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Legionnaires' disease - Treating Legionnaires' disease

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Legionnaires' disease is usually treated successfully with antibiotics.

Antibiotics are used to kill the bacteria and may include:

  • erythromycin
  • clarithromycin
  • doxycycline
  • azithromycin

These may be taken by mouth as tablets or capsules or may be given through an intravenous infusion. An intravenous infusion is where medicine is given in hospital by a continuous drip through a narrow tube into a vein in your arm.

Depending on the severity of your condition, you will usually need to take antibiotics for 7 to 10 days, although in some cases you may need to take them for up to three weeks. 

Side effects

Possible side effects of antibiotics used to treat Legionnaire's disease include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • loss of appetite
  • drowsiness

Vulnerable people

If you are more vulnerable to the effects of Legionnaires' disease, such as being elderly or having diabetes, it is likely you will be admitted to hospital. This is so the functions of your body can be supported while you recover from the infection.

You may be given oxygen and your breathing will be supported if necessary. You may also be given intravenous fluids (fluids directly into a vein in your arm) to prevent you becoming dehydrated. Your heart rate and blood pressure may also be monitored.


Antibiotic treatment is usually effective in treating Legionnaires' disease. Around 90% of people with the condition make a full recovery.

However, while you may start to feel better after a few days, it can be weeks until you are completely back to normal. During this period, it is common to feel tired.

Medical Review: November 23, 2012
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