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What is Cephalexin?

Cephalexin (also called Cefalexin) is an antibiotic. This means it is used to treat bacterial infections. It belongs to a class of medicines called cephalosporin antibiotics and is sold under the brand name Keflex.3

Cephalexin (also called Cefalexin) is an antibiotic. This means it is used to treat bacterial infections. It belongs to a class of medicines called cephalosporin antibiotics and is sold under the brand name Keflex.3

Image of Cephalexin capsule

Cephalexin is available as a prescription medication and is not an over-the-counter medicine. It comes in different forms, including tablets, liquids, and capsules for treating both children and adults.  

Pregnant women may take Cephalexin as it appears to be safe and effective for treating acute bacterial infections during pregnancy. A small amount of the medication may be excreted into breast milk. However, it is not considered risky for breastfeeding.2

What is Cephalexin Used For?

Cephalexin is used for treating bacterial infections. It acts to fight bacteria, which cause diseases like respiratory tract infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and infections of the ears, skin, and genitals.4

Since it is an antibiotic, taking Cephalexin won’t work for colds and the flu (because they are viral infections). 

Cephalexin can also be taken to prevent heart valve infection.5

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Side Effects & Risks of Cephalexin

Just like other medications, Cephalexin has been linked to certain side effects. Common side effects of Cephalexin include:

  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • 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
  • Swelling of the lips, face, mouth, or throat (which may cause difficulty in breathing or swallowing)

Also, Cephalexin may interact with other medications such as metformin and blood thinners.

Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics like Cephalexin when necessary. Don’t take this medicine unless you are certain you need it. Misuse of antibiotics medications can cause antibiotic resistance. 

Less than 1 in 100 people may have an allergic reaction to this antibiotic, and in most cases, the allergic reaction is only mild. In very rare cases, someone may experience a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) while on this medication. 

Is it OK to Drink Alcohol While Taking Cephalexin?

There is no reported interaction between alcohol and cephalexin. However, it is not necessarily safe to mix these two substances. This is because some people experience unpleasant side effects when they drink alcohol while taking Cephalexin.

Cephalexin has side effects similar to those of alcohol, such as drowsiness, dizziness, and nausea. Hence, when you combine alcohol and cephalexin, It may worsen the side effects. If you experience these effects, it would be best to pause drinking alcohol until you have finished your treatment.

Note that alcohol may be dangerous when taken with other antibiotics. Some antibiotics can make you fall seriously ill if you consume alcohol while taking them.6

Does Alcohol Make Antibiotics Less Effective?

There are chances of alcohol reducing the effectiveness of antibiotics. 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

An example of an antibiotic that alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of is doxycycline. This is one reason why physicians advise that people with a history of alcohol use or misuse do not use this type of medication. 

Taking alcohol while taking antibiotics may be risky. Even though it appears drinking alcohol while taking Cephalexin is safe, this is not the case for some other antibiotics. For instance, drinking alcohol and taking antibiotics like tinidazole and metronidazole can cause severe adverse reactions.

Antibiotics you should not take alongside alcohol include:

  • Doxycycline
  • Metronidazole
  • Cefotetan
  • Cefoperazone
  • Tinidazole
  • Linezolid
  • Ketoconazole

Side Effects of Mixing Cephalexin and Alcohol

Mixing alcohol and antibiotics is not always a good idea as the two can cause side effects on your body. Side effects of mixing Cephalexin and alcohol include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Flushing of the skin
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Palpitations
  • Sweating and other distressing symptoms

Dangers of Drinking Alcohol on Cephalexin

It is best to avoid drinking alcohol when taking Cephalexin or any other antibiotics, as this can cause a wide range of adverse effects.

The liver, in particular, breaks down alcohol to produce acetaldehyde. This product of alcohol breakdown can cause nausea. Cephalexin already has the tendency to cause side effects such as stomach upset, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Therefore, drinking alcohol alongside can further worsen these symptoms. 

Drinking alcohol on cephalexin can hinder fast recovery from a bacterial illness. This is because drinking alcohol interferes with your normal body processes such as sleep, digestion,1 and hydration. As a result, alcohol can affect healing and recovery time and also increases your risk of developing another infection. 

Treatment for Alcohol Misuse & Addiction

People with alcohol addiction drink excessively, putting themselves and others in danger. It is important to seek help and treat your alcohol addiction quickly, as this condition can impair your health and functionality.

Below are some treatment options for alcohol misuse and addiction:

  • Inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation care: People with alcohol addiction usually need rehabilitation to recover from their addiction. Inpatient care involves admitting the patient into the rehabilitation facility and undergoing intensive care and monitoring. On the other hand, outpatient care works around the patient’s schedule and doesn’t require the patient to stay overnight.
  • Multisystemic therapy (MST): This therapy is focused on Youth Alcohol Recovery and involves contacting and engaging the family of the young addict. The aim is to determine the root cause of the addiction problem and help the physician determine the best treatment option. 
  • The use of medications: The use of medicines (also called medication-assisted treatment) is another effective treatment option for alcohol misuse and addiction. Disulfiram (Antabuse) drug may help prevent drinking. Others like Naltrexone and Acamprosate can also 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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Resources

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  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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