Can I drink alcohol while taking antibiotics?

The NHS advises completely avoiding drinking alcohol when taking some antibiotics
The NHS advises completely avoiding drinking alcohol when taking some antibiotics
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If you are taking medication, it is important to be aware of the side effects associated with some medicines - particularly in relation to alcohol.

Medical professionals state that it is "sensible" to avoid drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics, and on some medicines it should not be consumed at all.

When to avoid drinking alcohol

While it is unlikely that drinking alcohol in moderation will cause problems if you are taking most common antibiotics, some antibiotics can interact with alcohol and cause a variety of side effects.

The NHS advises completely avoiding drinking alcohol when taking the following medications:

- metronidazole – an antibiotic sometimes used to clear dental or vaginal infections, or to clear infected leg ulcers or pressure sores

- tinidazole – an antibiotic sometimes used to treat many of the same infections as metronidazole, as well as to help clear bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) from the gut

If alcohol is consumed with these medicines, it can cause a serious reaction.

Common symptoms can include:

- feeling or being sick

- tummy pain

- hot flushes

- a fast or irregular heartbeat

- headaches

- dizziness

- drowsiness

It is also advised you continue to avoid alcohol for a further 48 hours after you finish a course of metronidazole, and 72 hours after finishing a course of tinidazole.

Ylva Jaramba, medicines optimisation pharmacist for NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, said, "With certain antibiotics you should avoid alcohol - these are antibiotics like metronidazole and tinidazole.

"This is because alcohol can cause some side effects such as hot flushes, headaches or feeling sick.

"With any other antibiotics, we just recommend not to usually take alcohol but if you do end up having alcohol, make sure it is in moderation.

"If you are not sure, you can ask your pharmacist or GP when you are getting your prescription."

What else should be avoided with antibiotics?

Mouthwash and other medicines can sometimes contain alcohol, so these should also be avoided while taking metronidazole or tinidazole, as they could cause side effects such as sickness and dizziness.

Other antibiotics that can interact with alcohol include:

- linezolid – can interact with undistilled (fermented) alcoholic drinks, such as wine, beer, sherry and lager

- doxycycline – this is known to interact with alcohol, and the effectiveness of doxycycline may be reduced in people with a history of chronic alcohol consumption. It should also not be taken by people with liver problems