Is it safe to drink alcohol when taking antibiotics?

Published on November 15, 2012 at 7:05 AM · No Comments

In the lead up to summer party season, NPS MedicineWise is reminding Australians that while alcohol might not interact with many antibiotics, it’s still important to follow certain rules for taking antibiotics correctly.

Chair of NPS MedicineWise, Dr Janette Randall, says that although drinking  alcohol in moderation is unlikely to be a problem with most antibiotics, it’s wise to avoid alcohol when you’re sick, whether you’re taking antibiotics or not.

“There are only a handful of antibiotics that interact with alcohol, but it’s best to avoid drinking alcohol until you get better,” says Dr Randall.

“You should definitely avoid drinking alcohol while taking metronidazole or tinidazole. These antibiotics can cause a severe reaction when taken with alcohol, including unpleasant symptoms like nausea, vomiting, skin flushes, headaches, or a fast or irregular heartbeat,” says Dr Randall.

You also need to avoid drinking alcohol for at least 24 hours after finishing a prescribed course of metronidazole, and at least 72 hours after finishing a prescribed course of tinidazole.”

Other antibiotics that may cause adverse effects when taken with alcohol are co-trimoxazole and linezolid.

Dr Randall recommends asking a health professional if you’re unsure about drinking alcohol with your antibiotic.

“The best source of information is your doctor, pharmacist or other health professional. They can advise you on the things you can and can’t do while taking your particular antibiotic,” says Dr Randall.

Dr Randall also stresses that while it’s important to find out about possible interactions between your antibiotic, other medicines and alcohol, it’s just as important to know how to take your course of antibiotics correctly.

“Antibiotic resistance is a huge problem globally, and unless we start using antibiotics properly it is quite possible that we will return to a pre-antibiotic era where these lifesaving medicines no longer work for even simple infections.”

Research released yesterday as part of Antibiotic Awareness Week reveals that only 52% of people surveyed know that not completing the full course of antibiotics contributes to the spread of antibiotic resistance.

“If you’re prescribed a course of antibiotics this party season, make sure you complete the full course and take them exactly as directed. If everyone takes action and uses antibiotics properly, we can help reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

During Antibiotic Awareness Week, NPS MedicineWise is calling on everyone to rethink their antibiotic use and take simple steps to ensure these life-saving medicines will work for us in the future:

  • Know that antibiotics are only effective in the treatment of bacteria and not viruses, like colds and flu.
  • When you need antibiotics, take the right amount, at the right times and complete the full course.  
  • Spread knowledge, not infections. Always practice good hygiene, talk to your health professional about antibiotic resistance, and encourage those around you to be antibiotic resistance fighters too.

To read more about Antibiotic Awareness Week visit www.nps.org.au/antibiotic-awareness

Become an antibiotic resistance fighter www.facebook.com/NPSMedicinewise

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