Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is it okay to drink alcohol while taking antibiotics for an infection?"
My friend said I shouldn?t drink while I?m taking antibiotics to clear up a sinus infection. He said they won?t work if I do both. Is this true? Should I not drink for the two weeks I have to take the antibiotics?
There is some truth to what your friend is saying. There are certain types of antibiotics which do not mix well with alcohol. For the most part, alcohol won't diminish the effectiveness of most antibiotics. However mixing them can cause unwanted side effects including stomach upset, dizziness, and drowsiness. Of note, you should never take alcohol with Flagyl, Tindamax, or Bactrim. This will cause a phenomenon known as the disulfiram reaction. Basically it is akin to taking Antabuse. In other words, it will give you symptoms consistent with a severe hangover, including flushing, headache, nausea and vomiting, elevated pulse, sensation to stimuli such as sounds or light, etc. This is because the antibiotic blocks the breakdown of a toxic byproduct of alcohol that is the cause of what people experience as a hangover. In addition, chronic drinkers (which let's be honest most college students can be considered), will have their liver's metabolic pathways altered (it's called the cytochrome system). Alcohol can ramp this system up over time, meaning that many antibiotics will be broken down faster than normal, thus requiring a higher dose to be as effective in a normal person. Aside from that, alcohol in general diminishes the immune system and recovery from illness. The bottom line is that in general it would be a good idea to minimize drinking while you are ill and on antibiotics. And as always, you should follow your physicians advice and take the full course of antibiotics and follow up with him/her once your illness has resolved.
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