Azithromycin For Traveller's Diarrhoea

Azithromycin offers an effective treatment for traveller's diarrhoea

Traveller’s diarrhoea is the most common problem people face when they travel. To be prepared, consider taking a pack of fast-acting Azithromycin with you on your next trip.

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250mg4 tablets£13.95In Stock
250mg8 tablets£27.35In Stock
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Information

Virginia Chachati

Reviewed by Virginia Chachati MPharm
(2013, University College London)
GPhC Registration number: 2087654

Information last reviewed 28/02/21

About

What is Azithromycin?

Azithromycin is an antibiotic that is used to treat a range of bacterial infections. These include chest, skin and sinus infections, lyme disease and sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia. Azithromycin is also a standby treatment for traveller’s diarrhoea, although this is off-label use.

What does Azithromycin do?

Azithromycin is an antibiotic that belongs to the macrolide family. When you take Azithromycin, it stops bacteria from creating proteins they need to stay alive. This kills off the bacteria and gives your immune system time to clear them from your body.

How does Azithromycin treat diarrhoea?

Azithromycin reduces the symptoms of traveller’s diarrhoea by killing off the bacteria which may be causing it. This helps you recover from traveller’s diarrhoea faster.

How long does Azithromycin take to work?

Azithromycin will usually start to make you feel better after 24 hours. You should complete the 72 hour course, which is typically prescribed by a doctor, for traveller’s diarrhoea to be cleared from your system.

How effective is Azithromycin for diarrhoea?

Bacteria are the most common cause of traveller’s diarrhoea. As Azithromycin is an antibiotic, it is effective for treating traveller’s diarrhoea which may be caused by bacteria. You can have Azithromycin as a standby treatment if you are travelling to any high-risk areas including South Asia and South East Asia. Start taking Azithromycin when you first notice symptoms of traveller’s diarrhoea. Washing your hands before preparing or eating food and drinking clean, preferably bottled, water while abroad will reduce your chances of getting traveller’s diarrhoea.

Ingredients

Active ingredients

Azithromycin dihydrate is the active ingredient in Azithromycin tablets.

Inactive ingredients

Inactive ingredients in Azithromycin tablets include: dibasic calcium phosphate anhydrous, pregelatinized starch, sodium croscarmellose, magnesium stearate, sodium lauryl sulfate, hypromellose, lactose, titanium dioxide, triacetin and D&C Red #30 aluminum lake.

Please Note: Inactive ingredients may vary between different brands of generic Azithromycin. Please check the information leaflet provided for further details.

Which ingredients can cause an allergic reaction?

It is rare for azithromycin to cause a severe allergic reaction. Swelling of the face or throat, hives, feeling dizzy, trouble breathing or itching of the skin are signs of a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction usually present itself a few minutes after consuming the medication. Call the emergency medical services if you notice any of these symptoms.

Dosage

Azithromycin dosage for traveller's diarrhoea

A typical course for Azithromycin is one 500 mg tablet each day for three days. Your doctor may prescribe more or less than this depending on the risk of traveller’s diarrhoea and your personal medical circumstances.

How to take Azithromycin?

Always take Azithromycin as your doctor has prescribed. How you take Azithromycin will depend on the type and severity of the infection you are being treated for. For traveller’s diarrhoea, you may be instructed to take one 500 mg tablet each day for three days or four 250 mg tablets as a single dose.

Can Azithromycin be crushed or split?

Azithromycin tablets should not be crushed or split before taking it. They should not be chewed either. Azithromycin is available in liquid form if you have difficulty swallowing tablets, or if you need to give the medicine to a child.

Do I need to finish the course of Azithromycin even if I feel better?

Azithromycin usually comes as a pack of four 250 mg tablets which is taken as a single  dose, or a pack of three 500 mg tablets where you take one tablet each day. Always follow the instructions given by your doctor on how to take Azithromycin, as the length of the treatment course depends on the type and severity of infection you are being treated for. You must complete the course of Azithromycin tablets you are prescribed, even if you feel better, to prevent recurrent infections and possible resistance.

Side Effects

Azithromycin side effects

Common side effects of Azithromycin may include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Headaches 
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling tired
  • Altered taste 

If you experience any of the following serious side effects, you should seek immediate medical help:

  • Chest pains or a faster or irregular heartbeat
  • Yellow skin or eyes, or pale bowel movements combined with dark urine. These indicate problems with the gallbladder or liver.
  • Tinnitus, loss of hearing or vertigo
  • Severe abdominal or back pain 
  • Bloody diarrhoea which is severe and long-lasting

Contraindications

Do not take Azithromycin if you are allergic to it or any other macrolide antibiotics. This includes if you’ve had an allergic reaction to Azithromycin in the past or experienced diarrhoea after taking it. Azithromycin is not suitable for people with heart, liver or kidney problems, people with myasthenia gravis or diabetics.

Drug interactions

Azithromycin might interfere with other medicines. Let your doctor know if you are taking: 

  • Indigestion medicines
  • Migraine treatments 
  • Warfarin (for thinning blood)
  • Ciclosporin or tacrolimus
  • Digoxin
  • Rifabutin 
  • HIV medicine
  • Medicine to reduce cholesterol 

Azithromycin and pregnancy

You should not take Azithromycin if you are pregnant or planning a baby. For further advice, discuss your options with your doctor.

Will Azithromycin affect my contraception?

Please discuss your options with your doctor before starting antibiotic treatment with Azithromycin while using contraception. Depending on your method of contraception, it  may be affected by Azithromycin.

Azithromycin and alcohol

Avoid drinking alcohol while you are taking Azithromycin, as it can make you feel sleepy or dizzy.

How to cope with Azithromycin side effects?

If taking Azithromycin is making you feel sick, avoid eating foods that are high in fat, oily or spicy. Make sure you still eat regular meals even if your appetite is lacking. If you experience headaches, drink plenty of water and take a painkiller if necessary. Sit or lie down if you feel dizzy. Try to rest to give your body time to allow Azithromycin to work.

Treatment Options

Alternatives to Azithromycin

Rehydration salts can be used to treat dehydration as a result of traveller’s diarrhoea. Antimotility agents like Loperamide and Bismuth subsalicylate are over the counter treatments which can help reduce the symptoms of traveller’s diarrhoea. These medicines should be used with caution and are not suitable for people with inflammatory bowel disease or if you have a fever.

Q&A

Is Azithromycin preventive or curative?

Azithromycin can cure traveller’s diarrhoea caused by bacteria. In some cases, Azithromycin can be used to prevent recurring chest infections. You should only use Azithromycin in this way if you know you are susceptible to infections.

Is Azithromycin an antibiotic?

Yes, Azithromycin is an antibiotic belonging to the macrolide family.

How will I know if Azithromycin is working?

You’ll know that Azithromycin is working because your traveller’s diarrhoea will clear up and you’ll stop having symptoms.

Will diarrhoea affect my contraception effectiveness?

If you get diarrhoea while taking your contraceptive pill, you may not be protected against pregnancy. This will depend on the severity of your symptoms. If you’ve experienced more than four watery stools within 24 hours and your diarrhoea lasts longer than this, it’s likely that your contraceptive pill has not been digested or absorbed properly. In this case, you should keep taking your contraceptive pill as usual and use additional protection, such as condoms, until you feel better and for an additional seven days after you stop having symptoms.

Do I have to finish the course even after symptoms have resolved?

You should follow the instructions prescribed by your doctor on how to take Azithromycin. You must complete the course even if you feel better. If you don’t take the full course as prescribed, the bacteria that caused your traveller’s diarrhoea might still be present. This could cause symptoms to restart or the bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotic and you will need a different treatment.

Are there any other uses for Azithromycin?

Azithromycin is used to treat a range of bacterial infections. For example, chest infections, lyme disease, chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

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I moved 150 miles from my GP (to uni) and was unable to go home or visit a walk in for another 2 days due to being at work (12.5 hour shifts). I filled out a quick form - and 1.5 days later I had my antibiotics delivered to my door and I am on the mend. 10/10.

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