- Related Diseases
- Images & Quizzes
- Anatomy of a Sore Throat Slideshow
- Take the Strep Throat Quiz
- Infectious Mononucleosis Slideshow
- What is erythromycin, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?
- What brand names are available for erythromycin?
- Is erythromycin available as a generic drug?
- Do I need a prescription for erythromycin?
- What are the side effects of erythromycin?
- What is the dosage for erythromycin?
- Which drugs or supplements interact with erythromycin?
- Is erythromycin safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
- What else should I know about erythromycin?
What is erythromycin, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?
Erythromycin is an antibiotic in the class of antibiotics known as macrolide antibiotics which also includes azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax) and clarithromycin (Biaxin). It is used to treat several types of infections including upper/lower respiratory tract infections, skin infections, acute pelvic inflammatory disease, erythrasma, etc. caused by bacteria such as Streptococcus pyogenes, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and many others. Erythromycin, like all macrolide antibiotics, prevents bacterial cells from growing and multiplying by interfering with their ability to make proteins while not affecting human cells. Bacteria such as Haemophilus influenzae are resistant to erythromycin alone and must be treated with a combination of erythromycin and adequate doses of sulfonamides. The FDA approved E.E.S in April 1965.
What are the side effects of erythromycin?
The most frequent side effects of erythromycin are:
- loss of appetite,
- diarrhea, and
- abdominal pain.
These gastrointestinal side effects are usually dose-related, i.e., more pronounced with higher doses.
Allergic reactions such as:
- rash, or
- anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction which can lead to shock and death) have been reported rarely.
What is the dosage for erythromycin?
The usual dosage for adults is 250 mg every 6 hours, 333 mg every 8 hours or 500 mg every 12 hours. Doses may be increased up to 4 g/day according to the severity of the infection.
In children, the usual dosage is 30 to 50 mg/kg/day with age, weight, and severity of the infection being taken into consideration to determine the appropriate dosage.
Erythromycin may be taken with or without food; however optimal blood levels of erythromycin are obtained when taken on an empty stomach (at least 30 minutes and preferably 2 hours before or after meals).
Which drugs or supplements interact with erythromycin?
: Erythromycin when used with antiarrhythmic drugs such as, amiodarone (Cordarone), bretylium (Bretylol), disopyramide (Norpace), dofetilide (Tikosyn), procainamide (Pronestyl), quinidine (Quinaglute, Quinidex, Quinora) and sotalol (Betapace) exaggerates the effect of the antiarrhythmic drugs which may give rise to abnormal heart rhythms such as torsades de pointes.
Theophyllines such as theophylline (Theo-Dur), oxtriphylline (Choledyl SA), and aminophylline (Phyllocontin) reduce erythromycin blood levels by increasing elimination of erythromycin by the kidneys, which may reduce the effectiveness of erythromycin. Conversely, erythromycin inhibits the metabolism (breakdown) of theophyllines by the liver and causes an increase in blood levels of theophylline. High theophylline levels may give rise to side effects such as seizures and disturbances in heart rhythm. Therefore, the dose of theophyllines should be reduced or theophylline levels in the blood should be measured in patients taking erythromycin.
Combining erythromycin with ergotamine or ydroergotamine has been associated with acute ergot toxicity. This combination should be avoided.
Erythromycin prevents digoxin (Lanoxin) from being eliminated by the kidneys; this in turn causes increased levels of digoxin in the blood. Increased levels of digoxin can cause disturbances in heart rhythm. Therefore, it is important to monitor and adjust digoxin doses when treating with erythromycin.
Erythromycin prevents the elimination of warfarin (Coumadin) from the body which can raise the levels of warfarin in the blood. Warfarin is an anticoagulant or blood thinner, and an increase in its level in blood can increase the risk of bleeding. It is important to monitor the effects of warfarin and adjust warfarin doses when treating with erythromycin.
Erythromycin inhibits the breakdown of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Mevacor) and simvastatin (Zocor) by the liver leading to increased levels of statins in the blood. High levels of statins could result in severe myopathy (muscle damage) with rhabdomyolysis (r (rapid breakdown of skeletal muscle) that may damage the kidneys or even lead to death. Erythromycin also can elevate blood levels of some anti-seizure drugs such as carbamazepine (Tegretol) by preventing the breakdown of the anti-seizure drug by the liver. Therefore, doses of the anti-seizure drugs may need to be reduced during treatment with erythromycin. Erythromycin also increases blood levels of sildenafil (Viagra). The dose of sildenafil should be reduced when treating with erythromycin.
Grapefruit juice may prevent the breakdown of erythromycin, resulting in elevated levels of erythromycin in the blood. Therefore, it is important to avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice during treatment with erythromycin.
Is erythromycin safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
Erythromycin crosses the placenta, but its level in the blood of the fetus is low. There are no adequate studies in pregnant women, hence pregnant women should only use erythromycin if it is felt that the benefits of treatment outweigh the potential but unknown risks.
Erythromycin is excreted in breast milk; however, erythromycin is considered by the American Academy of Pediatrics to be compatible with breastfeeding. Caution should be exercised, however, when erythromycin is prescribed to women who are breastfeeding.
What else should I know about erythromycin?
What preparations of erythromycin are available?
PREPARATIONS: Tablets: Tablets: 250, 333, 400 and 500 mg. Suspension: 200 and, 400 mg/teaspoon. Tablet (Chewable): 200 mg. Powder: 100 mg/half-teaspoon and 200 mg/teaspoon. Granules: 200 and 400 mg/teaspoon. Powder for Injection: 500 mg and 1g.
How should I keep erythromycin stored?
Erythromycin should be stored at temperatures below 86 F (30 C). It is important to protect tablets from moisture and excessive heat.
Reference: FDA Prescribing Information
Daily Health News
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
- erythromycin, Ery-Tab, PCE Related Diseases
- erythromycin, Ery-Tab, PCE Images & Quizzes
- erythromycin, Ery-Tab, PCE Index
Top erythromycin Related ArticlesComplete List
Chlamydia in Women OverviewChlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. Signs and symptoms of chlamydia, a bacterial infection, include vaginal discharge, abdominal pain, burning with urination, blood in the urine, and feelings of urinary urgency and frequency. Untreated chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, and infertility. Chlamydia is diagnosed with a culture or by identification of the genetic material of the bacteria. Treatment of chlamydia consists of a course of antibiotics.
ImpetigoImpetigo is a contagious skin infection caused by staph and strep bacteria. There are two types of impetigo: nonbullous and bullous. Symptoms of nonbullous impetigo include small blisters on the nose, face, arms, or legs and possibly swollen glands. Bullous impetigo signs include blisters in various areas, particularly in the buttocks area. Treatment involves:
- gentle cleansing,
- removing the crusts of popped blisters, and
- the application of prescription-strength mupirocin antibiotic ointment.
Intestinal Gas (Belching, Bloating, Flatulence)
Gas (intestinal gas) means different things to different people. Everyone has gas and eliminates it by belching, burping, or farting (flatulence). Bloating or abdominal distension is a subjective feeling that the stomach is larger or fuller than normal. Belching or burping occurs when gas is expelled from the stomach out through the mouth. Flatulence or farting occurs when intestinal gas is passed from the anus.
Causes of belching or burping include
- drinking too rapidly,
- carbonated drinks,
- habit, and
- swallowing air.
Causes of bloating or distension include
- fluid within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and
Causes of gas or flatulence are diseases such as
- sugary foods and drinks,
- fruits and vegetables,
- starches (wheat, oats, corn, and potatoes),
- lactose intolerance,
- untreated celiac disease, and
Treatment for excessive intestinal gas depends on the cause.
Pink EyePinkeye, also called conjunctivitis, is redness or irritation of the conjunctivae, the membranes on the inner part of the eyelids and the membranes covering the whites of the eyes. These membranes react to a wide range of bacteria, viruses, allergy-provoking agents, irritants, and toxic agents.
Pityriasis RoseaPityriasis rosea is a rash that begins with a large pink patch with well-defined scaly borders on the back, chest, or neck. In one to two weeks, the person will develop many smaller pink patches on his or her trunk, arms, and legs. Symptoms include mild itching and possible sore throat, fatigue, nausea, aching, and decreased appetite. Pityriasis rosea typically resolves on its own and symptoms and signs may be treated with topical steroid creams and oral antihistamines.
Pneumonia FactsPneumonia is inflammation of the lungs caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses. Symptoms and signs include cough, fever, shortness of breath, and chills. Antibiotics treat pneumonia, and the choice of the antibiotic depends upon the cause of the infection.
RosaceaRosacea is a skin disease that causes redness of the forehead, chin, and lower half of the nose. In addition to inflammation of the facial skin, symptoms include dilation of the blood vessels and pimples (acne rosacea) in the middle third of the face. Oral and topical antibiotics are treatments for rosacea. If left untreated, rhinophyma (a disfiguring nose condition) may result.
Take the Rosacea QuizThink acne and rosacea are the same? Think again. Take the Rosacea Quiz to learn all about this inflammatory skin condition.
Staph InfectionStaphylococcus or Staph is a group of bacteria that can cause a multitude of diseases. Staph infections can cause illness directly by infection or indirectly by the toxins they produce. Symptoms and signs of a Staph infection include redness, swelling, pain, and drainage of pus. Minor skin infections are treated with an antibiotic ointment, while more serious infections are treated with intravenous antibiotics.
Staph Infection SlideshowDo you know what a staph infection is? Learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of staph infections (Staphylococcus aureus), and how this group of bacteria can cause a multitude diseases ranging from mild to potentially fatal.
Take the STD QuizThere are more sexually transmitted diseases than just the ones you've heard of. Find out what you've been missing with the STD Quiz.
STDs in Men Overview
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections transmitted during sexual contact. They may be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites. STDs in men cause no symptoms or symptoms like
- rashes, or
Common STDs in men include:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Genital warts
- Genital herpes
Some STDs in men are treatable while others are not. STDs are diagnosed with tests that identify proteins or genetic material of the organisms causing the infection. The prognosis of an STD depends on whether the infection is treatable or not. Use of latex condoms can help reduce the risk of contracting an STD but it does not eliminate the risk entirely.
STDs Facts SlideshowLearn about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including symptoms, signs, diagnosis, and treatment options. Get more information on herpes, genital warts, chlamydia, scabies, HIV/AIDS, and other STDs.
Strep Throat QuizTake the Strep (Streptococcal) Throat Infection Quiz to learn about causes, symptoms, treatments, prevention methods, diagnosis, and complications of this common infectious disease.
Syphilis PictureA sexually transmitted disease caused by Treponema pallidum, a microscopic organism called a spirochete. See a picture of Syphilis and learn more about the health topic.
Urinary Tract InfectionA urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the bladder, kidneys, ureters, or urethra. E. coli, a type of bacteria that lives in the bowel and near the anus, causes most UTIs. UTI symptoms include pain, abdominal pain, mild fever, urinary urgency and frequency. Treatment involves a course of antibiotics.