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February 19, 2018

Here's what you need to know about drinking while taking antibiotics

Alcohol Sickness

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If you’ve ever had a bacterial infection like strep throat or pneumonia, your healthcare provider may have prescribed antibiotics. Antibiotics help you feel better by either preventing the reproduction of bacteria or killing it. Whatever the specific regimen for a course of antibiotics may be, it’s important to take the medication as directed by your doctor in order to fully neutralize the infection.

Even when you take your medication correctly, you may still wonder about the impact your after-work cocktail or night cap could have on your system. Before you even think about having that drink, read the label on your prescription. If it tells you to avoid alcohol while taking the medication, don’t drink! But what if it doesn’t? It’s normal to be curious about whether a few drinks are harmless, or if they could make matters significantly worse. Here’s what you need to know before you decide to drink on antibiotics:

Alcohol vs. Antibiotics

The consensus is that an alcoholic drink consumed in moderation will not diminish the effectiveness of most antibiotics. But before you reach for another glass of wine, it's good to note that in certain cases, alcohol may have a risky interaction in the liver. This happens when you take a kind of antibiotic that is also metabolized in the liver in the same way that alcohol is. While this isn’t commonplace, it’s something you should consider. This is why it’s so important to always check the prescription label and have a discussion with your doctor prior to having a drink.

Even if alcohol doesn’t impact the effectiveness of your medication, don’t head for the bar just yet. The real trouble that you could face when drinking while on antibiotics is the unpleasant increase of side effects. Some common medications interact poorly with drinks and can leave you feeling worse off than before. This isn’t exactly the outcome you might hope for when trying to recover.

Drowsiness, shortness of breath, stomach cramps, and nausea are common complaints. While not typically life-threatening, they certainly make the recovery process a rockier road. Not to mention, side effects like increased drowsiness and confusion from certain antibiotics can impede your ability to drive or perform risk-heavy tasks and should be noted even if you’ve only had one drink.

Make a Smart Choice

Whenever you're dealing with a bacterial infection, the goal is to get better as quickly as possible. Although choosing to have a drink may not decrease the effectiveness of your medication, it may amplify unpleasant side effects. The most important thing to do is to have a conversation with your doctor about the kind of antibiotic you are prescribed, and how alcohol can impact your healing process. When you want to feel back to normal, retiring your wine glass for a bit might be your wisest move.