Levofloxacin: Uses, Side Effects, Dosage

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
December 8, 2021

If you are diagnosed with pneumonia or another common bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe levofloxacin, one of a class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones.

Levofloxacin is a generic antibiotic approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that works by killing harmful bacteria that cause infections.

It should only be taken when prescribed by your healthcare provider, and only as directed.

In this article, I’ll give more details about levofloxacin, including its uses, side effects, and dosage.

I’ll also provide some precautions about taking this medication.

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What is Levofloxacin?

Levofloxacin is a prescription medication for treating bacterial infections.

It will not work for viral infections, such as the common cold or flu.

Levofloxacin is in a class of drugs known as fluoroquinolone antibiotics.

These antibiotics work by killing harmful bacteria.

It is not an over-the-counter medicine, and needs to be prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Levofloxacin Uses

Your health care provider may prescribe you levofloxacin if you have been diagnosed with any of the following medical conditions:

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a serious infection of the lungs.

If you have pneumonia, the air sacs of one or both lungs become inflamed and may fill with liquid or pus.

This causes difficulty breathing.

Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, or chemical irritants.

Common symptoms of pneumonia include trouble breathing, a wet cough, fever, and chills.

If you are diagnosed with community-acquired pneumonia or hospital-acquired pneumonia, you may be prescribed levofloxacin to treat it.

Kidney Infections

If you have a kidney infection, the bacteria have most likely come from your lower urinary tract, such as your bladder or urethra.

Symptoms of a kidney infection include one-sided or bilateral flank or lower back pain, nausea, fever, and chills.

If you have these symptoms and a kidney infection is diagnosed, levofloxacin is one common antibiotic that can be used to treat it. 

Prostate Infections

If you are having pain in your lower abdomen or pelvis, have urinary symptoms such as pain with urination, increased urgency or frequency, and cloudy or bloody urine, you may have a prostate infection.

Prostate infections (also called prostatitis) are caused by bacteria, and need to be treated with antibiotics.

The antibiotic prescribed and the duration of treatment will depend on the type of bacteria causing your infection.

Skin Infections

If your skin is red, tender, scaly, or swollen, you may be suffering from a skin infection.

Some skin infections, such as cellulitis, require either topical or oral antibiotic treatment.

For severe skin infections, a fluoroquinolone such as levofloxacin may be appropriate.

Bronchitis

Viruses are responsible for approximately 90% of acute bronchitis cases.

But in certain situations, antibiotics may be necessary.

Levofloxacin is an effective treatment for upper respiratory tract infections when a bacterial infection is suspected, such as when there is colored sputum or if a person has certain high-risk underlying medical conditions.

How to Use Levofloxacin?

Levofloxacin is generally administered orally or via an intravenous infusion.

Always read the medication label and only take the medication as prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Dosage

Several factors may influence the dosage and duration of your treatment with levofloxacin.

There include:

  • Type and severity of your infection
  • Your weight
  • Your age
  • Pre-existing medical conditions you may have, such as kidney problems

Like any antibiotic, it is important that you take levofloxacin at the same time every day and complete the entire treatment course.

It is generally recommended that you take it one to two hours before a meal, but the medication can be taken with or without food.

If you’re taking it daily, levofloxacin is typically taken in the morning.

What happens if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you can remember.

Do not double up doses.

If it is less than eight hours until your next single dose, continue your regular dosing schedule and skip your missed dose. 

What happens if I take too much?

If you or someone else is experiencing serious side effects from levofloxacin, such as difficulty breathing, passing out, or dizziness, stop taking the medicine immediately.

Call 9-1-1 or a poison control center immediately. For U.S. residents, their local poison control center contact number is 1-800-222-1222.

Side Effects of Levofloxacin

Before taking this drug, discuss your medical history with your healthcare provider.

Possible side effects when taking levofloxacin include:

In addition to the above more common side effects, levofloxacin has been linked to more severe side effects:

  • Tendon rupture or inflammation: This damage to your tendons can happen at any age, but elderly patients and those with certain comorbidities are at a greater risk. 
  • Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage): This drug can cause damage to the nerves in your arms, hands, legs, or feet. The damage may lead to changes in sensation.
  • Central nervous system effects: This could include convulsions, psychosis, increased pressure inside your head, agitation, anxiety, tremors, confusion, delirium, and hallucinations. In extreme cases, it may cause suicidal thoughts.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may be having a more serious adverse reaction to levofloxacin and should stop taking it immediately:

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Precautions When Taking Levofloxacin 

Before taking levofloxacin, discuss your medical history with your doctor and inform them if you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications, including vitamins and supplements.

Drug interactions have been reported with levofloxacin, meaning that this drug can interfere with how other drugs work or increase their side effects.

Talk to your doctor if you have diabetes, kidney problems, a heart condition, or myasthenia gravis.

Do not take this drug if you have had an allergic reaction to it or any other fluoroquinolones.

Discuss this with your health care provider so they can help find the right medical treatment for you.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is levofloxacin used for?
Levofloxacin is used to treat a variety of bacterial infections by killing off harmful bacteria. You may be prescribed levofloxacin for pneumonia, bronchitis, or kidney infections.
Is levofloxacin a strong antibiotic?
Yes. Levofloxacin is a very strong antibiotic that is used for more serious infections. Finish the full prescribed course of antibiotics to prevent the development of bacterial resistance and recurrence or worsening of your infection.
What kind of bacteria does levofloxacin treat?
Levofloxacin is a fluoroquinolone antibacterial drug which can treat Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria and atypical respiratory pathogens.
What are the side effects of levofloxacin?
Common side effects include nausea, headache, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness, insomnia (trouble sleeping), nightmares, paranoia, and muscle weakness.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.