Antibiotics for Cystic Fibrosis

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Antibiotics for Cystic Fibrosis


Generic NameBrand Name
amoxicillin and clavulanate potassiumAugmentin

How It Works

Antibiotics kill bacteria that cause infection. After your doctor has determined what type of bacteria is present, he or she will prescribe the right kind of antibiotic. Antibiotics come as a pill or liquid, as an aerosol that is inhaled deep into the lungs, or as an injection.

Why It Is Used

Antibiotics can reduce the damage caused by lung infections in people who have cystic fibrosis. When they are given at the first sign of a lung infection, they may prevent lasting infection and the problems that can arise from it.

How Well It Works

Antibiotics improve how well the lungs work and help prevent lung problems from getting worse.

Inhaled antibiotics such as tobramycin help improve the health of the lungs and prevent flare-ups in people who have moderate to severe cystic fibrosis. And they help prevent flare-ups in people who have mild cystic fibrosis.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Sudden pain after exercise (especially in your ankle, back of the knee or leg, shoulder, elbow, or wrist).
  • Pain, burning, numbness, tingling, or weakness.
  • Fainting.
  • An irregular or slow heart rate.

Common side effects of oral antibiotics (pill or liquid) include:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headache.
  • Tiredness.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Mild stomach pain or cramps, nausea, loss of appetite.
  • Metallic or unpleasant taste in the mouth.

Common side effects of inhaled or injected antibiotics include:

  • Loss of hearing.
  • Feeling unsteady or dizzy.
  • Greatly increased or decreased frequency of urination or amount of urine.
  • Increased thirst.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Muscle twitching or seizures.
  • Ringing, buzzing, or a feeling of fullness in the ears.

Some inhaled antibiotics can irritate the lungs and cause coughing. Some may also taste and smell bad.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Some oral antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin, can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

  • Stay out of the sun, if possible.
  • Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and hats, if possible.
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF that your doctor recommends.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.


Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Flume PA, et al. (2007). Cystic fibrosis pulmonary guidelines: Chronic medications for maintenance of lung health. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 176(10): 957–969.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical ReviewerSusanna McColley, MD - Pediatric Pulmonology
Last RevisedMay 14, 2012

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