Your GP prescribed an antibiotic to treat a nasty UTI or other infection (not a virus; you know they don’t help with those, right?) and you’re following all of the should-do’s to a T—taking it as directed and swallowing the entire course of the meds. But are you on top of all the stuff you shouldn’t do while taking them?
Antibiotics can affect other parts of your body besides the targeted bacteria, says Keri Peterson, M.D., an internist in New York City. “All antibiotics aren’t the same, so always ask your doctor or pharmacist exactly what you need to avoid,” says Petersen, but it’s a safe bet you’ll be instructed to follow our Four Commandments of Antibiotics.
Thou shalt not rely on the pill
Despite what you may have heard, most antibiotics haven’t been shown to mess with hormonal contraceptives, says Peterson. BUT! There are exceptions. Rifampin (used to treat meningitis) and Rifabutin (used to treat tuberculosis) can lower the birth control hormone levels that prevent ovulation. If your doc writes a script for one of these meds, use a backup barrier form of birth control, like condoms, while you’re taking the antibiotic, and for at least one week beyond the last dose, says Peterson.
Thou shalt not swig sauvignon
Temporary teetotaling while taking antibiotics is key for several reasons: Although alcohol doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of most antibiotics, it can reduce your energy and delay how quickly you recover from illness, says Peterson. Plus, since booze and antibiotics can both cause a queasy stomach, dizziness, and drowsiness, combining the two means you may be hit doubly hard with these crummy side effects. Still, think imbibing an adult drink on the meds is NBD? Know this: Certain common antibiotics, including metronidazole (used to treat vaginal infections and parasites), tinidazole (used to treat bacterial vaginosis), and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (used to treat UTIs and ear infections) should never be mixed with alcohol because they can cause headache, nausea and vomiting, and rapid heart rate, says Peterson.
Thou shalt not forget about probiotics
Antibiotics kill off the bacteria that are making you ill, but they can also wipe out beneficial bacteria in your intestines. This can throw your guts out of whack and cause diarrhea, says Peterson. Not fun. Taking a probiotic while you’re on the antibiotic may help prevent this. Peterson recommends Align or Culturelle to her patients.
Thou shalt not order food before reading the label
“Some antibiotics, such as augmentin, need to be taken with a meal to avoid stomach upset, while others, including penicillin (used to treat bacterial infections), need to be taken on an empty stomach to improve absorption,” says Peterson. So always check the pill bottle or written instructions before taking antibiotics with a meal. Don’t have it with you? Peterson says Drugs.com is a legit place to check.