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Tuberculosis (Latent TB): Care Instructions

The lungs

Your Care Instructions

Latent tuberculosis (TB) means that you have bacteria in your body that could cause active TB disease. You can't spread the bacteria to other people at this time. But if your immune system can't keep the bacteria from growing, the disease becomes active. People with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop active TB.

With active TB in your lungs, you can spread the disease to others. Active TB is a serious disease.

Latent TB doesn't have any symptoms. You may even be surprised that you have it, since you don't feel sick. It's very important to take your antibiotic medicine as your doctor tells you to. This treatment prevents you from getting active TB. It takes a long time to rid your body of TB. You may be taking medicine for 3 to 9 months. During your treatment you'll see your doctor for tests to see how the medicine is working. Your doctor will help guide you through this long process.

You may have directly observed therapy (DOT). This means that a health care worker watches when you take your medicine. DOT helps you remember to take your medicine. And it helps you complete your treatment as soon as possible.

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 or nurse call line 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.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your antibiotics as directed. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If you get an upset stomach while taking the medicine, ask your doctor if it's okay to take it with food.
  • If you forget to take your medicine, take the dose as soon as you can if it's the same day. Do not take two doses at the same time. If the day has passed, then take your next scheduled dose. Tell your doctor or public health worker that you missed a dose so he or she can adjust your treatment schedule.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol may interact with your medicine and cause side effects.
  • If you don't have directly observed therapy (DOT), there are things you can do to help remind you to take your medicine:
    • Take your medicine at the same time every day.
    • Set a reminder alarm.
    • Use a pillbox.
    • Put a reminder note on your mirror or refrigerator.
    • Mark a calendar after you take your medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are short of breath.
  • You have a new or worse cough.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have new or worse diarrhea.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You lose weight.
  • You have night sweats.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.