Azithromycin for bacterial infection
This leaflet is for parents and carers about how to use this medicine in children. Our information may differ from that provided by the manufacturers, because their information usually relates to adults. Read this leaflet carefully. Keep it somewhere safe so that you can read it again.
If your child has ever had a reaction to any medicine, tell your doctor before giving Azithromycin.
Name of medicine
Brand name: Zithromax
Why is it important for my child to take Azithromycin?
It is important that your child takes this medicine in the way that your doctor has told you to so that it kills the bacteria and gets rid of the infection.
What is Azithromycin available as?
- Tablets: 250 mg, 500 mg
- Capsules: 250 mg
- Liquid medicine (suspension): 200 mg in 5 mL; some may contain a small amount of sugar
When should I give Azithromycin
Azithromycin is usually given once each day. This is usually in the morning.
Give the medicine at about the same time(s) 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 Azithromycin (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 Azithromycin?
Azithromycin tablets and liquid can be taken with or without food, but the capsules should be taken an hour before food or two hours after food.
- Tablets should be swallowed with a glass of water, squash or juice. Your child should not chew the tablet.
- Capsules should be swallowed with a glass of water, squash or juice. Your child should not chew the capsule.
- Shake the medicine well. Measure out the right amount using an oral syringe or a 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 straight away but it may take 2–3 days before your child starts to feel better.
It is important that they take the whole course of medicine that has been prescribed. Do not stop early.
What if my child is sick (vomits)?
- If your child is sick less than 30 minutes after having a dose of Azithromycin, give them the same dose again.
- If your child is sick more than 30 minutes after having a dose of Azithromycin, do not give them another dose. Wait until the next normal dose.
If your child is sick again, seek advice from your family doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or hospital. They will decide what to do based on your child’s condition and the specific medicine involved.
What if I forget to give it?
Give the missed dose when you remember during the day, as long as this is at least 12 hours before the next dose of Azithromycin is due.
What if I give too much?
You are unlikely to cause harm if you give an extra dose of Azithromycin by mistake. If you are concerned that you may have given too much, contact your doctor or local NHS services (details at end of leaflet). 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).
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 Azithromycin. Take your child to hospital or phone for an ambulance straight away.
Other side-effects you need to know about
- Contact your doctor or local NHS services (details at end of leaflet) or take your child to hospital if they:
- have diarrhoea that lasts for more than 4 days or it is severe, watery or contains blood.
- are drowsy, floppy or do not respond.
- Your child may get headaches when taking azithromycin and they may feel sleepy or say they have a funny taste in their mouth. These side-effects usually go once they stop taking the medicine.
Some children get diarrhoea, stomach pains and may feel sick or be sick (vomit) when they first start taking Azithromycin. See the information on antibiotics below for advice on what to do.
Your child may develop a rash or itch.
There may sometimes be other side effects that are not listed above. If you notice anything unusual and are concerned, contact your doctor. You can report any suspected side effects to a UK safety scheme at www.mhra.gov.uk/yellowcard
Can other medicines be given at the same time as Azithromycin?
- You can give your child medicines that contain paracetamol or ibuprofen, unless your doctor has told you not to.
- Azithromycin should not be taken with some medicines. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any other medicines your child is taking before giving Azithromycin.
- Check with your doctor or pharmacist before giving any other medicines to your child. This includes herbal and complementary medicines.
- If your child takes medicines for indigestion (antacids), give these at a different time of day from Azithromycin. Leave a gap of at least 2 hours between giving Azithromycin and the indigestion medicines.
Is there anything else I need to know about this medicine?
- Azithromycin is a type of antibiotic called a macrolide. Your child should not have Azithromycin if they are allergic to any macrolide antibiotics (for example, Erythromycin or Clarithromycin).
- If your child has ever had an allergic reaction or any other type of reaction to a medicine, tell your doctor before giving Azithromycin.
- Azithromycin tablets and liquid can be taken with or without food but the capsules should be taken an hour before food or two hours after food.
General advice about antibiotics
- It is vital that your child completes the course of antibiotic. This means that they must take the medicine for the number of days that the doctor has told you, or until all the tablets or capsules have been taken.
- Your child will probably start to feel better soon after starting to take the antibiotic. However, it takes a few days for the antibiotic to kill all the bacteria.
- If you stop giving the antibiotic too soon, the bacteria that are left will start to multiply again, and may cause another infection.
- There is also a risk that these bacteria will be ‘resistant’ to the first antibiotic. This means that it might not work next time, and your child might need a different antibiotic, which might not work as well or cause more side effects.
- Children are sometimes sick (vomit) or get diarrhoea when taking antibiotics. Encourage them to drink water to replace the fluid they have lost. You can also buy oral rehydration fluid from your pharmacist.
- Do not give your child any medicine to stop the diarrhoea unless your doctor has told you to.
- Try to give the antibiotic at about the same time(s) each day, to help you remember, and to make sure that there is the right amount of medicine in your child’s body to kill the bacteria.
- Only give this medicine to your child for their current infection.
- Never save medicine for future illnesses. Give old or unused antibiotics to your pharmacist to dispose of.
- Only give the antibiotic to the child it was prescribed for. Never give it to anyone else, even if their condition appears to be the same, as it could do harm.
- Antibiotics only kill bacteria; they do not kill viruses. This means that they do not work against colds, sore throats, flu or other infections that are caused by viruses. Your doctor will not prescribe antibiotics for these illnesses.
If you think someone else may have taken the medicine by accident, contact your doctor for advice.
Where should I keep this medicine?
- Keep the medicine in a cupboard, away from heat and direct sunlight.
- You may need to keep liquid medicine in the fridge – check the instructions on the bottle. Make sure the medicine does not freeze.
- Make sure that children cannot see or reach the medicine.
- Keep the medicine in the container it came in.
Who to contact for more information?
Your child’s doctor, pharmacist or nurse will be able to give you more information about Azithromycin and about other medicines used to treat infections.
Version . © NPPG, RCPCH and WellChild, all rights reserved. Review by August 2022.
The primary source for the information in this leaflet is the British National Formulary for Children. For details on any other sources used for this leaflet, please contact us through our website, www.medicinesforchildren.org.uk.
We take great care to make sure that the information in this leaflet is correct and up-to-date. However, medicines can be used in different ways for different patients. It is important that you ask the advice of your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure about something. This leaflet is about the use of these medicines in the UK, and may not apply to other countries. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), the Neonatal and Paediatric Pharmacists Group (NPPG), WellChild and the contributors and editors cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of information, omissions of information, or any actions that may be taken as a consequence of reading this leaflet.