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What is Zithromax®?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Zithromax® is an antibiotic medication which is used to treat infections which are believed to be caused by bacteria. It is not a first line antibiotic, being preferred for situations in which the patient is allergic to the drugs normally used to treat an infection or for cases in which a patient does not respond to other medications. Doctors most commonly prescribe Zithromax® to treat infections in people with compromised immune systems and young children, and it is safe for use in infants. It is believed to be safe for pregnant women, but the safety for breastfeeding mothers is not known.

This medication, also known by the generic name of azithromycin, was discovered in the 1980s. It is part of the macrolide class of drugs grouped together because of their molecular structure, and it is closely related to erythromycin, another antibiotic drug. People can take Zithromax® in the form of an oral suspension, an injectable medication, or a tablet. Tablets of the drug are extremely popular and often come in a three or five day pack with enough doses for a short course of treatment. It is very important to finish a course of treatment rather than stopping once symptoms of infection appear to be resolved.

Some infections which may be treated with Zithromax® include pneumonia, strep throat, urinary tract infections, tonsillitis, respiratory infections, skin infections, typhoid fever, and ear infections. To reduce the development of antibiotic resistance, doctors usually only prescribe this drug when it can be demonstrated that bacteria are responsible for an infection, and that they are likely of a class which is susceptible to Zithromax®. The drug works by interfering with the ability to synthesize proteins.

While on Zithromax®, patients may notice side effects such as nausea and stomach upset. Some patients develop diarrhea, chest pains, jaundice, and other serious side effects, although fewer than one percent of patients are forced to stop using the drug because of side effects. Patients should report side effects to their doctors.

Like other medications, Zithromax® can interact with other drugs. It is important to disclose any medications, prescription or not, which are being taken so that a doctor can determine whether or not the drug will be safe. It is also important to inform doctors of allergies. Patients should be aware that Zithromax® can increase sensitivity to light and that taking antacids with the drug can make it less effective.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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