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What Are the Contraindications for Antibiotics?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Contraindications for antibiotics refer to those circumstances under which these medications shouldn’t be used because they might be ineffective or dangerous. The group of medications under this umbrella is constantly growing, and each drug in this family has specific contraindications to consider before taking it. Before taking these or other medications, a medical history to collect information about past health problems, current drugs in use, and symptoms is an important tool to make sure patients get the right antibiotic. Broadly, some contraindications for antibiotics can include the nature of the infection, the patient’s age, existing medical conditions, and history.

Some examples of antibiotics include quinolones, cephalosporins, sulfonamides, and penicillins. These medications can be effective against fungi, bacteria, and parasites. Their range of efficacy depends on the type of medication, as no drugs can work against all organisms. A viral infection is among the contraindications for antibiotics, because the medications won’t kill viruses or offer other benefits to the patient.

One consideration when recommending antibiotics is knowing the cause of the infection. If a culture is available with specific information about the organism, this can narrow down the treatment options. In cases where the details aren’t known, the best option is a broad spectrum antibiotic known to work against infections of that type. Another issue can be the level of resistance in the organisms involved, or the risk of resistance based on the type of infection. Ineffective drugs shouldn’t be used, and it may be necessary to perform a culture to find a medication that will work.

Age can sometimes be a contraindication for antibiotics. Young patients may be more at risk of bad reactions to medication, and in other cases, not enough data is available on safety in children. If possible, a narrow range of drugs known to be safe may be used. A more aggressive medication may be recommended if the patient has a serious infection. Pregnant women can also be at risk of complications with some medications.

Existing medical conditions and patient history may be important contraindications for antibiotics. People with liver or kidney disease may not be able to process some medications. In other cases, antibiotics can be involved in drug interactions that cause bad reactions. A history of allergies to particular medications is another strong contraindication, as the patient could experience a severe allergic response with another exposure. Medications in the same class may also be excluded from the options for a patient, in the interests of safety.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By sunshined — On Sep 18, 2012

I have a good friend who has trouble taking any kind of antibiotic that is in the penicillin family. She ends up having some kind of reaction and breaks out in hives.

I don't know how many different antibiotics she has tried, but every one of them affect her the same way. She finally found one antibiotic that she can take, but I don't remember the name of it. I just know she was so relieved to finally find one that her body would tolerate.

By Mykol — On Sep 18, 2012

I have taken many difference kinds of antibiotics for recurring urinary tract infections. After a while a certain antibiotic quits working as my body builds up a resistance to it, so I have to try something else.

There have been a couple of the newer antibiotics that don't agree with me very well. After taking a very strong one for about a week, I felt worse than I did before I started taking it. I also had some severe stomach pains, and my doctor told me to stop taking it and prescribed something different for me.

Antibiotics work great at clearing up infection and bacteria, but they also have some side effects that you need to be aware of. From my past experience, if I start feeling funny, I call my doctor right away and see if he will give me something else.

By bagley79 — On Sep 17, 2012

There are at least three people in my family who have a bad reaction to the antibiotic amoxicillin. This is a form of penicillin and has been the cause of a severe reaction in my grandpa, dad and sister.

They have not had this kind of reaction to any other kind of antibiotic or penicillin, so we have never figured out why this one antibiotic has contraindications for them.

I have only taken this once and didn't have any problems, but it makes me a little nervous when I think about it. There are so many other choices of antibiotics available, that I usually ask for something else besides amoxicillin.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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