Have you ever left a doctor’s appointment with a prescription for a Z-Pak? You may not have known it at the time, but what you were taking was azithromycin, sometimes sold under the brand name Zithromax. Part of a class of drugs known as macrolide-type antibiotics, it is used to treat bacterial infections like bronchitis, pneumonia, and infections of the ears, lungs, and other organs. Here are some things you might want to know about the Z-Pak and how it’s used.
Typically, a Z-pak is taken over five days, with the patient taking two pills the first day and one each day after. That’s the most popular and well-known way to take azithromycin, but it is far from the only option. Azithromycin comes in a variety of forms, with several different dosages. It can be taken as a tablet or liquid, as an extended release liquid, or even through an injection or an intravenous drip.
Azithromycin was first approved by the FDA in 1991 for the treatment of respiratory and skin infections. Since then, the uses of azithromycin have been expanded to include a broad range of bacterial infections, including middle ear infections, and some sexually transmitted infections.
Azithromycin works by preventing bacteria from synthesizing a protein necessary for survival, so the bacteria cannot grow. Rather than killing the bacteria, this type of antibiotic makes it easier for the body’s own immune system to kill off the infection. Azithromycin does not break down in the body as quickly as most other types of antibiotics. Instead of being transported in the bloodstream, it is picked up and carried by the white blood cells to the source of the problem, and becomes concentrated in the tissues around the infection. This concentration lets it stay in the body longer, and that’s what makes it highly effective. It is also why you need fewer doses of a Z-Pak than you would with a different prescription. It will not work for any infection that is caused by a virus, like the common cold or the flu. In fact, using it to treat something other than a bacterial infection can lead to decreased effectiveness. Overuse of antibiotics has been a major factor in the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, so doctors have grown increasingly cautious about prescribing antibiotics only when they are necessary and most likely to be effective.
If you are prescribed a Z-Pak, make sure to take it according to your doctor’s instructions. Make sure you take all of the doses, even if your symptoms disappear, because stopping the drug prematurely can allow the bacteria to continue to grow and revive the infection. Azithromycin can be taken with or without food, but if it upsets your stomach, taking it with food may help. The most common side effects of azithromycin are gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, stomach pain, and nausea, but only about 12 percent of people who take this medication experience side effects. Rarely, life-threatening side effects occur, like severe allergic reactions, liver injury, and diarrhea caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. There is some concern that azithromycin can cause an irregular heart rhythm in some people that could potentially be fatal.
Some people should not take azithromycin. These include people who are allergic to any macrolide or ketolide. Those with liver problems or who have had jaundice previously when using Zithromax should not take it. It should only be used when absolutely necessary in pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. If you take an aluminum or magnesium based antacid, it should not be taken within two hours of taking azithromycin, and azithromycin should not be used by those taking blood thinners and certain other medications. Talk to your doctor about whether a Z-Pak is the right option for you.
If you’re looking for medical care in Jackson, TN, you’ll find it at 45 Urgent Care. Since September of 2000, the co-owners of 45 Urgent Care have treated the residents of Jackson and west Tennessee for musculoskeletal conditions, focusing on physical medicine, chiropractic care, and rehabilitation. When we moved to our new location, we made the decision to bring superior health care to the community with a dual purpose facility, with Advanced Rehab and Medical and 45 Urgent Care providing two distinct health care options with the same goals. Striving to restore lasting enjoyment of life in and beyond our community, we provide innovative, collaborative healthcare with the goal of serving and empowering each patient to achieve optimal health. Call 731-554-0571, head to our walk-in clinic, or visit our website to schedule an appointment.