What are Side effects of antibiotics and How to Manage?

What are Side effects of antibiotics and How to Manage?
Published : Feb 03, 2024
Last Updated : Jun 03, 2024

Antibiotics are medicines that help you fight against bacterial infections and keep you healthy. Some of the most common infections that antibiotics help to treat are pneumonia, bronchitis, and urinary tract infections. Antibiotics either kill the bacteria or stop the bacteria from multiplying to treat the diseases. However, these helpful antibacterial medicines may also have side effects like other medicines.

Note that Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections, as these medicines do not work for diseases caused by viruses. So, if you have a common cold, runny nose, cough, bronchitis, or flu due to viral infections, antibiotics may not help. So, use an antibiotic only when you need to treat a bacterial infection.

There are different types of broad-spectrum antibiotics belonging to other groups and classes. These different antibiotics have side effects and typically affect males and females in the same way. Here are specific side effects that are common from most of the antibiotics. Also, you will learn how to manage them and prevent any adverse impacts on your health.

Common side effects of Antibiotics:

Stomach upset is the most common side effect associated with most antibiotics. They might also include gastrointestinal side effects like:

  • Vomiting

  • Nausea

  • Cramps

  • Diarrhea

However, Macrolide antibiotics, cephalosporins, penicillins, and fluoroquinolones are more likely to cause stomach upset than other antibiotics.

How to manage these common side effects of antibiotics:

If you suspect any of the above-listed common side effects induced by antibiotics, you can try taking them with food. Food can help reduce stomach side effects from certain antibiotics, such as doxycycline and amoxicillin.

This approach doesn't work for all antibiotics; in such cases, take them on an empty stomach. For example, take Tetracycline on an empty stomach.

If you experience abdominal pain, cramps, fever, nausea, or mucus or blood in your stool, you must consult a doctor. These symptoms may be caused by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in your intestines, so contact a doctor right away.

Other side effects of Antibiotics:

Certain antibiotics may induce the following side effects:

Photosensitivity

If you are taking an antibiotic like Tetracycline, your body may become more sensitive to sunlight. This might make the light brighter in your eyes and make your skin more prone to sunburn. Side effects like photosensitivity must go away after you stop taking the antibiotics.

If you experience photosensitivity while taking antibiotics, take certain precautions. Use sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection and reapply as directed. Limit exposure to sunlight and wear protective clothing and sunglasses.

Fever

Fevers are among the common side effects of most medications, and antibiotics may also cause them. Drug fevers are more familiar with antibiotics like beta-lactams, cephalexin, minocycline, and sulfonamides. If you develop a fever while taking an antibiotic, it usually resolves on its own.

However, if it persists beyond 24 to 48 hours, ask your doctor about using over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin). If your fever exceeds 104°F (40°C), or if you have a skin rash or trouble breathing, call your doctor and seek immediate medical attention.

Vaginal yeast infection

Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of helpful bacteria in the vagina during the treatment. Antibiotic use can lead to overgrowth of Candida fungus and cause a yeast infection. Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection may include:

  • Vaginal itching

  • Swelling around the vagina

  • Burning during urination or sex

  • Rash and redness

  • Pain while having sex

  • Soreness

Also, a whitish-grey and clumpy discharge from the vagina can be seen during a yeast infection. Treatment options for simple yeast infections include vaginal antifungal creams, ointments, suppositories, or oral tablets. Commonly used medicine during a yeast infections include, butoconazole, clotrimazole, miconazole, terconazole, or fluconazole. Most of these medicines are available without a prescription, but it would be best to use them after consulting a doctor.

For severe or recurring infections due to antibiotic induce vaginal yeast infection, you may need a more extended treatment. Also, if the disease recurs, both partners should be treated and use barrier methods like condoms to have safe sex.

Tooth discoloration

Antibiotics like Tetracycline and doxycycline can cause permanent tooth staining, particularly in children under 8 years whose teeth are still developing. Pregnant women taking these antibiotic drugs may also risk staining their child's primary teeth. If you get prescribed these antibiotics during pregnancy or for a child, discuss a doctor about its potential side effects. Also, you should seek other alternative options to prevent such side effects.

Serious side effects of Antibiotics:

Serious side effects don't commonly appear and are very rare. During the treatment of mild bacterial infections, the chances of having severe side effects of antibiotics are shallow. In case of long-term use or incorrect, the chances are high. Some of the widely reported severe side effects that antibiotics may induce are:

Allergic Reactions

Any medication, including antibiotics, can cause allergic reactions. These reactions can be mild or severe and may require medical attention in a few cases.

If you're allergic to any antibiotic, you may have symptoms like breathing problems, hives, or swelling of your tongue and throat right after taking it.

In case your suspect hives like allergic reaction, stop using the medication and call a doctor right away. And also if you experience any of the above-listed allergic reactions after taking any antibiotic medicine.

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS)

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) is a rare but severe condition that the use of some antibiotics can induce. SJS affects the skin and mucous membranes, such as those in your nose, mouth, throat, and lungs. It can be triggered by any medication, particularly antibiotics like beta-lactams and sulfamethoxazole. SJS often appears with flu-like symptoms (fever, sore throat) followed by blisters, a painful rash, and peeling skin. Other symptoms of SJS include hives, skin pain, fever, cough, and swelling of the face or tongue.

You can't prevent SJS, but you can reduce your risk. If you have a weakened immune system, a history of SJS, or a family history of this condition, let your doctor know about it before you start taking an antibiotic drug. If you develop symptoms of SJS, contact your doctor immediately and seek medical care.

Blood reactions

Some antibiotics can cause blood reactions, such as leukopenia (a decrease in white blood cells that may lead to increased infections). Also, some may face thrombocytopenia (a low level of platelets causing bleeding, bruising, and slow blood clotting). These side effects are more familiar with beta-lactam and sulfamethoxazole antibiotics.

You can't prevent these blood reactions, and you are more likely to face these side effects if you have a weakened immune system. Discuss this risk with your doctor before taking antibiotics. Call your doctor if you develop a new or sudden infection after starting an antibiotic.

In case you experience severe bleeding that doesn't stop, rectal bleeding, or cough, call a doctor right away and seek medical care.

Heart problems

Certain antibiotics, like erythromycin, some fluoroquinolones (ciprofloxacin), and the antifungal terbinafine, can rarely cause heart problems. Using these antibiotics can cause side effects like irregular heartbeat or low blood pressure.

If you have a heart condition, inform your doctor before starting antibiotics. Call your doctor if you experience new or worsening heart pain, irregular heartbeat, or trouble breathing. For severe symptoms, call 911 or seek immediate medical attention.

Seizures

Antibiotics can rarely cause seizures, but if you are taking ciprofloxacin, imipenem, and cephalosporins like cefixime and cephalexin, you are more likely to have them.

If you have epilepsy or a history of seizures, inform your doctor before starting antibiotics. It will help your doctor to avoid worsening your condition or interactions with seizure medications. Contact your doctor if you experience new or worsening seizures while having an antibiotic treatment.

Tendonitis

Tendonitis is the inflammation or irritation of tendons, which are thick cords attaching muscle to bone. Antibiotics like ciprofloxacin can cause tendonitis or tendon rupture, where the tendon tears. Everyone is at risk of tendonitis when taking these antibiotics. But people who have kidney failure, heart or lung transplants, or with a history of tendon are more likely to have it. Also, if you are taking steroids or are older than 60, then chances are high. If you meet any of these risk factors, inform your doctor before starting an antibiotic. In case of severe pain, call your doctor and seek medical care.

Other ways to Manage Side effects of Antibiotics:

Fortunately, here are some other ways to help you reduce the risk of side effects while taking antibiotics. Here are five simple steps to deal with side effects caused by antibiotic drugs. 

Take Probiotics like yoghurt.

When taking antibiotic medicines, it is highly suggested that you include probiotics in your diet for good bacteria. Yogurt contains live bacterial cultures, which will maintain the levels of good bacteria in the body that can be affected by antibiotics. However, using yogurt can help recover from side effects like diarrhea caused by antibiotics. 

Yogurt with live cultures contains gut-friendly bacteria that protect your intestines. It also develops lactic acid that helps your body eliminate bacterial toxins. You can simply eat the yogurt or make a smoothie for a good taste while taking your antibiotics.

Drink hot ginger tea.

If you suffer from side effects like diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting due to antibiotics, ginger is effective in dealing with such side effects. Fresh ginger contains antibiotic effects, especially against food-borne pathogens. It is also effective in respiratory and periodontal infections caused in our bodies. The use of ginger helps to ease stomach and gastrointestinal discomforts like diarrhea, vomiting, etc.

To manage the above-given side effects of antibiotics, you can simply drink ginger tea up to three times a day.

Add Garlic to your diet.

Garlic works as a natural antibiotic, and it can kill harmful microbes without the side effects of antibiotics. It contains allicin, a helpful compound that protects your liver and kidney from the potential damage from antibiotics. Adding Garlic to your diet may detox your body from the harmful residue of antibiotic drugs. Also, you may start taking a Supplement of 500 mg after consulting with a doctor. 

Eat bland foods

The most commonly seen side effects of antibiotics are diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Eating only bland food during and after a course of antibiotics can help reduce the chances of getting these side effects. Bland food includes plain bread, white rice, dry crackers, etc. 

But if you eat carbohydrate-rich, sugary, or spicy food, you might face diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting-like side effects. So, to prevent these side effects, you should eat bland food during and after finishing a course of antibiotics. 

Take your antibiotics exactly as prescribed.

You may need to take some antibiotics only with water. But there are some antibiotics that you need to take with food to prevent side effects like an upset stomach. When prescribed antibiotics, you should complete the entire course of treatment. Do not stop taking them too early, even if your symptoms disappear. If you stop taking them, there is a chance that some bacteria may remain unclear.

Also, the prolonged use of antibiotics can be unsafe; it might induce fungal infections of the mouth, digestive tract, and vagina. This might happen during the use of antibiotics like tetracyclines with certain antibiotics and their prolonged use.

Further, these bacteria may reinfect you or be antibiotic-resistant, so be cautious and use your antibiotics correctly. Also, take care of possible drug interactions while taking antibiotics to prevent any unwanted side effects on the body. If you have an allergy to any antibiotic drug, avoid using it to prevent a severe allergic reaction.

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You may heal your Gut after antibiotics use by following these simple ways
Eat probiotic and prebiotic foods

Add probiotic supplements to your diet

Avoid processed foods and try to eat bland food

Do plenty of rest and exercise

When taking antibiotics, you should avoid food that contains high acid content. Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, and soda may have high acid content. Having these high-acid items with antibiotics may affect the absorption of these drugs in your body.

You need to wait at least 3 hours before eating or drinking any dairy products after taking an antibiotic. However, using grapefruit and dietary supplements with calcium may dampen the effects of the antibiotics.