Alcohol and medication can be a dangerous mix. Doctors recommend avoiding alcohol while taking most drugs. Not only can alcohol interfere with a medication’s ability to its job, but the alcohol-drug interaction may also cause unsafe side effects.
Here, we’ll discuss the safety of mixing alcohol and antibiotics. We’ll also explain what effects alcohol can have on your body’s ability to fight an infection.
Antibiotics and alcohol
Antibiotics are among the drugs that should not be mixed with alcohol. Alcohol does not make an antibiotic less effective at treating an infection, but alcohol may make the side effects of both alcohol and antibiotics worse. These side effects can be dangerous.
The specific side effects that an antibiotic can cause depends on the drug. However, some common side effects of antibiotics include:
Alcohol can also cause side effects. These can include:
- upset stomach
- digestive problems, such as stomach pain, diarrhea, and ulcers
Combining alcohol and antibiotics can make all of these symptoms worse. This is especially true with certain types of antibiotics. Drugs such as trimethoprim/ sulfamethoxazole and metronidazole can lead to more serious side effects if taken with alcohol. These can include:
- severe nausea
Signs of a negative alcohol-antibiotic reaction include:
- flushing (reddening and warming of your skin)
- severe headache
- racing heart rate
In most cases, these side effects go away on their own. If you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency services number.
What to do
The warning label on your antibiotic should include information about alcohol use. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure about the details of your medications. They may tell you that an occasional drink is OK. But that likely depends on your age, overall health, and the type of drug you’re taking.
If your doctor tells you that you shouldn’t drink alcohol, ask how long you should wait before drinking again. You may need to wait at least 72 hours after finishing your course of antibiotics before having any alcohol. Listening to your doctor’s advice can help you avoid the effects of an alcohol-drug interaction.
Alcohol and infection
Drinking alcohol won’t keep your antibiotic from working to treat your infection. Still, it can interfere with your infection’s healing in other ways.
Getting enough rest and eating a nutritious diet both help you recover from sickness or infection. Drinking alcohol can interfere with these factors. For instance, drinking alcohol can disrupt your sleep patterns. It can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep. Alcohol can also stop your body from absorbing vital nutrients. It can increase your blood sugar levels and sap your energy levels. All of these factors can reduce your body’s ability to heal from an infection. Acute alcohol use, binge drinking, and chronic alcohol use can all be harmful, whether you take medication or not.
Keep in mind that alcohol isn’t just limited to beer, wine, liquor, and mixed drinks. It can be found in some mouthwashes and cold medications. Check the ingredients label on these and other products if you’ve had an alcohol-antibiotic reaction in the past. Ask your doctor if it’s safe for you to use these products while you take an antibiotic.
Antibiotics are powerful medications. Your doctor might prescribe them to fight a bacterial infection. They work by killing the bacteria or by stopping the bacteria from multiplying in your body. This helps you recover from the infection. Common antibiotics include:
Doctors often prescribe antibiotics for a short time. In many cases, you only need to take antibiotics for a week or two to fully recover from an infection.
Mixing alcohol with antibiotics is rarely a good idea. Both alcohol and antibiotics can cause side effects in your body, and drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics can raise your risk of these harmful effects. If the label on your drug says not to drink alcohol during treatment, follow that advice. Keep in mind that antibiotics are often prescribed on a short-term basis. Consider waiting until you’re off the medications to have your next drink. It may reduce the chance of complications or side effects brought on by antibiotics. Avoiding alcohol will likely help you get over your infection more quickly anyway.
Talk with your doctor and pharmacist if you’re taking a long-term antibiotic. They can talk to you about alcohol use and your medications.