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Rifampicin for meningococcal prophylaxis

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Rifampicin for meningococcal prophylaxis

This leaflet is about the use of rifampicin to prevent meningococcal infection (meningitis, septicaemia) in children who have been in close contact with someone who may have such an infection. This is sometimes called meningococcal prophylaxis. 

Information Standard quality markThis leaflet has been written specifically about the use of this medicine in children. The information may differ from that provided by the manufacturer. Please read this leaflet carefully. Keep it somewhere safe so that you can read it again.

Rifampicin does not protect your child completely from meningococcal infection. If they have a high temperature or seem unwell, take them to a doctor or hospital straight away.

Name of drug

Rifampicin
Brand names: Rifadin®, Rimactane® 

Why is it important for my child to take this medicine?

Meningococcal bacteria can cause serious, potentially life-threatening, infections such as meningitis (inflammation of the membrane that surrounds the brain) or septicaemia (blood infection). 

Rifampicin kills meningococcal bacteria. If your child has been in contact with someone who is thought to have a meningococcal infection, your doctor may recommend that they take rifampicin to reduce the risk of them also developing an infection.

What is rifpampicin available as?

  • Capsules: 150 mg, 300 mg 
  • Liquid medicine: 100 mg per 5 mL (red); this syrup contains sucrose

When should I give rifampicin?

  • When used to prevent meningococcal infection, rifampicin is given for 2 days only.
  • Give it twice each day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Ideally, these times are 10–12 hours apart, for example some time between 7 and 8 am, and between 7 and 8 pm. 
  • You need to give rifampicin to your child when their stomach is empty. Give it about 30 minutes before a meal or 2 hours after a meal.

Give the medicine at about the same times on each day so that this becomes part of your child’s daily routine, which will help you to remember.

How much should I give?

Your doctor will work out the amount of rifampicin (the dose) that is right for your child. The dose will be shown on the medicine label. 

It is important that you follow your doctor’s instructions about how much to give.

How should I give it?

Capsules should be swallowed whole with a glass of water or juice (but not milk). Your child should not chew the capsule. 


Liquid medicine: Measure out the right amount using an oral syringe or medicine spoon. You can get these from your pharmacist. Do not use a kitchen teaspoon as it will not give the right amount.


When should the medicine start working?

The medicine will start to work soon after it is given, although you will not see any difference in your child. It is important that your child has the whole course of rifampicin prescribed by your doctor (4 doses altogether over 2 days), to make sure that they are protected from infection.

What if my child is sick (vomits)?

  • If your child is sick less than 30 minutes after having a dose of rifampicin, give them the same dose again.
  • If your child is sick more than 30 minutes after having a dose of rifampicin, you do not need to give them another dose. Wait until the next normal dose.

What if I forget to give it?

If you remember up to 4 hours after you should have given a dose, give your child the missed dose. For example, if you usually give a dose at about 7 am, you can give the missed dose at any time up to 11 am. If you remember after that time, do not give the missed dose. Wait until the next normal dose.

Never give a double dose of rifampicin. 

What if I give too much? 

If you think you may have given your child too much rifampicin, contact your doctor or NHS Direct (0845 4647). 

Have the medicine or packaging with you if you telephone for advice.

Are there any possible side-effects? 

We use medicines to make our children better, but sometimes they have other effects that we don’t want (side-effects). A short course of rifampicin usually causes only mild side-effects, which will disappear when the course is completed.

Side effects you must do something about

If your child is short of breath or is wheezing, or their face, lips or tongue start to swell, or they develop a rash, they may be allergic to rifampicin. Take your child to hospital or call an ambulance straight away

If your child develops any of the following, take them to your doctor or hospital straight away:

  • severe dizziness or faints
  • swollen face, stomach, arms or legs, which may mean they have water build up (fluid retention)
  • yellowing of skin and/or whites of the eyes
  • sores or blisters on the skin or in the mouth
  • passing only small amounts of urine (wee) or none at all 
  • bleeding from the nose, gums or throat, or blood in the urine (wee).

Other side-effects you need to know about

  • Rifampicin may make your child’s urine (wee), faeces (poo), saliva (spit), mucus (phlegm), sweat or tears turn an orange-red colour. This is not harmful and will go when your child stops taking this medicine. The red colour in tears may last for some time after your child has stopped taking rifampicin, and may stain clothes.
  • Your child may feel or be sick, have diarrhoea, get headaches and may feel drowsy (sleepy). These effects should wear off, and will stop when your child has finished the course of rifampicin. If they continue or get worse, contact your doctor.

Can other medicines be given at the same time as rifampicin? 

The oral contraceptive pill does not work properly during treatment with rifampicin so your daughter should use other forms of contraception if she is sexually active.

  • You can give your child medicines that contain paracetamol or Ibuprofen, unless your doctor has told you not to.
  • Rifampicin should not be taken with many common medicines that you get on prescription. Tell your doctor about all medicines your child is taking before starting rifampicin. 
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist before giving any other medicines to your child. This includes herbal or complementary medicines. 

Is there anything else I need to know about this medicine?

  • It is important that your child takes rifampicin for the number of days that the doctor has said (usually 2 days), to make sure that they are protected from infection. 

Rifampicin reduces the risk of your child getting meningitis or septicaemia, but does not provide complete protection. 

If your child has a high temperature (above 38°C) or they seem unwell, take them to the doctor or hospital straight away.

Your child should not wear soft contact lenses, as they may become stained by rifampicin.

  • Rifampicin is also used in the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis (TB) but is given for a much longer time and side-effects are more likely when it is used for TB. A leaflet on this is available from the Medicines for Children website, www.medicinesforchildren.org.uk

General advice about medicines 

  • Only give this medicine to your child. Never give it to anyone else, even if their condition appears to be the same, as this could do harm. 

If you think someone else may have taken the medicine by accident, contact your doctor straight away.

Where I should keep this medicine? 

  • Keep the medicines in a cupboard, away from heat and direct sunlight. It does not need to be kept in the fridge. 
  • Make sure that children cannot see or reach the medicine.
  • Keep the medicine in the container it came in.
  • It is important to keep rifampicin somewhere where it cannot get damp.

Who to contact for more information 

Your child’s doctor, pharmacist or nurse will be able to give you more information about rifampicin and about other medicines used to treat TB.

You can also get useful information from: 
Publication date: 
12/09/2011