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Side effects of Antibiotics


What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are antimicrobial agents used in fighting infections that result from bacteria1. Antibiotics have two main categories: they can either kill the bacteria (called bactericidal antibiotics), or simply inhibit their growth and spread (called bacteriostatic antibiotics)2.

What are antibiotics used for?

They are widely used in the market nowadays to treat a wide variety of conditions, ranging from simple colds to more chronic conditions such as Ulcerative colitis, in addition to being used to being used with conditions such as Asthma, not to cure the illness itself but to treat infections that are superimposed with this chronic condition3.

What are the side effects of using antibiotics?

While antibiotics are very helpful in treating currently active infections, they are not without their disadvantages. There is a wide array of side effects caused by antibiotics, that are written on the box of each antibiotic you use. These negative effects of antibiotics could be from the chemical composition of the medication itself, or due to long term or incorrect use of the medication4.

Examples of these side effects are:

  • Hypersensitivity (or allergy): some people are genetically prone to some types of antibiotics (most commonly penicillin)2. These people need to use other types of antibiotics to treat their infections. Symptoms of hypersensitivity reactions range from simple urticaria (or rash), to fever, light sensitivity and in severe cases even shock5.

  • Change in the normal bacterial composition of the body: long term use of specific antibiotics leads to killing certain species of bacteria that are normally present in the body and do specific jobs. As a result, other bacterial species begin to overgrow, and this could result in side effects such as diarrhea6 and candidiasis (which is a form of fungal infection)7.

  • Drug interactions: antibiotics interact with other medications that the person could be taking, and can cause serious complications. Examples of drug interactions include interaction of quinolones with steroids that can cause tendon and muscle damage8, and interaction of broad spectrum antibiotics such as Rifampicin with oral contraceptive pills causing their failure9. These negative effects are not limited to medications only, but extend to other chemical products such as Alcohol, where antibiotics such as Metronidazole have decreased effectiveness when used on heavy alcohol drinkers, as well as causing vomiting, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms10.

  • Obesity: Recent studies have shown a relation between taking antibiotics early in life (less than 6 months of age) and increased body mass11, although the results are still inconclusive.

  • Antibiotics during pregnancy and early childhood: Some antibiotics are forbidden to be taken by pregnant women or children in their early life. These antibiotics, such as Tetracycline and Doxycycline, can cause a very wide range of side effects ranging from untreatable staining of the child’s teeth12, to fatty liver and pancreatic dysfunction in the pregnant females13.

  • Resistance: antibiotic resistance means that a specific antibiotic no longer works with a certain patient. This is due to the prolonged and repeated use of the same type of antibiotic over and over in treating a certain condition. Antibiotic resistance is a worldwide concern nowadays with the emergence of new bacterial strains that have mutated enough to resist every type of antibiotic available, meaning that there could be a time in the not so distant future when antibiotics are no longer an option, and more radical measures would need to be taken14.

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Dr. Mohamed Abdel Hamid (Medical content)
Robert Oosterling (Natural Medicine content)


1. "Utilizing antibiotics agents effectively will preserve present day medication". News Ghana. 21 November 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015.

2. Chemical Analysis of Antibiotic Residues in Food. (PDF). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2012. pp. 1–60. ISBN 9781449614591.

3. "Antibiotics". NHS. 5 June 2014.

4. Slama TG, Amin A, Brunton SA, et al. (July 2005). "A clinician's guide to the appropriate and accurate use of antibiotics: the Council for Appropriate and Rational Antibiotic Therapy (CARAT) criteria". Am. J. Med. 118 Suppl 7A (7): 1S–6S. PMID 15993671. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2005.05.007

5. "Antibiotics - Side effects". NHS Choices. National Health Service (NHS), UK. 6 May 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2016

6. "Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea - All you should know"

7. Pirotta MV, Garland SM (2006). "Genital Candida species detected in samples from women in Melbourne, Australia, before and after treatment with antibiotics". J Clin Microbiol. 44 (9): 3213–3217. PMC 1594690. PMID 16954250. doi:10.1128/JCM.00218-06

8. Lewis, Trevor; Cook, Jill (1 January 2014). "Fluoroquinolones and Tendinopathy: A Guide for Athletes and Sports Clinicians and a Systematic Review of the Literature". Journal of Athletic Training. 49 (3): 422–427.ISSN 1062-6050. PMC 4080593. PMID 24762232. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-49.2.09

9. Weaver K, Glasier A (February 1999). "Interaction between broad-spectrum antibiotics and the combined oral contraceptive pill. A literature review". Contraception. 59 (2): 71–8. PMID 10361620. doi:10.1016/S0010-7824(99)00009-8

10. Lwanga, J; Mears, A; Bingham, J S; Bradbeer, C S (2008). "Do antibiotics and alcohol mix? The beliefs of genitourinary clinic attendees". BMJ. 337: a2885. doi:10.1136/bmj.a2885

11. Trasande, L.; Blustein, J.; Liu, M.; Corwin, E.; Cox, L. M.; Blaser, M. J. (1 January 2013). "Infant antibiotic exposures and early-life body mass". International Journal of Obesity. 37 (1): 16–23. ISSN 0307-0565. PMC 3798029 . PMID 22907693. doi:10.1038/ijo.2012.132.

12. Genot MT, Golan HP, Porter PJ, Kass EH: “Effect of administration of tetracycline in pregnancy on the primary dentition of the offspring.”, J Oral Med. 1970 Jul-Sep;25(3):75-9 , PMID: 4915375


14. "Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance" (PDF). The World Health Organization. April 2014. ISBN 978 92 4 156474 8

Topics: Antibiotics

Dr Mohamed Abdel Hamid

Written by Dr Mohamed Abdel Hamid

Dr. Mohamed Abdel Hamid is a practicing dentist, the founder and owner of confidential clinic in Cairo, Egypt. He graduated from the faculty of dentistry, Ain Shams University, obtaining his Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) in 2010 and has been practicing ever since. He acquired a postgraduate diploma of Oral Surgery in 2013 from the same university. In 2014, he acquired the membership of faculty of dental surgery (MFDS) from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd), one of the highest honors in professional dentistry. In 2016, He became a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), the highest recognized institution in the world pertaining to cosmetic dentistry and beauty.