• Colistin tablets and oral liquid are used to remove bacteria from the bowel before surgery.
  • Inhaled colistin is used to treat chest infections in people with cystic fibrosis.
  • Colistin injection is used to treat bacterial infections which other antibiotics are not be able to treat.

About colistin

Type of medicine Polymyxin antibiotic
Used for Removing bacteria from the bowel before surgery
Chest infections associated with cystic fibrosis
Bacterial infections which other antibiotics are not be able to treat
Also called Colistimethate sodium
Available as Tablets, oral liquid, nebuliser solution (to be inhaled), and injection

Colistin works by killing the bacteria causing the infection.

Before taking colistin

Before taking colistin make sure your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have kidney problems.
  • If you have myasthenia gravis (a muscle weakening disease) or porphyria (a rare blood disorder).
  • If you are taking other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or any other medicine.

How to take colistin

  • Before starting this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack.
  • Take colistin exactly as your doctor has told you. If you are using colistin by inhalation, your doctor or nurse will show you how to do this.
  • Space your doses evenly throughout the day. It is important to complete the course unless you are told to stop.
  • Try not to miss any doses. If you do forget a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.

Getting the most from your treatment

  • Keep your regular appointments with your doctor so your progress can be monitored.
  • If you are using oral combined hormonal contraception (the 'pill'), additional contraceptive precautions such as condoms are not required during a course of this antibiotic unless you are taking the tablets or oral liquid and are sick or have diarrhoea. If you need further advice, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

Can colistin cause problems?

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. If you experience any of the following side-effects, discuss them with your doctor.

Side-effects What can I do if I experience this
Dizziness, confusion, headache, eyesight problems, vertigo (sensation of spinning), a tingling feeling in the hands, feet or around the mouth, slurred speech, and skin rash If you experience any of these, discuss them with your doctor
If you are using colistin inhalation: sore throat, chest tightness, breathlessness, and cough Let your doctor know about any of these

If you experience any other symptoms, which you think may be due to this medicine, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

How to store colistin

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light