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What is erythromycin?

Erythromycin (also called Ery-Tab®, E-Mycin®, EES®, PCE®, and ERYC®) is used to prevent or treat infections. It is also taken by mouth to improve stomach emptying time and how well the intestines work. It is applied to the skin to treat acne. Erythromycin is available in many different forms, brands, and strengths, including the following:

  • Capsules, tablets (some are extended-released), and liquid suspensions, all of which are taken by mouth
  • Clear liquid to be given by vein (IV)
  • Eye ointment
  • Skin ointment and solution

How to take and store erythromycin

  • Some brands of erythromycin must be taken on an empty stomach, one (1) hour before meals or 2 hours after a meal. Other brands can be taken with or without food. Ask your pharmacist if you can take your medicine with food.
  • Shake the liquid well before you take it. Use an oral syringe or medicine cup to be sure you are taking the correct amount.
  • Most brands of erythromycin liquid medicines should be kept in the refrigerator. Ask your pharmacist if you need to keep your medicine in the refrigerator.
  • Discard the liquid medicine after the date printed on the label. Throw away any unused eye ointment when it reaches the expiration date.
  • Store all tablets and capsules at room temperature in a dry place.
  • Do not crush, cut, or chew the extended-release tablets or capsules. Swallow them whole.

Possible side effects of erythromycin

  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • Indigestion
  • Ringing in ears, hearing loss (usually with IV)
  • Pain at injection site (IV)
  • Abnormal liver function tests, which may cause yellowing of eyes or skin and dark yellow or brown urine (especially with the estolate salt)

These are the most common side effects, but there may be others. Please report all side effects to the doctor or nurse.

In case of a severe side effect or reaction, call the doctor, nurse or pharmacist at 901-595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 once the call is connected.

Special instructions for erythromycin

  • Before taking erythromycin, tell your doctor if you have had an allergic reaction to erythromycin in the past.
  • If signs of an allergic reaction occur, tell your doctor right away. Signs of an allergic reaction include rash, itching, trouble swallowing, or swelling of the face, lips, or tongue.
  • While taking erythromycin, if you have yellowing of the eyes or skin, yellow-brown urine, or severe or watery diarrhea, tell your doctor right away.
  • Finish all doses of this medicine as your doctor told you, even if you think your condition is better. Do not stop taking this medicine unless your doctor tells you to do so.
  • Erythromycin may affect the way other medicines work. These medicines include: warfarin, theophylline, cyclosporine, phenytoin, carbamazepine, ranitidine, omeprazole, triazolam, astemizole, ergotamine, ritonavir, zidovudine, fluconazole, valproic acid, birth control medicines, and digoxin.
  • Always tell your doctor if you are taking these medicines, or if you start taking any new medicine while taking erythromycin.
  • While taking erythromycin, birth control medicines that contain estrogen may not work well. Use a second birth control method for at least one (1) month after taking erythromycin.
  • Follow these guidelines if you are using the eye ointment:
    • Wash your hands before and after use.
    • Tilt your head back and pull your lower eyelid down with your index finger to form a pouch. Squeeze the end of the tube to apply a thin layer of the ointment inside the lower eyelid.
    • Close the eye gently to spread the ointment over the eye.
    • Try not to touch the end of the tube to your eye, fingertips, or any other surface.
    • Your vision may blur for a few minutes after applying the ointment.
    • Even if your eye infection seems better after a few doses, apply all the doses of the ointment that your doctor prescribed.
    • If you have burning or stinging in the eye, continued blurred vision, or redness and swelling of the eye, tell your doctor right away.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).