Clarithromycin and Alcohol

Clarithromycin, a commonly prescribed broad spectrum antibiotic, is used to treat uncomplicated bacterial infections that may affect your ear, skin, stomach, soft tissue or respiratory tract. It belongs to the class of medicines known as macrolide antibiotics. It works by killing bacteria or preventing their growth. However, this medicine will not work for colds, flu, or other virus infections. This medicine is available only with your doctor's prescription.

Can I Take Clarithromycin and Alcohol Together?

If you’re fighting infection by taking clarithromycin, alcohol should be avoided as a good rule of thumb though there is no specific warning to this. A drink or two should not cause an adverse reaction while taking clarithromycin, but excessive drinking could amplify other potential side effects from the medication. If you experience a bad reaction, stop drinking right away and inform your doctor.

Note: It is important to note that even though studies have found no evidence of negative interactions between clarithromycin and alcohol use, the drug does have a mild adverse reaction when taken with grapefruit juice. When combined, metabolism can be disrupted thus causing potential health problems. Grapefruit juice should be avoided when taking this medication.

When Is Clarithromycin Used?

Your doctor may treat you with clarithromycin when you have a bacterial infection and/or you face a risk of other health complications by an infection.

This medication is commonly used to treat the following:

  • Lung infection (pneumonia) in patients from the age 5 to 15 years old
  • Whooping cough
  • Stomach ulcers caused by H. pylori bacteria
  • Other bacterial infections

Individuals with certain ongoing health conditions are more likely to respond positively to antibiotic treatment than other types of patients.

How Should I Use Clarithromycin?

There are several different dosing recommendations. Below are commonly used dosages but only your doctor knows the best course of action for you.


Depending on the infection, clarithromycin tablets from 250 mg to 500 mg, 2 times a day for a treatment course of 7 to 14 days.

If prescribed clarithromycin in extended release, the recommended dosage is 1,000 mg, one time daily for 5 to 14 days.

For the treatment of stomach ulcers caused by the H. pylori bacteria, recommended dosage is 500 mg, 2 times a day for up to 10 days.


Dosage for children is calculated by body weight at 15 mg of clarithromycin per kilogram with no more than 1,000 mg prescribed per day. The daily dose is then divided into two equal dosages given twice a day, ideally 12 hours apart. Treatment can last anywhere between 5 to 10 days. If a clarithromycin oral suspension is prescribed, the use of an oral syringe is recommended. It provides a more precise dosage measurement than teaspoons.

Unless you are taking the extended release form of clarithromycin, you can take it with or without food. Pills or tablets should never be crushed and you should swallow them whole. If you do experience stomach discomfort, take with food.

Are There Any Side Effects of Clarithromycin?

Though there are no recorded side effects from a clarithromycin alcohol combined use, but that does not mean the drug alone does not have side effect risks. These are some of the possible adverse reactions when taking this medication.

Common side effect of clarithromycin including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain and cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Affected ability to taste

Some rare side effects include ear problems, liver abnormalities, lower numbers of platelets in the blood and slowed heart rate.

1. Heart Problems

If you have arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat or any other heart problems, tell your doctor right away. This drug can adversely affect your heart rate so it is very important to inform your physician of your medical condition and about any drugs you are currently taking.

2. Liver Problems

While rare, clarithromycin can cause cholestatic hepatitis. This condition affects your liver functions, but it can be reversed. It can affect you anytime from the start of treatment to even a few weeks after you have stopped taking the drug. If you are affected, it can take up to six weeks to return back to normal. Patients who are male, over 55 years old, and use clarithromycin for more than two weeks have a greater chance of suffering this side effect.

3. Antibiotics and Allergic Reactions

When your body has an adverse reaction to an antibiotic, it can be caused by an allergy to that specific medication. Not all people will have an allergic reaction but signs to look for are:

  • Swollen tongue, lips or mouth
  • Hives
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Upset stomach, with or without clarithromycin alcohol combined use

If you have any adverse reactions or symptoms while taking clarithromycin, you should contact your doctor or pharmacist right away. No one knows exactly why some individuals have allergic reactions to certain antibiotics and not others, but it is important to note if you do as you will have to take another form of medication in the future.

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