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What is Azithromycin?

By Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Azithromycin is a type of medication called a macrolide antibiotic. Doctors prescribe it to treat bacterial infections such as skin infections, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. In the United States, it is available by prescription only.

Patients must finish the full course of medication according to the doctor's directions, even if the condition seems to have improved. Azithromycin is available in three forms: as a tablet, as a liquid, and as a powder to be mixed with water. Patients taking the liquid form should shake the bottle and use a medicine cup to accurately measure the correct dosage. When taking the tablet, patients should drink a full glass of water with every dose.

Those using the powder form of azithromycin must ensure they receive the full dosage. After pouring a small glass of water, the patient will empty the entire contents of a single dose powder packet into the glass. The water must then be stirred and the patient should drink the dosage right away. After consuming, additional water should be added to any remaining medication at the bottom of the glass so the remainder can be taken. Powdered azithromycin already mixed with water should not be saved for later use.

Patients taking azithromycin should take a few measures to ensure their general health and prevent complications. They should refrain from taking antacids within two hours of taking a dosage, as this can lessen the efficacy of the drug. Sunbathing and tanning salons should be avoided, and patients should wear sunscreen and protective clothing while outdoors, as azithromycin can increase susceptibility to sunburn.

Taking azithromycin may result in some side effects. These may include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, as well as stomach upset. Dizziness, fatigue, and insomnia are also possible, and some patients have reported a temporarily impaired sense of taste, smell, or sound.

Patients who experience severe side effects should get medical help immediately. This includes watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, and an uneven heartbeat. Some people may experience chest pain, jaundice, and dark urine. Signs of an allergic reaction can include a skin rash, facial swelling, and breathing problems.

Before taking azithromycin, people should disclose other medications and supplements they are taking, as well as any medical conditions they have. This drug can interact with other medicines, such as blood thinners, other antibiotics, and cholesterol-lowering pills. In addition, patients with cystic fibrosis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and liver or kidney disease may be unable to use this antibiotic.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon1005460 — On Sep 01, 2021

Yes of course. We that don’t have insurance buy it in Mexico. Take it when my throat starts feeling like it's getting sick.

By ysmina — On Oct 03, 2013

@ddljohn-- Thankfully, I never had those side effects with azithromycin. I treated my chlamydia with a single, strong dose. I think this antibiotic works very well.

By ddljohn — On Oct 03, 2013

@fify-- There are more preferred antibiotics out there for sinus infections, but azithromycin can be used as well. No one can advise you about the dose and treatment however. You really need to ask a doctor or pharmacist about this. If you take antibiotics unnecessarily, you will be putting yourself at risk of developing resistance.

I have had to take azithromycin for upper respiratory infections in the past. It always worked but I can't say that it's my favorite drug because of the side effects. Azithromycin gives me diarrhea, nausea and a terrible bitter taste in my mouth.

By fify — On Oct 02, 2013

I suffer from chronic sinusitis and I have it right now. I can't see a doctor because I recently lost my health insurance. But I do have a 5-day course of azithromycin at home. It was prescribed to me last year for bronchitis. Can I take this for a sinus infection?

My doctor always gives me antibiotics for my sinus infections, but I have never used azithromycin before.

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