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Cephalexin and Alcohol Interactions

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What is Cephalexin?

Cephalexin, sold under the brand name Keflex, is an antibiotic that treats bacterial infections in both children and adults. It belongs to a class of medicines called cephalosporin antibiotics and works by killing bacteria.3


Cephalexin is available as a prescription medication. It can’t be purchased over the counter. It comes in different formulations, including tablets, capsules, and a powder for liquid suspension. 

Pregnant women may take cephalexin as it’s considered to be safe and effective for treating acute bacterial infections during pregnancy. A small amount of cephalexin may be excreted into breast milk, but it’s not considered unsafe for nursing babies.2

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What is Cephalexin Used For?

Cephalexin kills bacteria that cause infections of the respiratory tract, ears, skin, bone, and genitourinary tract.4

Cephalexin won’t work for viral infections such as the common cold or flu.

Side Effects & Risks of Cephalexin

Like other medications, cephalexin can cause certain side effects:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain and upset stomach
  • Itching
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Vaginal discharge or itching
  • Rash
  • Sore or white tongue or mouth (oral thrush)

Serious side effects of cephalexin that may require urgent medical attention include:

  • Severe body rash
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Swelling of the joints
  • Unusual bleeding and bruises
  • Confusion and hallucinations

Rarely, some people may have a serious allergic reaction that causes rash, hives, swelling of the mouth, lips, and tongue, and trouble breathing. If this occurs, call 911 and seek medical help immediately.

Cephalexin may interact with other medications such as metformin and blood thinners. It’s important to tell your doctor about your health history or if you’re taking any other medications or supplements.

Cephalexin needs to be taken for the full course of treatment. Failure to take all the prescribed medication can lead to antibiotic resistance.

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Is it OK to Drink Alcohol While Taking Cephalexin?

There is no reported interaction between alcohol and cephalexin. However, drinking alcohol while on an antibiotic such as cephalexin is not generally advised. 

Some people experience unpleasant side effects when taking cephalexin such as headache, nausea, and diarrhea. These side effects can be made worse with alcohol use. 

It’s generally recommended to avoid alcohol while treating infections as alcohol can make you feel worse regardless of its impact on the antibiotic’s effectiveness. 

Some antibiotics, such as metronidazole, can cause serious adverse reactions when taken with alcohol. In these cases, alcohol should be strictly avoided.6

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Does Alcohol Make Antibiotics Less Effective?

An article on Insider Health revealed that drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics can weaken the immune system; thus, making it harder for the body’s defense system to fight off infection.7

Drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics must be done with caution. Alcohol can cause severe adverse reactions.

Alcohol should be avoided with the following antibiotics:

  • Metronidazole
  • Cefotetan
  • Cefoperazone
  • Tinidazole
  • Linezolid
  • Cefazolin

Side Effects & Dangers of Mixing Cephalexin and Alcohol

Cephalexin has side effects that overlap with those of alcohol consumption. Mixing cephalexin and alcohol may worsen side effects like: 

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

It’s best to avoid drinking alcohol when taking cephalexin or any other antibiotics. Alcohol can impede your body’s natural immune system response, resulting in a slower healing time or worsening symptoms.

Treatment for Alcohol Misuse & Addiction

People with alcohol use disorder drink excessively, which can result in negative health consequences. It’s important to seek help and treat your alcohol addiction quickly to avoid worsening symptoms or long-term health problems.

Below are some treatment options for alcohol use disorder (AUD) and addiction:

Inpatient and Outpatient Rehabilitation

People with alcohol addiction frequently need rehabilitation to recover from their addiction. 

Inpatient care involves admitting the patient into the rehabilitation facility and undergoing intensive care and monitoring. 

Outpatient care works around the patient’s schedule and doesn’t require them to stay overnight.

Multisystemic Therapy (MST)

This therapy is focused on Youth Alcohol Recovery and involves contacting and engaging the family of the young person with AUD. The aim is to determine the root cause of the addiction and help the physician determine the best treatment option. 


The use of medicines, also called medication-assisted treatment, is another effective treatment option for AUD. Disulfiram (Antabuse) may help prevent drinking. Other medications, like Naltrexone and Acamprosate, can help treat alcohol addiction.

Aftercare Programs and Support Groups

The need for continuous support after undergoing intensive treatment is essential. Joining a support group can help you recover from your addiction and help you cope with lifestyle changes and relapse management.

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Updated on March 26, 2022
7 sources cited
  1. Booze and Poos! What Alcohol Does to Your Digestive System!” Association of Registered Colon Hydrotherapists, 3 November 2016.
  2. Castle, Sharon. “Cephalexin.” X-Pharm: The Comprehensive Pharmacology Reference, 2007.
  3. Cefalexin.” National Health Service, UK, 20 March 2020.
  4. Cephalexin ABM Capsules.” Medsafe, New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority, 4 March 2019.
  5. Cephalexin.” Medline Plus, 15 June 2016.
  6. Klasco, Richard. “Can I Drink Alcohol While Taking Antibiotics?” The New York Times, 15 June 2018.
  7. Watson, Kate, and McKnight, Jason. “Why You Shouldn’t Drink Alcohol While Taking Antibiotics, According to Doctors.” Insider, Health, 23 April 2021.

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