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Cephalexin is an antibiotic. This means it is a drug that kills or at least slows down the growth of bacteria. Bacteria can cause infections, so antibiotics are prescribed for bacterial infections. They belong to the class of drugs called antimicrobials. This is a larger group of medications that includes anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic drugs. Physicians often urge people to avoid consuming alcohol while on antibiotics or antimicrobials.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
According to Steady Health's website, it is a myth that mixing any antibiotic with alcohol can be very destructive. They suggest that only a few antibiotics are dangerous when combined with alcohol, and cephalexin is not one of them 2. However, even Steady Health admits that ingesting alcohol while on cephalexin can increase the drug's excretion rate or slow down the rate at which drug is broken down. This can increase the likelihood of a person experiencing negative side effects sometimes associated with cephalexin.
- According to Steady Health's website, it is a myth that mixing any antibiotic with alcohol can be very destructive.
- However, even Steady Health admits that ingesting alcohol while on cephalexin can increase the drug's excretion rate or slow down the rate at which drug is broken down.
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Though cephalexin may not be dangerous when mixed with alcohol, it is worth noting that there are antibiotics that should not be used with alcohol consumption. These include metronidazole, tinidazole, furazolidone, griseofulvin and quinacrine. These can cause heart issues and breathing difficulties when combined with alcohol.
Though most people can consume alcohol while taking cephalexin, in some people there may be side effects. These include flushing, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Some more serious effects may be convulsions, severe headaches and rapid heart rate. According to the Mayo Clinic's James M. Steckleberg, M.D, these issues can occur when taking cephalexin alone or when drinking alcohol. When you combine the two, the risk and intensity of these negative effects may increase.
- Though most people can consume alcohol while taking cephalexin, in some people there may be side effects.
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If someone is taking cephalexin, it is because she has an infection. Alcohol consumption can reduce an individual's energy and delay how quickly she recovers from the illness. Therefore, even if she is able to combine alcohol and cephalexin without any negative effects, it is best that she avoid alcohol until her health improves.
- If someone is taking cephalexin, it is because she has an infection.
- Therefore, even if she is able to combine alcohol and cephalexin without any negative effects, it is best that she avoid alcohol until her health improves.
If an individual is a chronic alcohol abuser or binge drinker, he may have liver changes. The liver may metabolize drugs differently due to this. In this case, he may need a higher dose of cephalexin to achieve the same treatment result as someone who does not abuse alcohol. It is also important to remember that some cold medications contain alcohol. Check the label and avoid these products if you are worried about interactions with cephalexin.
- If an individual is a chronic alcohol abuser or binge drinker, he may have liver changes.
- Check the label and avoid these products if you are worried about interactions with cephalexin.
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- SteadyHealth: Antibiotics & Alcohol: The Truth and Myths
- Mayo Clinic: Antibiotics and Alcohol: Should I Avoid Mixing Them?
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol and Medications. Updated 2014.
- Weathermon R, Crabb DW. Alcohol and medication interactions. Alcohol Res Health. 1999;23(1):40‐54.
- Wagner E, Hospital M, Sobell M, Sobell L. Adult Psychopathology and Diagnosis. (Beidel D, Frueh C, Hersen M, eds.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons; 2014:657.
- University of Rochester Medical Center. Alcohol and Older Adults. Updated January 2020.
- Finnell J. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine - Concepts and Clinical Practice E-Book. 8th ed. (MJ, Hockberger R, Walls R, eds.). Elsevier Health Sciences; 2013:2391.
- Mergenhagen KA, Wattengel BA, Skelly MK, Clark CM, Russo TA. Fact versus fiction: A review of the evidence behind alcohol and antibiotic interactions. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2019;64(3). doi:10.1128/AAC.02167-19
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. Metronidazole: MedlinePlus Drug Information. Updated December 15, 2017.
- Jones A. Handbook of Drug Interactions. (Mozayani A, Raymon L, eds.). Totowa, N.J: Springer Science & Business Media; 2004:435.
- Shapiro M. Alcohol Drug Interactions, Side Effects For OTC and Rx Drugs. Updated December 2015.
- American Heart Association (AHA). A Patient’s Guide to Taking Warfarin. Updated September 30, 2016.
- Harvard Health Publishing. On call: Do alcohol and statins mix?. Updated August 6, 2019.
- Mukamal KJ, Smith CC, Karlamangla AS, Moore AA. Moderate alcohol consumption and safety of lovastatin and warfarin among men: The post-coronary artery bypass graft trial. Am J Med. 2006;119(5):434-40. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2005.09.038
- ME May, National Poison Control Center. Dextromethorphan. Updated August 2019.
- Johns Hopkins University. Mixing Alcohol with Your Diabetes. Updated May 2012.
- National Institute of Health (NIH). LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; 2012-. PMID:31643176.
- American College of Cardiology. Tamsulosin. Updated December 15, 2010.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Office of the Commissioner. Acetaminophen: Avoiding Liver Injury. Updated June 2009.
Ellen Topness has been a counselor in the mental health field for more than 25 years. She has a Master of Arts in counseling. Throughout her career, Topness has enjoyed writing articles, poems and vignettes for pleasure. She also released a new ebook, "A Natural Disaster: Learning to Survive Myself."