine (Tegretol), cisapride (Propulsid), clozapine, cyclosporine (Neoral), digoxin (Lanoxin), disopyramide, ergotamine, felodipine (Plendil), lovastatin, phenytoin, pimozide, terfenadine, theophylline, 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 erythrocin, call your doctor.
- If you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking erythrocin.
What side effects can Erythromycin cause?
Erythromycin may cause side effects. 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
Before taking Erythromycin
Before taking erythromycin make sure your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you have liver or kidney problems.
- If it has been prescribed for a baby under 2 weeks old.
- If you suffer from the rare blood disorder called porphyria.
- If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
- If you are taking other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal or complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or any other medicine.
How to take Erythromycin
- Before beginning treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet.
- Take erythromycin exactly as directed by your doctor or dentist.
- You must take erythromycin at regular intervals and complete the course you have been given, even if you feel well.
- Swallow erythromycin tablets and capsules whole, with a glass of water. Do not chew them.
- It is not important whether you take erythromycin before or after meals.
- Try to take erythromycin at the same times each day to avoid missing any doses.
- If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a missed dose.
- If you are taking erythromycin to treat acne or rosacea, it is quite normal for your treatment to continue for several weeks or months.
How to store Erythromycin
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
- If you or your child have been given the suspension, this will have been made up by the pharmacy and have a limited shelf life. The expiry and storage conditions may vary between products. Check the expiry date on the bottle and do not use it after this date.
Alcohol can interact with certain medicines.
In the case of Erythromycin:
There are no known interactions between alcohol and Erythromycin.
If you have any more questions please ask your Pharmacist.
Remember to keep all medicines out of reach of children
Please Note: We have made every effort to ensure that the content of this information sheet is correct at time of publish, but remember that information about drugs may change. This sheet does not list all the uses and side-effects associated with this drug. For full details please see the drug information leaflet which comes with your medicine. Your doctor will assess your medical circumstances and draw your attention to any information or side-effects which may be relevant in your particular case.