Getting sick sucks. It’s even worse when you have to take a course of antibiotics. They’re effective at combating bacteria and fighting infection, but they’re also responsible for creating an imbalance in your gut flora and potentially sparking a number of allergic reactions. Do they actually preclude you from knocking back a few at happy hour, though?
The short answer is yes.
“A lot of studies have been done on people who are heavy drinkers and we know when they take antibiotics, the method of absorption of alcohol is extended, and its effects will be increased while the drug’s efficiency is decreased,” says Antoine Dufour, an assistant professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the University of Calgary.
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Although he says similar studies have not been conducted on moderate drinkers, he says the same problems are likely to occur.
Not only will antibiotics make the alcohol hit you harder, thus making you feel more drunk, but mixing the two substances could also induce dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea. It’s also just a really taxing combination on your system.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the antibiotics metronidazole (Flagyl), tinidazole (Tindamax) and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra) should never be mixed with alcohol because the combination could cause severe reactions, including headache, flushing, nausea, vomiting and rapid heart rate.
Doctors also want to remind people to be aware of alcohol in every day products like mouthwash, which could interfere with antibiotics.
“You may not think it’s a big deal, but if you have a five- or six-year-old who’s on antibiotics and you tell them to rinse their mouth out with Listerine, there could be cross-drug interaction,” Dufour says.
And don’t do triple duty by mixing antibiotics and over-the-counter medications like Advil or Tylenol with alcohol.
At the end of the day, Dufour says, you shouldn’t be drinking alcohol at all when you’re sick. Add in antibiotics and all the booze will really do is extend the duration of your illness and potentially make you feel pretty terrible in the short-term.