MANY of us enjoy the occasional wine or two now and again.
But if you're ill, you may be given some medication that means you can't drink for a while.
If you've got a nasty bacterial infection – then it's likely you've been prescribed help in the form of antibiotics.
However, as the weekend is on the horizon, you might have plans paint the town red with pals or enjoy a quiet pint.
Around two thirds of adults in the UK say they drink on a regular basis.
Meaning that being prescribed the medication might seem like an inconvenience.
It's handy to know the details of when you can and can't get boozy while on antibiotics:
Can you drink alcohol on antibiotics?
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In every box of medicine will be a 'Patient Information Leaflet' – which is always worth having a read through before starting any new medication.
It will detail things like side effects, warnings and whether or not you can consume alcohol.
The NHS reassuringly says "it's unlikely that drinking alcohol in moderation will cause problems if you're taking the most common antibiotics" – with some exceptions (see below).
But it says overall, it's a "good idea to avoid drinking alcohol when taking medicine or feeling unwell".
Some experts say that booze can prevent antibiotics from working properly.
The Mayo Clinic says that alcohol can reduce your energy and delay how quickly you recover from illness.
Alcohol is also a diuretic, causing dehydration, which is not ideal when you are unwell.
Booze can also intensify symptoms of sickness you already have, such as dizziness or drowsiness.
It's important to read the information leaflet of any antibiotic you have been prescribed if you plan to drink.
When is it dangerous to drink alcohol on antibiotics?
There are some circumstances where people should avoid alcohol altogether, including anyone taking either metronidazole or tinidazole.
The NHS says you should avoid drinking for 48 hours after you stop taking metronidazole and 72 hours after you stop taking tinidazole.
Both may be used to clear dental and vaginal infections, or infected leg ulcers and pressure sores, while the latter is sometimes used to help clear bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) from the gut.
Alcohol can cause a serious reaction when combined with these medications. Symptoms can include:
- Chest pain
- Skin flushing
- Increased or irregular heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
There are some antibiotics that can sometimes interact with booze, so you should also be wary of drinking if you are taking:
- Co-trimoxazole – drinking alcohol while taking co-trimoxazole can occasionally cause a similar reaction to that of metronidazole or tinidazole, although this is very rare.
- Linezolid – linezolid (mentioned above) 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.
- Erythromycin – there is some evidence of a minor interaction with alcohol, which may slightly reduce or delay the effect of erythromycin.
What are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent certain bacterial infections by killing certain bacteria.
Some antibiotics are also handed out if an infection carries a risk of more serious complications – such as after surgery.
Different antibiotics target different strains of bacteria.
Some are highly specialised and are only effective against particular bacteria while others, called "broad-spectrum" antibiotics, attack a wider range of bacteria.
Doses are either oral, topical – such as creams and lotions used to treat skin infections – or intravenous, meaning they are administered by injection or drip.
The latter tend to be used when an infection is more serious.
How long after taking antibiotics is it safe to drink?
Some packets of antibiotics specify a time frame where you should avoid drinking.
For example, you should 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.
With other antibiotics, there usually isn’t any adverse side-effect if you drink but it makes sense to avoid alcohol until you have recovered.
Experts at Independent Pharmacy previously said that drinking booze with antibiotics could slow down your recovery.
"There are a few antibiotics that require you to avoid drinking alcohol completely when taking them. Metronidazole, which is typically prescribed for dental treatment or to clear infected ulcers, and Tinidazole which is often prescribed to clear infections and tackle unwanted gut bacteria.
"Combining alcohol with these two antibiotics can have painful side effects including stomach pain, vomiting, hot flushes and a fast or irregular heartbeat.
"Other antibiotics to be wary of reacting with alcohol are Linezolid and Doxycycline.
"However, it is unlikely that alcohol consumption will cause problems if you are taking the most common antibiotics so check with your doctor or pharmacist when collecting your prescription if you’re okay to drink alcohol in moderation while taking the medication."
What is antibiotic resistance?
The NHS and health organisations across the world are trying to reduce the use of antibiotics because overuse has caused the medicines to become less effective – and led to the emergence of "superbugs".
Superbugs can be serious and challenging to treat and are becoming an increasing cause of death across the world.
It previously emerged that doctors' warnings that a course of antibiotics must be completed are wrong – and might be putting patients at risk and fuelling the rise of deadly superbugs.
Current NHS advice states “it is essential to finish taking a prescribed course of antibiotics, even if you feel better”.
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