This page talks about the medicines that cure TB (tuberculosis). It explains what you can do to make sure the medicine works.
Treatment for inactive TB infection
If you have inactive TB infection, there are TB germs in your body, but you do not have any symptoms. You need TB medicine to kill the TB germs and stop them from making you sick with active TB disease.
Your doctor or nurse will probably prescribe a TB medicine called isoniazid (INH). People usually take this medicine for 6 to 12 months. If you take medicine as your doctor or nurse says, it should cure your TB infection.
Learn more about TB medicine and follow this advice on taking TB medicine.
It's very important to take your TB medicine exactly as your doctor or nurse says, for as long as they say. If you stop taking your TB medicine or skip many doses, these things could happen:
- your TB infection could come back.
- your TB infection could turn into active TB disease. With active TB disease, you may have symptoms, you may feel sick, and you can pass TB to your friends and family.
- you could accidentally make the TB germ even stronger, so your TB infection is harder to treat. This is called drug-resistant TB and itís very dangerous.
Treatment for active TB disease
If you have active TB disease, your doctor will prescribe medicine to cure you.
After you have taken TB medicine for a few weeks,
- you will no longer be contagious— you won't be able to pass TB to other people.
- you can usually return to work, school and other activities.
- you will probably start feeling better.
- you will NOT be cured of TB. You must take the TB medicine for many months to be cured.
Continue taking your medicine as directed, even if you don't feel sick anymore.
If you stop taking your TB medicine early, these things could happen to you:
- you could accidentally make the TB germ even stronger, so your TB infection is harder to treat. This is called drug-resistant TB and itís very dangerous. If you have drug-resistant TB, you'll need to take more medicines that are more expensive and have more side effects.
- your active TB disease could come back.
- your symptoms could get worse. The TB germs could spread to other parts of your body, and give you new symptoms.
- you could spread TB to other people.
To get TB medicine, you need a prescription. TB medicine and treatment are free for most people in Canada.
Some antibiotic medicines (antibiotics) can cure TB. They kill the tuberculosis germs. It usually takes two or more TB medicines to cure active TB disease.
These are the most common medicines to cure TB:
- Isoniazid (INH), also called Dom-Isoniazid®, Isotamine®, or PMS-Isoniazid®. It comes as pills or syrup.
- Rifampin (RMP), also called Rifadin® or Rofact®. It comes as pills.
- Pyrazinamide (PZA), also called PMS-Pyrazinamide® or Tebrazid®. It comes as pills.
- Ethambutol (EMB), also called Etibi®. It comes as pills.
Your doctor will decide which medicines are best for you, and how long you must take them to be cured. TB germs are hard to kill. That's why it's very important that you take all your medicine.
What you should know about taking TB medicines
- Take your TB medicines exactly as your doctor or nurse says, for as long as they say. Take them even if you're feeling better.
- See your doctor right away of you notice these serious side effects of TB medicine, listed below.
- Do not take the pain medicine acetaminophen (Tylenol® or another brand).
- Do not drink alcohol.
- TB medicine puts stress on your liver. So do alcohol and acetaminophen. If you take TB medicines and alcohol or acetaminophen, your liver could get sick.
- Tell your doctor about any other medicine you may be taking.
- If you get pregnant while youíre taking your TB medicine, tell your doctor. Your doctor may change your medicine.
- If you plan to become pregnant, talk with your doctor.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain the side effects of TB medicine. Ask them what to do if you forget to take a pill.
- Take your medicine at the same time every day. Write a note or set an alarm to remind yourself to take it.
- Keep your medicine in a place where you see it often.
- Follow these health living steps to be as healthy as possible
For complete information on TB medicines, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Serious side effects from TB medicine
Medicines used to treat TB are generally safe. Most people can take TB medicine without having any serious problems. But some TB medicines have serious side effects you should watch out for.
See your doctor or nurse right away if you have any of these serious side effects:
- yellowish skin or eyes
- brown or very dark urine (pee)
- loss of appetite, not hungry
- nausea (feeling sick to your stomach)
- skin rash
- fever for three days or more
- flu-like symptoms (cough, fever, aches)
- pain in your belly
- bleeding easily
- ringing in your ears
- sore joints
- psychotic thinking (feeling out of touch with reality)
- memory problems
- blurred or changed vision
- tingling fingers or toes
- tingling or numbness around your mouth
TB medicine and pregnancy
Research shows it's safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies to take these TB medicines:
- Isoniazid (INH)
- Rifampin (RMP)
- Ethambutol (EMB)
Pyrazinamide (PZA or Tebrazid®) is not recommended during pregnancy. Doctors donít know how it affects unborn babies.
If you are pregnant and have TB, talk with your doctor or nurse. They will prescribe medicine that's safe for you and your baby.
It's very important that you take your TB medicine, to protect yourself and your baby. There are some small risks if you take TB medicines while you are pregnant, but there are A LOT of risks if you have TB and donít treat it. If you donít treat your TB, you and your baby could both get sick.
TB medicine and breastfeeding
It's safe to breastfeed when you're taking TB medicine. A small amount of TB medicine will get into your breast milk, but it will not hurt your baby. Breastfeeding is very healthy for you and your baby, so keep breastfeeding.
A shot to prevent TB: the BCG vaccine
There is a vaccine (a shot) to prevent TB. Itís called Bacille Calmette-Guérin, or BCG for short. BCG is mainly used to protect babies and young children against the most severe kinds of active TB diseases, like miliary TB.
Nowadays in Canada, very few people get the BCG vaccine. Babies in First Nations and Inuit communities with high rates of TB are the only people who routinely get the BCG vaccine. People who spend a lot of time around people with TB, especially drug-resistant TB, may also take the BCG vaccine. And travelers who spend a long time in countries with high rates of TB may also get the BCG vaccine.
The DOT program helps people take their TB medicine
DOT stands for Directly Observed Treatment. Itís a program that can help you take your TB medicine regularly and get cured more quickly. If you are part of a DOT program, you will meet with a nurse or other health-care provider every day or a few times a week. They will watch you to take your medicine, look out for side effects and answer your questions. This regular contact helps you stay on track so you get cured faster.
Healthy living : steps to feel stronger as you recover from TB
You need medicine to cure TB. These steps help you feel better sooner:
- Don't smoke and stay away from other people's smoke and air pollution. Smoking hurts your lungs and makes them sicker. Learn proven ways to quit smoking.
- Eat healthy foods. Canada's food guide explains how to choose a healthy diet.
- Get enough sleep, eight hours a night if possible.
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