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Your child needs to take the medicine called erythromycin (say: ere-ith-roe-MYE-sin). This information sheet explains what erythromycin does, how to give it, and what side effects or problems your child may have when he or she takes this medicine.

What is erythromycin?

Erythromycin is a medicine called an antibiotic. Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent certain types of infections caused by germs called bacteria. It can also be used for acne or certain types of digestive disorders.

You may hear erythromycin called by its brand names: ERYC®, EES®, or PCE®. Erythromycin comes in a tablet, capsule, liquid, eye ointment, injection form, and also as a topical skin product.

Some erythromycin tablets or capsules have a special coating called an enteric coating. The enteric coating protects erythromycin from the stomach acid.

Before giving erythromycin to your child…

Tell your doctor if your child is allergic to or has a sensitivity to erythromycin or related antibiotics such as azithromycin or clarithromycin​.

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if your child has any of the following conditions. Precautions may need to be taken with this medicine if your child has:

  • liver disease
  • heart rhythm problems
  • myasthenia gravis (neuromuscular disease)

How should you give your child erythromycin?

Follow these instructions when you give your child erythromycin:

  • Give your child erythromycin for as long as your doctor or pharmacist tells you, even if your child seems better.
  • Give your child erythromycin exactly as your child’s doctor or pharmacist tells you, at the same times every day, evenly spaced throughout the waking hours. Pick times that are easy for you, so that you do not miss any doses.
  • If your child is getting enteric-coated capsules or tablets, they may need to be swallowed whole. Check with your pharmacist if the tablet or capsule your child is receiving can be crushed, broken, or split. <.li>
  • Whether or not erythromycin should be taken with food de​pends on the formulation. Check with your pharmacist if the erythromycin formulation your child is receiving should be taken with food or on an empty stomach.
  • If your child is taking liquid erythromycin, measure the dose with the special spoon or syringe that the pharmacist gave you. Shake the bottle of erythromycin well before you give your child each dose.
  • If your child is getting the ophthalmic (eye) ointment, a 1 cm ribbon should be placed on the inside of the lower eyelid. Then, your child should close their eyes and the eyelids can be massaged gently to spread the ointment and any excess wiped away. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more detailed instructions.
  • If your child is getting the topical (gel) product, the area should be cleaned before applying a thin film of medication. The person applying the medication should wash their hands before and after application.
  • The injection is usually given in a hospital clinic or nursing unit by a nurse.

What should you do if your child misses a dose of erythromycin?

  • Give your child the missed dose as soon as you remember.
  • If it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose. Give the next dose at the regular time.
  • Do not give your child two doses to make up for one missed dose.

How long does erythromycin take to work?

It may take several days for your child to start feeling better after starting this medicine and it may also take several more days before the full benefit is seen.

What are the possible side effects of erythromycin?

Your child may have some of these side effects while he or she takes erythromycin. Check with your child’s doctor if your child continues to have any of these side effects, and they do not go away, or they bother your child:

  • stomach (belly) pain or heartburn
  • upset stomach including watery bowel movements (diarrhea) or throwing up

Topical applications can cause redness, tenderness, dryness, and a mild rash at the site of application.

Call your child’s doctor during office hours if your child has a mild skin rash or itchy skin.

Most of the following side effects are not common, but they may be a sign of a serious problem. Call your child’s doctor right away or take your child to the Emergency Department if your child has any of these side effects:

  • problems breathing, wheezing, or chest tightness
  • swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • severe nausea or vomiting (throwing up), severe watery bowel movements (diarrhea), or abdominal pain
  • blistering, peeling skin, or a severe skin rash
  • skin or eyes turning yellow, pale-coloured stools, or dark coloured urine
  • fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat
  • severe dizziness or fainting

What safety measures should you take when your child is using erythromycin?

There are some medicines that should not be taken together with erythromycin or in some cases the dose of erythromycin or the other medicine may need to be adjusted. It is important that you tell your doctor and pharmacist if your child takes any other medications (prescription, over the counter or herbal) including:

What other important information should you know about erythromycin?

Keep a list of all medications your child is on and show the list to the doctor or pharmacist.

Do not share your child’s medicine with others and do not give anyone else’s medicine to your child.

If you stop the antibiotics early (unless told to do so by your doctor), your child may not get fully well and his/her symptoms may return. Your child may also have a higher chance of developing resistance to erythromycin, which may make it difficult for your child to be treated for future infections.

Make sure you always have enough erythromycin to last through weekends, holidays, and vacations. Call your pharmacy at least 2 days before your child runs out of medicine to order refills.

Store the capsules and tablets at room temperature (<30˚C) away from moisture and sunlight. Do NOT store in the bathroom or kitchen.

Storage of liquid (oral suspension) can vary depending on the particular formulation. Consult your pharmacist for specific storage requirements.

Do not keep any medicines that are out of date. Check with your pharmacist about the best way to throw away outdated or leftover medicines.

Keep erythromycin out of your child’s sight and reach and locked up in a safe place. If your child takes too much erythromycin, call the Ontario Poison Centre at one of these numbers. These calls are free.

  • Call 416-813-5900 if you live in Toronto .
  • Call 1-800-268-9017 if you live somewhere else in Ontario .
  • If you live outside of Ontario, call your local Poison Information Centre.

Disclaimer: The information in this Family Med-aid is accurate at the time of printing. It provides a summary of information about erythromycin and does not contain all possible information about this medicine. Not all side effects are listed. If you have any questions or want more information about erythromycin, speak to your healthcare provider. ​​​

Amelia Rodrigues, BScPhm, ACPR, RPh​