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Antibiotics

About This Medicine

Make sure you know about each of the medicines you take. This includes why you take it, how to take it, what you can expect while you're taking it, and any warnings about the medicine.

The information provided here is general. So be sure to read the information that came with your medicine. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

What are some examples?

Here are some examples of antibiotics. For each item in the list, the generic name is first, followed by any brand names.

  • amoxicillin
  • azithromycin (Zithromax)
  • cephalexin (Keflex)
  • ciprofloxacin (Cipro)

This is not a complete list of antibiotics.

Why are antibiotics used?

Antibiotics are drugs used to kill bacteria. Bacteria can cause infections such as strep throat, ear infections, and pneumonia.

These medicines can't cure everything. They don't kill viruses or help with allergies. And they don't help illnesses such as the common cold, the flu, or a runny nose.

Antibiotics are generally safe and very effective at fighting bacterial infections.

What about side effects?

Side effects can include:

  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Skin rash.
  • Yeast infection.
  • A severe allergic reaction. It may cause itching, swelling, and breathing problems. This is rare.

You may have other side effects or reactions not listed here. Check the information that comes with your medicine.

General information about side effects

All medicines can cause side effects. Many people don't have side effects. And minor side effects sometimes go away after a while.

But sometimes side effects can be a problem or can be serious.

If you're having problems with side effects, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change to a different medicine.

Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of side effects, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

What are some cautions about antibiotics?

Cautions for antibiotics include the following:

  • Don't take antibiotics if you don't need them. If you take them when they're not needed, any bacteria that don't die can change and become harder for the antibiotics to kill in the future. This is called antibiotic resistance.
  • Take your antibiotics as directed. This will help make sure your infection is cured. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better.

General cautions for all medicines

Allergic reactions.
All medicines can cause a reaction. This can sometimes be an emergency. Before you take any new medicine, tell the doctor or pharmacist about any past allergic reactions you've had.
Drug interactions.
Sometimes one medicine may keep another medicine from working well. Or you may get a side effect you didn't expect. Medicines may also interact with certain foods or drinks, like grapefruit juice and alcohol. Some interactions can be dangerous.
Harm during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding, ask your doctor or pharmacist if all the medicines you take are safe.
Other health problems.
Before taking a medicine, be sure your doctor or pharmacist knows about all your health problems. The medicine for one health problem may affect another health problem.

Always tell your doctor or pharmacist about all the medicines you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. That information will help prevent serious problems.

Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of warnings, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

Credits

Current as of: September 23, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine

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