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What is an Antibiotic Shot?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An antibiotic shot is a medication administered by injection as opposed to by oral methods (liquids, pills) or through an intravenous drip. For some illnesses, antibiotic injections used to be an extremely common treatment, and they have certain advantages, which is why some doctors still prefer them. For most common bacterial illnesses, the gold standard treatment is to administer oral antibiotics instead, and not all types of antibiotics are available in injectable form. On the other hand, there are tried and true legitimate uses for the antibiotic shot, though these may vary with each patient.

One common use of the antibiotic injection is to begin treatment for certain sexually transmitted diseases that are bacterial in nature. Doctors might consider injected treatment for newly manifested cases of gonorrhea or syphilis, typically using penicillin. Since there are plenty of people allergic to penicillin, it is very important that tolerance of the medication be verified prior to giving it. It is still possible for an allergy to occur, especially if this is only the second or third time a person has received penicillin, and given that the shot is injected, an allergic reaction can be extremely dramatic.

Some doctors advocate the use of single shot treatment for ear infections, with antibiotics like penicillin. They argue such treatment has good outcomes and may avoid having to use additional antibiotics to clear up infection. This isn’t always the case, and a single antibiotic injection isn’t always effective enough. Many people will need to combine a first antibiotic shot with additional oral treatment to fully treat an infection.

A very legitimate use of the antibiotic shot exists when it appears it would not be possible for a person to tolerate a dose of oral medication. To avoid using intravenous treatment but to get antibiotics “on board,” doctors may begin with an injected dose. If a child is likely to spit out medication or be unable to keep it down because of high fever and vomiting, this may assure that antibiotics do enter the blood stream and start to work. Because the antibiotics can improve symptoms, the shot may make it easier to take additional doses orally.

The effects of an antibiotic shot may vary by person. As stated, there is some risk of allergic reaction to any medication given. Any reaction of swelling tongue, face or lips, or wheezing, hives and difficulty breathing is a medical emergency. Injection sites can be sore for a few days and they may itch or appear red. An injection is usually painful, but most people only notice this slightly. If a shot is given, patients or their caretakers need to make certain further instructions are understood on care, including whether a person will require oral antibiotics as follow-up.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By Fa5t3r — On Oct 18, 2013

I read a book once where the author was describing the work of a nurse a few decades ago and how she often had to administer shots of antibiotics to the buttocks when they were necessary.

It was pretty hilarious, although I'm not sure how funny I would find it if I was on the receiving end. I'm glad they usually just give you antibiotics orally these days.

By irontoenail — On Oct 17, 2013

@Iluviaporos - Yeah, you seriously do not want to have an allergic reaction to something that has been injected into you. And it's possible that some people might react to the solution that they dissolve the antibiotics in as well. I know that's true of vaccines anyway.

It makes it more complicated that there are different antibiotic types and people can be allergic to almost any of them. Few people actually ask what kind of antibiotic they are being given, particularly if it is a shot rather than pills.

It's a good idea to keep a list for yourself about the types that you've had so that you know for the future which ones you aren't likely to have a reaction to, in case you get into a situation where that knowledge is crucial.

By lluviaporos — On Oct 16, 2013
I had to have an antibiotics shot once, although I can't remember what it was for. It might have been for an ear infection, actually.

I do remember that the doctor insisted that I wait for at least ten minutes in the room to make sure I wasn't going to have an allergic reaction. I thought he was being a little bit over-dramatic, since I had had oral antibiotics before, but from what it looks like here, he was just being a good doctor.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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