What is erythromycin for?

Your health professional may prescribe erythromycin if you have an infection caused by bacteria and you are at risk of the complications of the infection.

Erythromycin is used to treat the respiratory tract infections:

Erythromycin can also be used for treating other bacterial infections, including:

  • chlamydia
  • rheumatic fever (if you are allergic to penicillin antibiotics)
  • coral cuts
  • acne.

People who are generally unwell, or have an ongoing health condition like the ones listed below, are at greater risk of complications. They are more likely to benefit from antibiotics than other people.

If your symptoms don’t improve after a few days of taking erythromycin, or your symptoms get worse, see your doctor.

Find out more about the side effects and interactions of erythromycin.

People at risk of the complications of RTIs include:

  • children younger than 5 years old, especially those born with heart or circulatory problems
  • people aged 65 years or older, especially those living in a nursing home
  • people with long-term health problems such as diabetes, heart, liver or kidney disease
  • pregnant women
  • people who are very obese (body mass index [BMI] of 35 or higher)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • people with breathing problems due to asthma, cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • people with conditions that affect breathing, including multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries and seizure disorders
  • people with weakened immune systems (e.g. due to HIV infection, cancer and some medicines)
  • homeless people
  • people who smoke.
  • Rossi S, ed. Australian Medicines Handbook [online]. Adelaide: AMH, July 2012.
  • Sweetman S, ed. Martindale: The complete drug reference [online]. London: Pharmaceutical Press (accessed 18 October 2011).
  • Antibiotic Expert Group. Therapeutic Guidelines: Antibiotic version 14; Erythromycin. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited, 2012 (accessed 24 February 2012).