What Is Erythromycin?
Erythromycin, sold under the brand names Ery-Tab, Akne-Mycin, E.E.S. Eryc, and Pediamycin, is an antibiotic.
The drug is prescribed for infections like pneumonia, whooping cough (pertussis), sexually transmitted diseases, Legionnaires' disease, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and acne.
For off-label use, doctors may prescribe erythromycin for slow passage of food from the stomach into the intestines (gastroparesis) and other conditions involving poor movement of substances through the stomach and the intestines.
Erythromycin belongs to group of drugs known as macrolide antibiotics, which work by stopping bacteria from making proteins that they need to survive and function properly.
Erythromycin was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1967 under the brand name Iloson, which was manufactured by Eli Lilly.
You should not take erythromycin if:
- You are allergic to erythromycin or any of its inactive ingredients
- You are taking medications that can change the electrical activity in the heart
Talk to your doctor before taking erythromycin if you:
Erythromycin may cause sudden death if taken with other medications that are broken down by the liver the same way (see "Drug Interactions").
Taking erythromycin for a long period of time may make you more likely to develop infections caused by bacteria or fungus that are much more difficult to treat.
Pregnancy and Erythromycin
Erythromycin is a pregnancy category B drug, which means it should be generally safe to use in pregnancy.
Regardless, you should tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant before taking this medication.
Since erythromycin has been found to pass into breast milk, it's best to tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed.
Erythromycin Side Effects
Common Side Effects of Erythromycin
Serious Side Effects of Erythromycin
- Severe inflammation of the colon caused by antibiotic use (pseudomembranous colitis)
- Inflammation of the liver
- Confusion or hallucinations
- Kidney inflammation or infection
- Abdominal pain
If you have diarrhea, gas, or begin vomiting, stop taking erythromycin immediately and call your doctor.
It is always important to share with your doctor and pharmacist all prescription, non-prescription, illegal, recreational, herbal, nutritional, or dietary drugs you're taking.
You should not take Erythromycin if you are taking the following drugs:
If possible, ask your doctor about other antibiotics you can take instead of erythromycin if you are taking any of the following:
Erythromycin interacts with many more drugs than what appears here, so be sure to talk to you pharmacist or doctor before taking erythromycin.
Erythromycin and Alcohol
There are no specific warnings about drinking alcohol while taking erythromycin, but there's some evidence that alcohol might result in delayed absorption of the antibiotic.
Therefore, you should talk to your doctor about avoiding or limiting alcohol consumption while taking erythromycin.
Erythromycin and Grapefruit Juice
You should avoid eating grapefruit and drinking grapefruit juice while taking erythromycin.
Grapefruit juice slows down how quickly the body is able to break down the erythromycin, which could cause erythromycin levels in the blood to rise dangerously high.
This is could be life-threatening because erythromycin can change heart rhythm and/or electrical activity in the heart.
Erythromycin is available in many different dosage forms including cream, gel, tablet, and solution for injection into the veins.
Depending on the condition, doses of erythromycin tend to range from the following:
- 250 milligrams (mg) to 500 mg, every six to 12 hours
- 500 mg every 12 hours
- 333 mg every eight hours
When taking tablets, be sure to take the medication exactly as your doctor or pharmacist directed.
Be sure to finish the entire prescription - even if you start to feel better or your symptoms subside. Otherwise, the infection could come back and might be much more difficult to treat.
If you suspect an overdose, contact a poison control center or emergency room immediately. You can get in touch with a poison control center at (800) 222-1222.
Missed Dose of Erythromycin
If you miss a dose of Erythromycin, try to take it as soon as you remember.
However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and resume your regular dosing schedule. Don't double up to make up for a missed dose.
By Frieda Wiley, PharmD, CGP, RPh | Medically Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD
Latest Update: 2015-02-19
Copyright © 2014 Everyday Health Media, LLC
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