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Antibiotics With Alcohol

By Sharon Kirby ; Updated August 14, 2017

Different types of antibiotics treat different types of bacterial infections. Some antibiotics carry warnings not to mix them with alcohol, while others do not. Drinking small amounts of alcohol is unlikely to be harmful with most antibiotics, although alcohol can interfere with an antibiotic's effectiveness and worsen its side effects. When taking medication, it is sensible to avoid alcohol, according to NHS Choices. If in doubt, check with your doctor or pharmacist that it is safe to drink alcohol with your particular antibiotic.

Antibiotics Effectiveness

Most antibiotics are still effective if alcohol is consumed. Heavy drinking affects the liver and may disrupt the way some antibiotics such as doxycycline are metabolized, in which case higher doses of antibiotics may be necessary, says the Mayo Clinic website. Alcohol and antibiotics use the same metabolic enzymes, so just one drink of alcohol may be enough to stop antibiotics from being metabolized effectively, notes Oregon State University.

Side Effects

Alcohol is a drug, and it can interact with other drugs, causing unwanted side effects. Alcohol and antibiotics taken together may lead to tiredness, an upset stomach and dizziness, states the Mayo Clinic website. Small amounts of alcohol are unlikely to promote a reaction, but co-trimoxazole can occasionally cause skin flushing or nausea, and erythromycin may make you drowsy if mixed with alcohol. Furthermore, if you are taking the antibiotic linesolid, you should avoid alcoholic drinks containing tyramine, which is found in beer, lager, sherry and wine, advises NHS Choices.

Severe Reactions

The antibiotics metronidazole and tinidazole treat conditions such as dental infections, pressure sores, leg ulcers, and the bacteria Helicobacter pylori in the gut, and may react badly to alcohol, says NHS Choices. Avoid drinking alcohol if you are taking metronidazole or tinidazole, as even a small amount of alcohol mixed with these antibiotics can cause a rapid heart beat, vomiting and headaches. Refrain from drinking mouthwash or taking cold medicines, as these sometimes contain alcohol, says the Mayo Clinic website.

Infection Recovery

Alcohol works against antibiotics because it lowers your production of infection-fighting white blood cells, which are needed to help you get better, says McKinley Health Center. It also lowers your energy levels. Alcohol consumption may delay the time it takes for you to recover from an illness. It is wise to refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages until you are better, and put your energy into getting well, according to the Mayo Clinic website.

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