MEDICINE CABINET Know your medication, one dose at a time! By Dr Ashutosh Pakale

Azithromycin is an antibiotic which is being used to treat wide variety of bacterial infection.

Mechanism of Action

This antibiotic belongs to macrolide group of antibiotics and it works by inhibiting bacterial protein synthesis, hence inhibiting its growth and by other complex mechanisms as well, thus giving it ability to act against wide range of micro-organisms.


Azithromycin is used to treat wide variety of infections including the infections of ears, throat, skin, lungs, sinuses and certain sexually transmitted diseases (STD).

As azithromycin is an antibiotic it will not work for colds, flu which is usually viral in etiology or for any other viral infections. Using antibiotics inappropriately when they are not needed increases the risk of getting an infection later which might resist antibiotic treatment.

How should this medicine be used?

Azithromycin comes as a tablet form as well as an extended-release suspension (syrup) and as an injection form to be given intravenously.

If your physician has prescribed you azithromycin, do not discontinue it prior to finishing the recommended course. If you stop taking this medicine too soon, skip doses or stop abruptly, your infection may not be completely get treated and the bacteria may become resistant to antibiotics.

Side effects

If taken properly as per prescription, azithromycin is safe medication to take. But like any other medication this medicine can cause some side effects. Watch for any of the following symptoms if you are taking azithromycin.

The common side effects include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, headache etc. Other less common but serious side effects are palpitation, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, rash with or without a fever, blisters or peeling of the skin, itching, wheezing or difficulty breathing or swallowing, swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs, hoarseness, severe diarrhea etc

If you experience any such side effects, stop taking azithromycin and inform your doctor immediately or get emergency medical treatment.

Tell your doctor if you are already allergic to macrolide group of antibiotics which includes azithromycin, clarithromycin and erythromycin.

Word of caution

Tell your doctor if you are taking any other medication such as anticoagulants (blood thinners) eg. warfarin, other medications such as digoxin, phenytoin, medications for irregular heartbeat (amiodarone). In such scenario, your doctor might change the dose of medication or may monitor you carefully for side effects

Dr Ashutosh Pakale is a Consulting Physician and Diabetologist.

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