Discharge Instructions for Tuberculosis (TB)

You have been diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB), a serious disease caused by a type of bacteria. It is spread from person to person through the air. TB may scar the lungs and other parts of the body, such as the kidneys, bones, or brain. Here’s what you can do to take care of yourself and to prevent the spread of TB.

Prevent the spread of TB

Having TB means that tuberculosis bacteria are multiplying in your body and can be spread to other people. After some time taking medication, you will no longer be able to spread the disease. Your health care provider can tell you at what point this is true for you. To help prevent spreading the disease until then:

  • Make sure that your family, friends, and the people you work with are tested.

  • Avoid close contact with others until your health care provider says it is OK.

  • Keep your hands clean. Be sure to wash them every time you use them to cover your mouth when you cough.

  • When you cough or sneeze, take steps to prevent the spread of TB:

    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue.

    • Put your used tissue in a closed bag and throw it away.

    • If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.

    • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel.

Home care

  • Take your medication exactly as directed. Continue taking your antibiotics even if you start to feel better. You will take medication for at least 6 months and maybe up to a year. Not taking your medication for the full course may lead you to get sick again. It also promotes the spread of medication-resistant TB.

  • If you are taking birth control pills, use an additional backup method of birth control. Your TB medication may interfere with the pill’s effectiveness.

  • Check with your health care provider before taking any over-the-counter medications.

  • Sleep in a room alone and with good ventilation (air flow).

  • Limit your activity to avoid fatigue. Plan frequent rest periods.

  • Keep your medical appointments. You will need to be checked regularly for several months to a year to make sure you are free from TB bacteria.

Follow-up care

Don’t leave until you have had a follow up-appointment scheduled. This is the law in most states. You will likely have follow-up appointments for a few months. These appointments are very important with TB. Keep these appointments as scheduled. If you must miss an appointment, be sure to reschedule it promptly.

When to seek medical care

Call 911 right away if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain or shortness of breath

  • Blue lips or fingernails

Otherwise, call your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Fever above 101.4°F (38.56°C)

  • Bloody sputum

  • Night sweats

  • Increased coughing