Azithromycin Oral Tablet | Side Effects, Dosage, Uses & More
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Generic Name:

azithromycin, Oral tablet

Generic Name:
Zithromax,Zithromax Tri-Pak,Zithromax Z-Pak

azithromycin, Oral tablet

All Brands

  • Zithromax
  • Zithromax Tri-Pak
  • Zithromax Z-Pak
SECTION 1 of 5

Highlights for azithromycin

Oral tablet
1

Azithromycin is used to treat infections caused by bacteria.

2

This drug comes as a tablet, suspension, and extended-release suspension you take by mouth. It also comes as eye drops. A healthcare provider can also give this drug in an intravenous form.

3

The oral tablet is available as the brand-name drug Zithromax. It’s also available as a generic drug.

4

The more common side effects of this drug include diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting.

5

In some cases, azithromycin can cause serious side effects. These can include liver problems and QT prolongation (a heart rhythm issue that may cause a fast, irregular heart rhythm).

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Liver problems

This drug may cause liver problems. Your doctor may check your liver function while you’re taking it. Tell your doctor if you have any symptoms of liver problems. Symptoms include dark-colored urine, itchiness, upper stomach pain, loss of appetite, or yellowing of your skin or eyes.

QT prolongation

Azithromycin may cause the heart rhythm problem QT prolongation. This condition may cause fast, irregular heartbeats.

Antibiotic-associated diarrhea

Almost all antibiotics, including azithromycin, can cause diarrhea. This condition may cause mild diarrhea to severe inflammation of your colon, which can be fatal (cause death). Call your doctor if you have severe diarrhea or diarrhea that lasts after your stop taking this drug.

What is azithromycin?

Azithromycin is a prescription drug. It’s available as an oral tablet, oral suspension, and extended-release oral suspension. It also comes as eye drops. A healthcare provider can also give this drug in an intravenous form. 

The oral tablet is available as the brand-name drug Zithromax. It’s also available as a generic drug. Generic drugs usually cost less. In some cases, they may not be available in every strength or form as the brand-name version.

Azithromycin may be used in combination with other antibiotics when it’s used to treat a mycobacterium avium complex infection.

Why it's used

Azithromycin is used to treat certain infections caused by bacteria.

How it works

Azithromycin belongs to a class of drugs called macrolide antibiotics.

More Details

How it works

Azithromycin belongs to a class of drugs called macrolide antibiotics. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

Azithromycin works by stopping the bacteria from multiplying. This kills the bacteria and treats your infection.  

This drug should only be used to treat bacterial infections. It shouldn’t be used to treat viruses, such as the common cold.

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SECTION 2 of 5

azithromycin Side Effects

Oral tablet

More Common Side Effects

The more common side effects of azithromycin oral tablet can include:

  • diarrhea

  • nausea

  • stomach pain

  • vomiting

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious Side Effects

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 9-1-1 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Liver problems. Symptoms can include:

    • tiredness or weakness
    • loss of appetite
    • upper stomach pain
    • dark-colored urine
    • yellowing of your skin or eyes
  • QT prolongation (a heart rhythm problem). Symptoms can include:

    • fast or irregular heart rhythm
  • Allergic reactions. Symptoms can include:

    • skin reactions, including hives or the severe skin reactions Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis. Symptoms can include:
      • red, blistering skin
      • skin sloughing (shedding dead skin cells)
    • trouble breathing
    • swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
Pharmacist's Advice
Clinical Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy

Azithromycin doesn’t cause drowsiness.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
SECTION 3 of 5

azithromycin May Interact with Other Medications

Oral tablet

Azithromycin can interact with other medications, vitamins, or herbs you may be taking. An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well.

To help avoid interactions, your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking. To find out how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Medications that might interact with this drug

Interactions that increase your risk of side effects
  • Side effects from other drugs: Taking azithromycin with certain medications raises your risk of side effects from these drugs. Examples of these drugs include:
    • Nelfinavir. Taking this drug with azithromycin may cause liver or hearing problems. Your doctor will monitor you for these side effects.
    • Warfarin. Taking this drug with azithromycin may increase bleeding. Your doctor will monitor you closely if you take these drugs together.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.
Azithromycin warnings
liver problems
People with liver problems

In rare cases, this drug can cause liver problems. If you already have liver disease, it could make your liver function worse. Your doctor will check how well your liver is working during your treatment with this drug. If your liver isn’t working well, your doctor may have you stop taking this medication.

myasthenia gravis
People with myasthenia gravis

This drug may make your symptoms worse.

abnormal heart rhythms
People with a history of abnormal heart rhythms

Ask your doctor if this drug is safe for you. If you have a prolonged QT interval, taking this drug can increase your risk of having an arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm) that may be fatal (cause death).

Pregnant women
Pregnant women

Azithromycin is a category B pregnancy drug. That means two things:

  1. Studies of the drug in pregnant animals have not shown a risk to the fetus.
  2. There aren’t enough studies done in pregnant women to show if the drug poses a risk to the fetus.

Talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant. This drug should be used only if clearly needed. 

breast-feeding
Women who are breast-feeding

Azithromycin passes into breast milk and may cause side effects in a child who is breastfed.

Talk to your doctor if you breastfeed your child. You may need to decide whether to stop breastfeeding or stop taking this medication.

seniors
For seniors

The kidneys of older adults may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of a drug stays in your body for a longer time. This raises your risk of side effects.  

If you’re older than 65 years of age, you may have a higher risk of developing a heart rhythm problem called torsades de pointes while taking this drug.

children
For children

This drug hasn’t been studied in children younger than 6 months of age. It should not be used in children younger than 6 months of age.

call the doctor
When to call the doctor

Call your doctor if your infection isn’t improving after you’ve used this drug.

Allergies
Allergies

Azithromycin can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms can include:

  • Skin reactions, including hives and the severe skin reactions Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis. Symptoms can include:
    • red, blistering skin
    • skin sloughing (shedding dead skin cells)
  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat

If you have an allergic reaction, call your doctor or local poison control center right away. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it. Taking it again could be fatal (cause death).

SECTION 4 of 5

How to Take azithromycin (Dosage)

Oral tablet

All possible dosages and drug forms may not be included here. Your dosage, drug form, and how often you take the drug will depend on:

  • your age
  • the condition being treated
  • how severe your condition is
  • other medical conditions you have
  • how you react to the first dose

What are you taking this medication for?

Bronchitis

Generic: azithromycin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg

Brand: Zithromax

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)
  • 500 mg taken once per day for 3 days or
  • 500 mg taken as a single dose on day 1, followed by 250 mg taken one time per day on days 2–5

Sinusitis

Generic: azithromycin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg

Brand: Zithromax

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)

500 mg taken once per day for 3 days

Child dosage (ages 6 months – 17 years)

10 mg/kg of body weight taken once per day for 3 days

Child dosage (ages 0–6 months)

This drug should not be used in children younger than 6 months of age.

Skin and skin structure infections

Generic: azithromycin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg

Brand: Zithromax

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)
  • Day 1: 500 mg taken as a single dose
  • Days 2–5: 250 mg taken once per day
Child dosage (ages 0–6 months)

This drug should not be used in children younger than 6 months of age.

Urethritis and cervicitis

Generic: azithromycin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg

Brand: Zithromax

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)

If you’re treating this condition and it isn’t caused by a gonorrhea infection, you’ll take a single 1-g dose. If you’re treating a symptom of a gonorrhea infection, you’ll take a single 2-g dose.

Child dosage (ages 0–6 months)

This drug should not be used in children younger than 6 months of age.

Genital ulcer disease

Generic: azithromycin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg

Brand: Zithromax

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)

A single 1-g dose

Child dosage (ages 0–6 months)

This drug should not be used in children younger than 6 months of age.

Acute middle ear infection

Generic: azithromycin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg

Brand: Zithromax

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg
Child dosage (ages 6 months – 17 years)
  • 30 mg/kg of body weight taken as a single dose or
  • 10 mg/kg of body weight taken once on day 1, followed by 5 mg/kg per day on days 2–5
Child dosage (ages 0–6 months)

This drug should not be used in children younger than 6 months of age.

Community-acquired pneumonia

Generic: azithromycin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg

Brand: Zithromax

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)
  • Day 1: 500 mg taken as a single dose
  • Days 2–5: 250 mg taken once per day
Child dosage (ages 6 months – 17 years)

10 mg/kg of body weight taken as a single dose on day 1, followed by 5 mg/kg taken once per day on days 2–5

Child dosage (ages 0–6 months)

This drug should not be used in children younger than 6 months of age.

Mycobacterium avium complex disease

Generic: azithromycin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg

Brand: Zithromax

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)
  • For treatment: 600 mg taken once per day with the drug ethambutol
  • For prevention: 1,200 mg taken once per week
Child dosage (ages 0–6 months)

This drug should not be used in children younger than 6 months of age.

Pharyngitis or tonsillitis

Generic: azithromycin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg

Brand: Zithromax

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, 600 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)
  • Day 1: 500 mg taken as a single dose
  • Days 2–5: 250 mg taken once per day
Child dosage (ages 2–17 years)

12 mg/kg of body weight taken once per day for 5 days

Child dosage (ages 0–2 years)

This drug should not be used in children younger than 2 years of age for this condition.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Clinical Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy

Azithromycin comes with risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.

If you stop taking the drug or don’t take it at all

If you don’t take your medication, your infection may not improve or it may get worse.

If you miss doses or don’t take the drug on schedule

Your medication may not work as well or may stop working completely. For this drug to work well, a certain amount needs to be in your body at all times.

If you take too much

You could have dangerous levels of the drug in your body. This may cause:

  • liver damage
  • irregular heart rhythm

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or local poison control center. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.   

What to do if you miss a dose

Take your dose as soon as you remember. But if you remember just a few hours before your next scheduled dose, take only one dose. Never try to catch up by taking two doses at once. This could result in dangerous side effects.

How to tell if the drug is working

Your infection should go away.

Azithromycin is used for short-term treatment.

Important considerations for taking azithromycin

Store this drug carefully

  • Store this drug at room temperature. Keep it between 68ºF and 77ºF (20ºC and 25ºC). You can keep it briefly between 59ºF and 86ºF (15ºC and 30ºC).
  • Don’t store this medication in moist or damp areas, such as bathrooms.

A prescription for this medication is refillable

You should not need a new prescription for this medication to be refilled. Your doctor will write the number of refills authorized on your prescription.

Travel

When traveling with your medication:

  • Always carry your medication with you, such as in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t worry about airport x-ray machines. They can’t hurt your medication.
  • You may need to show airport staff the pharmacy label for your medication. Always carry the original prescription-labeled box with you.
  • Don’t put this medication in your car’s glove compartment or leave it in the car. Be sure to avoid doing this when the weather is very hot or very cold.

Clinical monitoring

Your doctor may need to monitor your liver function while you take azithromycin. This will help make sure that your liver is working correctly while you take this drug. Your doctor may do blood tests to check how well your liver is working. If your liver isn’t working well, your doctor may have you stop taking this drug.

Are there any alternatives?

There are other drugs available to treat your condition. Some may be better suited for you than others. Talk to your doctor about other drug options that may work for you.

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How Much Does azithromycin Cost?

Oral tablet

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Lowest price for azithromycin

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These prices represent the lowest priced national pharmacies for azithromycin on GoodRx. They may be lower than your insurance.

Show Sources

  • Catalent Pharma Solutions. (2012, October). AzaSite (azithromycin ophthalmic solution) 1% sterile topical ophthalmic drops [package insert]. Woodstock, IL.
  • Pfizer. (2015, December). Zithromax (azithromycin) 250 mg and 500 mg tablets and oral suspension [package insert]. New York, NY.
  • Pfizer. (2015, December). Zithromax (azithromycin) 600 mg tablets and oral suspension [package insert]. New York, NY.
  • Pfizer. (2015, December). Zmax (azithromycin extended-release) for oral suspension [package insert]. New York, NY.

Content developed in collaboration with University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group

Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on February 25, 2016

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.
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