What Erythromycin Is

Erythromycin is an antibiotic that belongs to the macrolide group. Macrolide antibiotics work by inhibiting the growth or sometimes eradicating sensitive bacteria altogether by reducing the synthesis of proteins needed for these bacteria’s survival. Erythromycin is used for еру treatment and prevention of many different types of bacterial infections: skin infections, respiratory tract infections, STDs (chlamydia, syphilis), pelvic inflammatory disease, eye infections, and others. It can also be used for prevention of Group B streptococcal infection or in newborns. Erythromycin can be administered orally, intravenously, intramuscularly, and topically. This list of indications for erythromycin is not complete; it can be used for other purposes as well.

Recommendations for Use, Dosage and Overdose

Take erythromycin in strict accordance with your doctor’s prescription. Read carefully and follow all the instructions on the label and on the instruction sheets. Ask your doctor or pharmacist further questions if you do not completely understand the instructions. Your physician may also adjust your dose depending on your individual case. Use the drug exactly as prescribed. If you are taking erythromycin in pills or capsules, do not chew, crush, or break them. Swallow them whole. If you are using a suspension, shake the bottle before measuring a dose. Use a special dosing device, like syringe, cup or spoon, provided with the drug, not a regular kitchen spoon. In case of severe infection, erythromycin can be prescribed as injection or intravenous infusion. Prepare the solution right before intake. Do not use it if the drug looks hazy, has changed its color, or has particles in it. Ask your pharmacist to change the medicine. Use erythromycin for the full prescribed course, even if your symptoms quickly improve. Do not skip the doses either, as it can increase the risk of developing an antibiotic-resistant infection. Keep in mind that erythromycin does not treat viral infections like flu or common cold. Erythromycin can affect the results of a range of medical tests. Inform your healthcare provider if you are taking erythromycin. If you miss a dose by accident, take it as soon as you remember. However, if it’s almost the time for your next one, skip the missed dose. Do not take two doses at a time. In case of overdose, seek urgent medical attention or call a poison help line.

Precautions and Contraindications

To make sure erythromycin is safe for you, tell your doctor in advance if you have or ever had a liver disease, a heart rhythm disorder, myasthenia gravis, a history of Long QT syndrome, or low potassium or magnesium level in your blood. Erythromycin is also not advised for you if you are allergic to it or any other antibiotics of the macrolide class. Though erythromycin is regarded to be generally safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding, the data are still insufficient to fully estimate its effect on the baby. Some research shows that erythromycin taken by a breastfeeding mother may increase the risk of pyloric stenosis in the baby. Other studies have shown that erythromycin estolate might be associated with increased hepatotoxicity in pregnant women. To avoid any risk, inform your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Interactions with Other Drugs and Substances
It might not be safe to use certain drugs simultaneously. It may increase the side effects, blood cell levels, or make the drugs less effective. Alcohol is prohibited during the treatment with erythromycin as such a combination may cause damage to your liver. Some medications, like pimozide, cisapride, dihydroergotamine or ergotamine, can interfere with it and even cause unwanted or dangerous effects. If you take any of those medicines, your treatment plan might need to be adjusted. The list of the drugs that can interfere with erythromycin is not complete. Both prescription and some over-the-counter medicines, like vitamins and herbal products, can affect erythromycin work. Inform your doctor about any drugs or substances you are taking!
Side Effects
Most common side effects associated with erythromycin are gastrointestinal disturbances, like nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain. Due to this, erythromycin is usually not prescribed as a first-line drug. More serious adverse reactions may include arrhythmia, prolonged QT intervals, reversible deafness. Allergic reactions associated with erythromycin range from urticaria to anaphylaxis. Some other rare side effects include Stevens–Johnson syndrome, cholestasis, and toxic epidermal necrolysis. Erythromycin can also affect the function of the central nervous system, which can lead to psychotic reactions, night sweats, and nightmares. Get urgent medical attention if you show the signs of an allergic (short breathing, hives, swollen lymph nodes) or severe skin reaction (rash, skin pain, fever, burning eyes, sore throat, skin peeling or blistering) to erythromycin. Consult your doctor if you have:
  • Watery or bloody diarrhea, severe stomach pain;
  • Headache, dizziness, chest pain, fainting, fast or pounding heartbeat, seizure;
  • Problems with hearing;
  • Severe pain in the upper stomach spreading to your back (pancreatitis), nausea and vomiting;
  • Liver problems – stomach pain (on the upper right side), loss of appetite, fatigue, easy bruising or bleeding, jaundice, dark urine, clay-colored stools.
Serious side effects, like fast heart rate and hearing loss, are more likely to occur in older adults. Call your physician if your baby is vomiting or is unusually irritable during feeding. You should take into account that erythromycin might distort the results of certain types of blood and liver function tests. Inform your diagnostician if you are taking erythromycin.
Keep in Mind
Remember that erythromycin should only be taken for the indications prescribed and in strict accordance with doctor’s orders! Do not advise the drug to other people or share your medications, even if their symptoms are similar to yours. This may cause damage to their health. Remember that erythromycin, as well as other antibiotics, do not treat viral infections like flu or common cold! Take the medicine for the full prescribed course of time. Even though the symptoms may improve soon after taking the pills, the infection might not be completely cleared yet. This puts you at a risk of developing antibiotic resistance. For the same reason, it is strongly advised not to skip doses as well. Store erythromycin as indicated on the label – at a room temperature in a dry dark place away from sunlight and moisture and out of children’s reach. Dispose of any expired leftovers; do not take expired medication. Should you develop any unusual bothersome reactions, inform your doctor at once or seek urgent medical help!