Zithromax (Azithromycin)

Sure, I read the labels before taking medication. They always warn of the “headaches, nausea, vomiting, blah, blah, blah” that occur in like one percent of patients. But when you have no known allergies and rarely even get sick (once or twice a year), what are the chances you’ll wind up having a severe reaction to medication?

Yesterday my doctor prescribed Zithromax, which is used to treat bacterial infections. I thought this decision was dubious in the first place, since I don’t (believe I) have any infection. But in any case, he’s a doctor and I’m not. Besides, the pills came in a purty, consumer-friendly package that made it look more like I was taking Tic-Tacs than prescription medication.

So I took 1000mg this morning, as directed. Then I had some water and went into the bathroom to shave. Just as I was finishing, I felt a stirring discomfort in my stomach. Figuring I would ignore it and go to work, I gathered up my things and began walking back to my bedroom.

To make a long story short, I didn’t even make it that far; I lay on the couch holding my stomach and writhing in pain for 25 minutes before finally driving myself to the hospital (since no one else was home).

But before I left, I went back and checked the package. It said “side effects may include mild to moderate stomach pain,” in 2-3% of patients. That is total bullshit. Yahoo’s Web site is a little more truthful, describing the side effects as “abdominal or stomach cramps or pain (severe).”

Once I got to the ER, there wasn’t much they could do except give me what they said was an over-the-counter stomach medicine (think Mylanta) and tell me to “ride it out” and discontinue use. I still have a mild headache 11 hours later, and shooting pains in my stomach, arms and neck.

There’s no moral to the story, I guess. After all, if you don’t have any predictable allergies and you’re on a collision course with bad (for you) medicine, then I suppose it’s just going to happen.

However, it’s just something to think about the next time you see drug commercials, in which they show kids blissfully playing in flowering fields while describing side effects from stomach pain, nausea and diarhea to paralysis, stroke and spontaneous human combustion.

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