Antibiotics: side effects, types plus 15 tips

Antibiotics definition

By definition, antibiotics are medicines that kill or slow down the growth of bacteria.

Types of antibiotics

  • Penicillin’s
  • Macrolides
  • Cephalosporins
  • Tetracyclines
  • Quinolones
  • Aminoglycosides
  • Clindamycin
  • Sulphonamides and trimethoprim
  • Metronidazole and tinidazole
  • Nitrofurantoin
  • Rifampicin and rifabutin

Side effects of antibiotics

The exact side affects you may experience depends on the type of antibiotics that you are taking. That said, antibiotics affect the digestive system. The side effects of antibiotics on the digestive system include:

  • nausea (when you feel like you want to vomit)
  • vomiting
  • bloating  
  • indigestion
  • diarrhoea
  • abdominal pain
  • loss of appetite

Antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance remains one of the biggest public health challenges. Each year, millions of people develop antibiotic resistant infection and thousands die from it. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria evolve in a way that they can no longer be killed by antibiotics. This means that these bacteria continue to grow and cause problems.

Antibiotic preparations

While most antibiotic preparations come in tablet, capsules and liquid forms, others come as:

  • Creams
  • Ointment
  • Eye drops
  • Ear drops

Similar names of antibiotics

Antibiotics of similar class can sometimes have similar sounding name e.g. Metronidazole and tinidazole.

15 tips of antibiotics

  1. Antibiotics are used for the treatment of BACTERIAL infections therefore you don’t need antibiotics for viral infections like the common cold.
  2. All antibiotics have side effects therefore doctors will only prescribe it for you if the benefits of taking it outweigh the risk associated with its use.
  3. Antibiotics are harmful to the normal microorganisms that are present in your body such as those in your gastrointestinal tracts, therefore prolonged use can make you sick.
  4. Antibiotics are NOT needed from time to time just to “flush” your system. Why? Refer to number 2.  If you want to flush your system, drink a lot of clean water instead (except you are on water restriction from your doctor).
  5. Different types of antibiotics fight different types of germs therefore there is no one antibiotic that can be used for EVERY type of infection.
  6. Injection antibiotics are NOT ALWAYS better than oral (tablets, syrups) antibiotics. (except you have medical conditions that may interfere with how your body absorbs the oral medications or you are throwing up and can’t keep anything taken orally down)
  7. You can develop resistance to antibiotics if you do not complete your medications as prescribed simply because you felt better after the first few days of use.
  8. Prevention is always better than cure. It is in your best interest to avoid situations that put you at risk of getting infections that would require antibiotics.
  9. Your body system has the ability to fight off some bacterial infections. Antibiotics are only required to help if your immune system is overwhelmed by the infection.
  10. Some antibiotics are NOT SAFE for pregnant and nursing mothers. AVOID SELF MEDICATION.
  11. Some antibiotics are not safe in Children. Avoid prescribing and treating your children on your own without consulting your paediatrician.
  12. Your baby may get some antibiotics you are taking from breast milk, therefore ensure the one you are taking is also safe for your child by consulting your doctor.
  13. Syrup antibiotic formulations are used in Children for a reason and dosages are according to weight. Do not give your children half of your own “leftover antibiotics”.
  14. Always take note and report any antibiotic side effects that you experience to your doctor and pharmacist for record-keeping.
  15. Antibiotic adverse effects may be more severe on subsequent exposure to the same medication. Therefore, you MUST know the name(s) of any medication you have reacted to in the past.

Frequency asked question about antibiotics

What is antibiotics prophylaxis

Antibiotic prophylaxis is when antibiotics are given to prevent an infection as opposed to treating it. For example, you may be prescribed antibiotics before surgery to prevent infection.

What antibiotics is use for sinus infection?

Amoxicillin (Amoxil) is usually used for uncomplicated sinus infection.

What antibiotics is used for tooth infection?

Penicillin e.g. Amoxicillin

What antibiotics is used for ear infection?


What antibiotics is used for treating urinary tract infection (UTI)?


Can antibiotics cause UTI?

UTI’s cause antibiotics which are usually treated with antibiotics.

Can antibiotics cause diarrhoea?

Yes, most antibiotics can cause diarrhoea. See other side effects of antibiotics.

Can antibiotics make you tired?

It is likely that the tiredness is from the infection being treated. However very rarely, a few antibiotics may make you tired.

What antibiotics is used to treat chlamydia?


What antibiotics is used to treat bacterial vaginosis (BV)?


Can antibiotics cause nausea?

Yes, most antibiotics can cause diarrhoea. See other side effects of antibiotics.

What about antibiotics and birth control?

Most antibiotics will not change the effectiveness of your contraceptive. Some types of antibiotics (enzyme-inducing antibiotics) can affect a type of birth-control method (specifically hormonal contraceptives). Antibiotics that can affect your contraceptives include rifampicin and rifabutin. You should use an alternative form of contraceptive if taking these antibiotics while using hormonal contraception. You can read more about hormonal birth control.

Which antibiotics cause clostridium difficile (c.diff)?

The ‘4C’s’ antibiotics cause c.diff. The ‘4C’s’ antibiotics include

What are the antibiotics that start with C?


What are the antibiotics that start with D?


Is 3 days of antibiotics enough for kidney infection?

Yes. Sometimes 3 days antibiotics is all you require.

What antibiotics are used for kidney infections?


What antibiotics is used for strep throat?

Penicillin such as amoxicillin is used to treat strep throat.

Can you get yeast infection from antibiotics?

When you take antibiotics, it kills the ‘bad bacteria’ and also the ‘good bacteria’ which can lead to overgrowth of yeast and cause you to have yeast infection.

What antibiotics is used for pneumonia?

The type of antibiotics used to treat pneumonia depends on the type of pneumonia. Read more about the treatment of pneumonia.

What antibiotics is used for acne?

Where possible, avoid treating acne with antibiotics. The common antibiotics used to treat acne are:
Topical erythromycin
Topical clindamycin

What antibiotics are used for boils?

You may be prescribed any of these for boils.


What is antibiotics rash?

Some antibiotics for example amoxicillin can cause rash.

What antibiotics are penicillin?

Penicillin’s are a type of antibiotics. An example of a penicillin is amoxicillin.

Why can’t you drink on antibiotics?

While it makes sense to avoid alcohol when taking antibiotics and when unwell, it is unlikely that drinking alcohol within limit with most antibiotics will cause problems. However, you should not take alcohol when taking metronidazole or tinidazole.

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