Girl lying on couch sick next to table with antibiotics

The Do’s and Don’ts of Taking Antibiotics


Doctors prescribe antibiotics to help the immune system overcome bacterial infections such as streptococci or bronchitis. But what if you are on the third day of your prescription and already feel much better? Do you really need to finish the bottle? Before you toss them aside, consider the do's and don'ts of antibiotic usage.

Do: Take the entire course of antibiotics

If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, they will tell you how many to take per day for a certain number of days. It is important to follow this advice closely and complete the entire treatment, even if you feel better. Antibiotics slowly neutralize the bacteria that make you sick, and if you do not take all of your medications, some bacteria may live on and develop resistance to antibiotics, making them harder to treat in the future.

Learn more from Marian Allen, MD, family medicine physician at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group in Springwoods Village.

Don't: Drink Alcohol

Drinking alcohol while taking medications can decrease their effectiveness and increase the risk of side effects such as nausea and liver damage. In addition, alcohol impairs your ability to get enough sleep, which can slow the healing process.

With this said, it is okay to combine amoxicillin and alcohol (although most health professionals will still recommend that you avoid alcohol to give the body the best possible chance to fight infection). In contrast, other antibiotics—including metronidazole, tinidazole and Batrim—absolutely cannot be combined with alcohol because combining them with alcohol can lead to severe reactions. 

Talk to your doctor about how long you should wait after taking the antibiotics before drinking again; in some cases, it can be up to 72 hours.

Do: Take your prescription at the same time every day

Plan to take your antibiotics at about the same time each day at regular intervals. Consider scheduling them before or after meals so that you can remember and if your doctor says it is OK to take them with food.

If you miss one dose, do not double the next dose; take it as soon as you remember, and resume single doses at safe intervals as advised until you complete the prescription.

Don't: Take antibiotics with milk or fruit juice

The directions on antibiotics often advise you to take every dose with water and warn against consuming dairy products and fruit juices. These products can interact with antibiotics and affect how your body absorbs them. Be careful with grapefruit and citrus juices, and wait at least three hours after taking your prescription before consuming dairy products.

If you take other medications, ask your doctor if it is safe to take other medications or supplements with your antibiotics to avoid harmful interactions.

Do: Protect yourself from the sun

Antibiotics have the potential to increase your sensitivity to light. Limit your time outdoors, especially when the sun is directly above you and the rays are stronger. If you go outside, apply sunscreen and protective clothing to prevent sunburn and skin damage.

Don't: Hesitate to talk to your doctor about your concerns

Are you worried that antibiotics might upset your stomach or cause other side effects? Talk to your doctor. Every medication has the potential for side effects. Common side effects of antibiotics are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and fungal infections. If you experience any of these side effects, tell your doctor. For more severe symptoms such as anaphylaxis, call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.

Schedule an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group primary care physician at the first sign of symptoms. They can find the right treatment and provide guidance to make the healing process as pleasant and safe as possible.

Sources: 
Healthline | How Do Antibiotics Work?
Healthline | Why Taking Antibiotics Without a Prescription Is So Dangerous
Healthline | Combining Antibiotics and Alcohol: Is It Safe?
Healthline | Side Effects of Antibiotics: What They Are and How to Manage Them
Consumer Reports | Worried About Antibiotics and Sun Sensitivity?
Medical News Today | What are the side effects of antibiotics?
NCBI | Using medication: Using antibiotics correctly and avoiding resistance

Recent Updates

5 bedtime yoga poses to get better sleep

SEP 07, 2021

Yoga nidra, or sleep yoga, is great to practice before bed to help alleviate stress and lead to better sleep

Read More Additional information about 5 Bedtime Yoga Poses To Get Better Sleep

Everything you need to know about boosting your immunity for fall 2021

SEP 03, 2021

After the break on our immune systems during the COVID-19 lockdowns, here’s our guide on how to prevent your chances of feeling under the weather this fall.

Read More Additional information about Everything you need to know about boosting your immunity this fall

Find a Doctor


Looking for a doctor? Perform a quick search by name or browse by specialty.