A young girl is sick and lies on the couch, while antibiotics sit on a table nearby.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Taking Antibiotics

Doctors prescribe antibiotics to assist the immune system in overcoming bacterial infections such as strep throat or bronchitis. But what if you’re on day three 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’s important to follow this advice closely and complete the entire treatment, even if you start feeling better. The antibiotics slowly neutralize the bacteria making you sick, and if you don’t take all of your medication, some bacteria can 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 your risk of side effects, including nausea and liver damage. Plus, alcohol interferes with your ability to get a proper amount of sleep, which can slow down the healing process. Speak with your doctor about how long after completing your antibiotics you should wait 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 around the same time every day at even intervals. Consider scheduling them before or after mealtimes to help you remember (and if your doctor says it’s ok to take with food). If you miss a dose, do not double up on 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 Dairy or Fruit Juice

The directions on antibiotics often advise you to take each dose with water and may warn against consuming dairy products and fruit juices. These items can interact with antibiotics and affect how your body absorbs them. Take caution with grapefruit and citrus juices, and wait at least three hours after taking your prescription before consuming any dairy. Ask your doctor if it’s 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 overhead and the beams are stronger. When you do go outside, apply sunscreen and wear 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 comes with the potential for side effects, and common ones that may accompany antibiotics include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and fungal infections. If you experience any of these side effects, let your doctor know. With more severe symptoms, such as anaphylaxis, call 911 and seek immediate medical treatment.

At the first sign of symptoms, schedule an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician. They can find the right treatment and offer guidance to make the healing process as comfortable 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