Clarithromycin: Uses – Side Effects – Warnings

Clarithromycin is an antibiotic medication that belongs to the macrolide class. It works by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, allowing the body’s immune system to fight off the infection effectively. Clarithromycin is commonly used to treat various bacterial infections in different parts of the body. It is available in the form of tablets, suspension, and extended-release tablets.


Clarithromycin is prescribed by healthcare professionals to treat a range of bacterial infections, including:

  • Skin and soft tissue infections
  • Respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and sinusitis
  • Ear and throat infections, such as strep throat and otitis media
  • Gastrointestinal infections, including Helicobacter pylori-associated peptic ulcers
  • Sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia


Clarithromycin effectively treats bacterial infections and provides relief from the symptoms associated with these infections. By inhibiting bacterial growth, it helps the body’s immune system to eradicate the infection, leading to a faster recovery. The benefits of clarithromycin include:

  • Reducing inflammation and pain caused by respiratory infections
  • Improving symptoms such as cough, sore throat, and runny nose
  • Preventing complications associated with untreated bacterial infections, such as pneumonia or kidney infections

Side Effects

While clarithromycin is generally well-tolerated, it may have some side effects. Common side effects may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Abnormal taste in the mouth
  • Headache

If these side effects persist or worsen, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional. In rare cases, clarithromycin may cause more severe side effects, such as:

  • Allergic reactions, including rash, itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing
  • Severe diarrhea, possibly with blood or mucus
  • Liver problems, such as jaundice or persistent abdominal pain
  • Heart rhythm disturbances
  • Muscle weakness or pain

If any of these severe side effects occur, immediate medical attention should be sought.


Before taking clarithromycin, it is essential to inform your healthcare provider about any existing medical conditions, especially:

  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart rhythm issues
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Electrolyte imbalances, such as low levels of potassium or magnesium in the blood

Additionally, it is crucial to disclose all current medications, including prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal supplements, to avoid potential drug interactions. Some medications that may interact with clarithromycin include:

  • Statins
  • Anticoagulants
  • Antidepressants
  • Antifungal medications
  • Calcium channel blockers

Clarithromycin is not recommended for individuals with a known hypersensitivity to macrolide antibiotics or those taking medications that may cause a potentially life-threatening heart rhythm disturbance.


Can clarithromycin treat viral infections?

No, clarithromycin is not effective against viral infections as it specifically targets bacteria.

How long does it take for clarithromycin to start working?

The onset of action of clarithromycin varies depending on the type and severity of the infection. However, patients often start feeling better within a few days of starting the medication.

Can I drink alcohol while taking clarithromycin?

It is generally recommended to avoid alcohol while taking clarithromycin. Alcohol consumption may increase the risk of side effects and reduce the effectiveness of the medication.

Can clarithromycin be safely used during pregnancy?

Clarithromycin should only be used during pregnancy if clearly needed and prescribed by a healthcare professional. It is important to discuss potential risks and benefits with your doctor.

Can I stop taking clarithromycin if I feel better?

No, it is important to complete the full course of clarithromycin as prescribed by your healthcare provider, even if symptoms improve. Stopping the medication prematurely may lead to treatment failure and antibiotic resistance.

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