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TB medicines cure and prevent sickness

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HealthWiki > Workers' Guide to Health and Safety > Chapter 31: TB (tuberculosis) > TB medicines cure and prevent sickness


In this chapter:

A person with TB who takes medicine regularly will begin to get better and not pass TB germs to others. This is why it is very important to start taking TB medicines as soon as you know you have TB. In most countries, government health services do not charge for TB testing or medicine. Many other organizations offer free testing and treatment, too.

If you have any of these signs of illness, see a health worker right away to find out if you need medicines for TB.

Always cover your mouth and nose with a cloth when you cough or sneeze to keep germs out of the air.

Signs of TB

  • A cough that lasts longer than 3 weeks.
  • Coughing up mucus with blood in it.
  • Slight fever in the evening and sweating at night.
  • Chest pain and shortness of breath.
  • Weight loss and weakness.

TB tests

There are 3 types of tests for TB.

  • For the skin test, a small amount of liquid is injected under the skin on the arm. If the person has TB, a raised patch of skin will appear within 1 to 3 days.
  • For the sputum test, the health worker will ask you to cough hard so that you cough out some mucus. This mucus, called sputum, is then tested in a laboratory to see if it contains TB germs. Usually you will do 3 sputum tests. If 2 tests show you have TB germs, you will need medicines.
  • If it is not clear if you have TB, a health worker might take a chest x-ray to look for TB in your lungs.


If the TB tests are negative but you still have the signs of TB, see a health worker trained in treating lung problems. You might have silicosis, pneumonia, asthma, or another lung disease.

Medicines for TB

The medicines for TB vary from country to country, but treatment everywhere lasts at least 6 months. Usually a person must take 4 medicines (isoniazid, rifampicin, pyrazinamide, and ethambutol) for 2 months, and then just 2 medicines (isoniazid and rifampicin) for 4 more months. It takes that much time and that many medicines to kill the TB germs inside your body.

It is important to take the medicine for the entire time needed, 6 to 12 months or more. You will start feeling better after a few weeks and may think you are cured, but stopping the medicines early is very dangerous. If all the germs have not been killed, you will still be able to infect others and you, your family, and your co-workers can get sick with a kind of TB that is very hard to cure, called MDR (multi-drug resistant) TB.

If you are taking TB medicines but are not feeling better, you may have MDR-TB and need different medicines to be cured. See a health worker.

After a person starts to feel better from taking TB medicines, it is very important for family, friends, and co-workers to support her through all the months of treatment. Help her to remember to take her TB medicines every day.
a woman taking pills while another writes on a piece of paper.
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