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"How will shortening the course of antibiotics affect me?"

ZocdocAnswersHow will shortening the course of antibiotics affect me?


I have recalled the instructions given by my doctor incorrectly and have been taking my prescribed antibiotics 5 times daily instead of 4. This has resulted in me completing the course early. How will this affect me?


Thank you for your question. Medication regimens can be confusing, and I am sorry to hear about your issue. I strongly recommend that you speak with the physician who prescribed you the antibiotics. It is difficult to answer this question without further information, including what infection you are being treated for, what antibiotic you have been prescribed, other medications you might be taking, and other medical conditions that you may have. First, antibiotic course durations are different for different types of infections. Furthermore, the duration of the course has varying importance depending on the type of infection. For example, you may need several weeks of antibiotics to properly clear certain bloodstream infections, and it is important that you complete the course. Second, antibiotics work by reaching therapeutic levels in the bloodstream. Taking an extra dose runs the risk of raising the levels to toxic ranges without necessarily having an added benefit in fighting the infection. The side effect profiles are vastly different for different antibiotics. Based on the above, therefore, taking extra doses and finishing your course early could result in 1) incomplete treatment of your infection and/or 2) possible undesired side effects and toxicity. For these reasons I would strongly recommend discussing this issue with the physician who prescribed you the antibiotics.

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