How Chlamydia Is Treated

Recommendations for Adults, Adolescents, Sex Partners, and During Pregnancy

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis, which is treated with antibiotics. When used as directed, antibiotics can cure the infection and prevent potentially severe complications like infertility. The choice of antibiotics can vary by your age and whether you are pregnant or not.

There are no home remedies or over-the-counter medications able to treat chlamydia infections. Practices like vaginal douching may only make things worse. Only the correct antibiotics in the correct dose can fully resolve the infection.

Learn more about how chlamydia is treated and the medications your healthcare provider may prescribe if you or your sexual partner is diagnosed with chlamydia.

What to know about Chlaymydia treatment.

Verywell / Laura Porter

Prescriptions

Chlamydia can be easily cured with antibiotics, a group of medications that specifically treat bacterial infections. Not all antibiotics work for all infections, and the right ones are needed to ensure that the infection is fully cleared.

Although antibiotics will stop the infection, they will not repair any permanent damage done by the disease. This is why you need to get treated even if the initial symptoms disappear. The disappearance of symptoms in untreated people does not mean that the infection is gone.

Why Early Treatment Is Needed

Chlamydia treatment should be started promptly. Studies suggest that delayed treatment can increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can lead to infertility. Early treatment also reduces the risk of passing the infection to others.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the antibiotic doxycycline is the drug of choice for adults and adolescents with chlamydia. If doxycycline cannot be used, the antibiotics azithromycin or levofloxacin may be prescribed.

All of these antibiotics are taken by mouth. The recommended dose and duration of treatment vary by the antibiotic type.

Recommendation for Adults and Adolescents
 Regimen Antibiotic  Dosage
Recommended Doxycycline (oral) 100 milligrams (mg) taken by mouth twice daily for seven days
Alternative Azithromycin (oral) 1 gram (1,000 mg) taken by mouth in a single dose
Alternative Levofloxacin (oral) 500 mg taken by mouth once daily for seven days

Treatment with azithromycin may seem easier since it's only one dose. However, the treatment failure rate in males is higher when compared to doxycycline. It may also be less effective in treating chlamydia in the rectum, mouth, or throat.

While levofloxacin is an effective treatment, it is a far more costly drug.

There are no specific follow-up recommendations after the completion of treatment. If you continue to have symptoms, however, see your healthcare provider.

How Long Do I Wait Before Having Sex?

To prevent the spread of chlamydia to others, abstain from sex for seven days after taking a single dose of azithromycin. If you've been prescribed doxycycline or levofloxacin, abstain from sex until you have completed the seven-day course. Symptoms should also be fully cleared.

Pregnancy Recommendations

If you're pregnant, different antibiotics are prescribed. The recommended option is azithromycin, while the alternative choice is an oral antibiotic called amoxicillin.

Doxycycline is avoided because it may affect bone development in the fetus and cause discoloration of the teeth. Levofloxacin may be safe during pregnancy but is excreted in breastmilk and may pose harm to a nursing baby.

Both azithromycin and amoxicillin are taken by mouth.

Treatment Recommendations for People Who Are Pregnant
Regimen Antibiotic  Dosage
Recommended Azithromycin (oral) 1 gram (1,000 mg) taken by mouth in a single dose
Alternative Amoxicillin (oral) 500 mg taken by mouth three times daily for seven days

While amoxicillin is an effective treatment for those who are pregnant, it belongs to a class of drugs called penicillins to which the C. trachomatis may be resistant (meaning the drug won't work as effectively and may possibly fail).

In some cases, resistance to one penicillin-class drug may also mean resistance to other penicillin-class drugs, including amoxicillin. It is for this reason that amoxicillin is considered the alternative option.

Chlamydia Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Woman

Treating Newborns and Infants

Chlamydia infections in newborns and infants are far less common today due to the routine screening of STIs in people with pregnancy. If an infection occurs, it typically happens during childbirth as the baby passes through the mother's birth canal.

Chlamydia in newborns is most often recognized when the child develops conjunctivitis ("pink eye"), typically five to 12 days after birth. Some babies may have no such symptoms and instead develop pneumonia with fever between the ages of one and three months.

If a chlamydia infection is confirmed, the baby would be treated with an antibiotic called erythromycin, The dose is calculated in milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of the baby's body weight.

In cases of chlamydial pneumonia, oral azithromycin can be used as an alternative.

Treatment Recommendations for Newborns and Infants
Regimen Antibiotic Dosage
Recommended Erythromycin (oral) 50 mg/kg per day delivered by mouth in four equally divided doses over 14 days
Alternative (for chlamydial pneumonia only) Azithromycin (oral) 20 mg/kg per day delivered by mouth in a single dose over three days

Erythromycin, while safer for newborns and infants, is only around 80% effective in clearing C. trachomatis. As a result, a second round of antibiotics may be needed to fully clear the infection.

Treating Toddlers and Children

Chlamydia in toddlers and children may occur as a result of sexual abuse and should be investigated. With that said, chlamydia transmitted during childbirth can sometimes take up to three years before symptoms develop in the child's throat, rectum, or genitals.

If chlamydia is confirmed, either erythromycin, azithromycin, or doxycycline may be used depending on the child's age and/or weight.

Treatment Recommendations for Children
Weight and/or age Antibiotic Dosage
Under 45 kg Erythromycin (oral) 50 mg/kg per day delivered by mouth in four equally divided doses over 14 days
45 kg and over in children under 8 years Azithromycin (oral) 1 gram (1,000 mg) taken by mouth in a single dose
8 years and over (Option 1) Azithromycin (oral) 1 gram (1,000 mg) taken by mouth in a single dose
8 years and over (Option 2) Doxycycline (oral) 100 mg taken by mouth twice daily for 7 days

Treatment of Sexual Partners

When you are being treated for chlamydia, it is important to have your sexual partners treated as well. This includes anyone you've had sex with within 60 days of the appearance of symptoms.

Depending on state law, your partner may be able to be prescribed the same treatment without having to undergo chlamydia testing. This precautionary measure helps ensure that you are not reinfected or that others are not infected as well.

If you have chlamydia, do not share your antibiotics with your partner. You need the full course to fully clear the infection, and your partner does as well.

To avoid reinfection, abstain from sexual intercourse until all sexual partners have been treated.

Summary

Chlamydia is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection treated with prescription antibiotics. No other medications are available to treat chlamydia.

The choice of antibiotic and duration of treatment varies by whether you are an adult, adolescent, or child. There are different treatment recommendations during pregnancy.

People diagnosed with chlamydia need to get their sexual partners treated to not only prevent reinfection but to avoid infecting others as well.

Early treatment can reduce the risk of complications from chlamydia, including pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.

A Word From Verywell

Receiving a diagnosis of chlamydia is the perfect opportunity to look at yourself and see if there is anything to reduce your risk. This includes practicing safer sex, reducing your number of sex partners, and getting the recommended STI screenings.

According to the CDC, all sexually active females under 25 should be tested for chlamydia annually as well as females 25 and over who may be at an increased risk of exposure. The same applies to men who have sex with men (MSM) and sexually active people with HIV.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How is chlamydia treated?

    Chlamydia is treated with a short course of prescription antibiotics (usually doxycycline), which can cure the infection if taken as prescribed. Antibiotics do not prevent future infections, which means you can get reinfected if you engage in condomless sex.

  • How long does chlamydia treatment take?

    It depends on the type of antibiotics you've been prescribed. For adults and adolescents with chlamydia, the recommended course of treatment is:

    • Doxycycline: A twice-daily dose taken for seven days
    • Azithromycin: A single dose
    • Levofloxacin: A once-daily dose taken for seven days
  • What happens if I don't get treated for chlamydia?

    Letting a chlamydial infection go untreated can lead to serious complications. These include pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and acute epididymitis (both of which can lead to infertility).

    In some people, untreated chlamydia can lead to reactive arthritis or cause pregnancy complications like ectopic pregnancy.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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