Antibiotics are generally very safe. They are most commonly used to treat acne, but some other skin disorders, such as rosacea, skin infections and perioral dermatitis, also respond to antibiotic treatment. Since these medications do not cure, but only suppress most of these skin disorders, it may be necessary to continue taking them for months or even years at a time.

How do antibiotics work on skin problems?

There is a bacteria that normally lives on the skin called Propionibacterium acnes. This bacteria feeds on the sebum produced by the skin’s oil glands. Sometimes, this bacteria multiplies and causes inflammation and skin disease. Antibiotics reduce the number of these bacteria present.

Does antibiotic treatment have side effects?

Out of countless women using oral contraceptives who have taken antibiotics, a few have become pregnant. It is debatable as to whether the failure of the contraceptive is due to the antibiotic or the established 1.0% failure rate of the pill. Some experts recommend that women on antibiotic treatment use a second method of birth control in addition to oral contraceptives if trying to avoid pregnancy while on antibiotic treatment.

Tetracycline, doxycycline, and minocycline make you more sensitive to sunlight. In other words, it is easier to get a sunburn while taking these medications, so you should use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher if the doctor prescribed one of these antibiotics.

Ten percent of female patients will develop a yeast infection while taking antibiotics. The onset of genital itching and vaginal discharge suggests the beginning of a yeast infection. If this occurs, call your dermatologist and he will prescribe treatment. The antibiotic may be continued. It is thought that eating yogurt two to three times a week will help prevent yeast infections.

If you find out you are pregnant, call your doctor immediately and stop the antibiotic treatment. If you are trying to get pregnant antibiotics should not be used for most skin disorders.

Many antibiotics cause temporary nausea and abdominal cramps. If diarrhea or vomiting occurs, you should stop the medication and call your dermatologist.

Any antibiotic can cause an allergic reaction. If you have had an antibiotic reaction be sure to tell the doctor. Allergic reactions can range from harmless skin rashes to very serious breathing difficulties. If think you are having an allergic reaction to your antibiotic call the doctor immediately.

Safety & Usage Protocols

Most antibiotics are very safe when used as prescribed by your physician, although long term use of antibiotics is not recommended and could lessen their ability to work as needed.

Tetracycline should be taken with water on an empty stomach, either 1 hour before meals or 2 hours after meals. You should not take it with milk or dairy products because this will decrease the absorption of the medicine. Do not take tetracycline with iron, calcium or antacids. You should wait at least 2 hours before taking tetracycline if you must take one of these medicines or vitamins.

Don’t take antibiotics if you are nursing an infant, if you are under 8 years old, or if your are taking barbiturates, lithium or phenytoin (Dilantin).

Erythromycin, doxycycline, and minocycline should all be taken with food. This will decrease the chances of developing an upset stomach. Doxycycline and minocycline should not be taken with dairy products.

Erythromycin should not be taken if you are on Seldane, theophylline, or blood thinners such as Coumadin.

It takes 4-6 weeks before you will see significant results while taking antibiotic treatment for most skin conditions. It takes 2-3 months to get the full effect of the medicine, so be patient.