Bacteria are microorganisms made of a single cell, with a thick boundary in the form of a rigid membrane. Many people believe that all forms of bacteria cause harm to human beings. This is not true. The truth however is, most of these microbial organisms do not harm us. Bacteria can help us in many ways – for instance, controlling the growth of cancerous cells, boost digestion, help us resist microbial attacks, etc. It is only a small percentage (as per clinical sciences, less than 1% of all bacterial forms) that triggers harmful infections. As most of the signs of a bacterial infection are similar to a viral attack, a proper diagnosis is needed to identify the causes behind an attack or an infection. Based on the signs and with needful diagnostic tests, your physician can arrive at the real cause of an infection. To treat bacterial infections, antimicrobial drugs are prescribed. There are multiple types of such drugs. Bactrim is one among them. This is a combinatorial medication. It is highly recommended to understand the side effects of this drug before starting to take it.

Bactrim is an antibacterial medication made of two drugs namely, trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole. Both these two drugs possess antibiotics properties; they are hence used for the treatment of a wide range of microbial infections. Bactrim has a larger spectrum of therapeutic properties including respiratory infections such as bronchitis, infections in urinary tract, middle-ear or inner-ear infections, diarrhea (especially, conditions like travelers’ diarrhea), etc. The main function of this drug is to inhibit a few types of bacteria from using folic-acid. It may be remembered that this acid is essential for the growth and development of microbes.

Of these two drugs, trimethoprim controls the level of tetrahydrofolic acid. On the other hand, sulfamethoxazole inhibits the making of dihydrofolic acid. These two aforesaid acids are essential for bacteria to make needful proteins to sustain their lives. Once the enzymes responsible for making of these acids are blocked, it eventually results in stopping further progression and spread of harmful bacteria. In short, this combinatorial drug is widely used for stopping the bio-availability of proteins for bacterial growth. This property makes bactrim more effective than a stand-alone version of any one of these two antimicrobial medications.

Safe usage of bactrim

This drug is either administered as an injection or is taken orally. In case you are taking a liquid form of this drug, you are advised to measure it properly. It is a good practice to use the spoon provided along with this drug’s pack. You must never use a ladle or a spoon from your kitchen; this may lead to inaccurate measures and can trigger risks of a likely overdose. If it is given to children, the dosage form is linked to their bodyweight. It is strongly recommended to adhere to dosage instructions while administering this drug to children. In case of adults, doses of bactrim are based on your clinical condition, age and other medical or treatment plans you are currently pursuing.

A few people may stop using this drug as soon as the symptoms cease to show up. This is not a good practice. You are advised to take this drug for the entire period of prescription. If you are discontinuing its doses, you may trigger some risks of making the microbes turning resistant to bactrim. So, if your condition remains the same and symptoms are found to persist without any relief – you are advised to consult your treating physician as promptly as possible. Above all, you are advised to study the instructions printed on the pack carefully. Injectable forms of bactrim may need to be handled carefully. It is quite likely that the first injectable-dose is administered by a caregiver, and you may be taught how to take a shot at home, on your own. In such instances, you need to know how to give the shot and also, where to store the drug. It is a good practice to talk to your treating doctor as well as the pharmacist if you require any additional inputs or clarifications about the safe use of bactrim.

Side effects of bactrim

Bactrim can trigger a few adverse side effects. Most commonly experienced side effects include decrease in appetite level, abdominal discomforts such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. These are however experienced only over a short term. Once your body gets used to bactrim and its ingredients, these discomforts will soon disappear. But, if you are experiencing these side effects for a longer span of time, you are advised to immediately contact your treating doctor. It is important to note that your treating physician has administered this drug as the drug’s benefits far outweigh risks of side effects or other likely reactions. It is also a fact that most people who have taken bactrim reported no major side effects.

A few acute side effects of bactrim

In general, bactrim is unlikely to trigger acute side effects or reactions. In very rare instances, some people have noticed serious discomforts like mood shifts, weakness, drowsiness, etc. In extremely remote cases, a few people have reported some symptoms associated with renal problems; signs they experienced include an altered quantity of urine discharged, traces of blood in urine and inflammation. In equally rare instances, some have noted changes in their blood sugar level – especially, a decrease in sugar level. This condition showed up with other characteristic symptoms such as persistent spells of hunger, feeling dizzy, blurring of eyesight, sweating profusely, tremors, etc.

Other types of very acute side effects are stiffness of neck, epileptic fits or convulsions, chronic spells of headaches, erratic or slowdown of heartbeats. In very remote circumstances, bactrim has triggered a few allergies in people. Some of these allergic reactions are known to have near-fatal consequences. Common allergic reactions that were reported include rashes on skin, anemia or other blood related disorders, liver injuries, damage to lungs, etc. Allergies may also show up as fever, blisters, inflammation of facial organs, soreness of throat, inflammation of lymph nodes, respiratory problems, etc. If you experience symptoms or signs such as darkened urine, coughing persistently, muscular-pains, joint aches, etc., you are advised to take medical help immediately.

If you are living in the US, you need to call 911 quickly or reach out to a local poison control center without any delay. If you are a resident of any of the Canadian provinces, you need to get in touch with Health Canada or contact the poison control center located in the province you live. Also, remember that these side effects do not represent a full set of all such discomforts. So, if you experience side effects, allergic reactions or discomforts that are not listed here, you need to inform about them quickly to the helpline numbers of food and drug administration (FDA) in the US.

Other precautions needed to manage side effects of bactrim

Bactrim – in some rare circumstances – can trigger acute clinical conditions in the gastrointestinal tract. In case of drug-resistant bacteria, some people have reported severe and persistent episodes of diarrhea and indigestion, especially within a few weeks after stopping their intake of Bactrim. Consumption of antidiarrheal drugs can only aggravate such intestinal conditions. You are advised to report to your physician when you encounter conditions such as cramping of abdominal muscles, pain in lower abdomen, persistent spells of indigestion, mucus or traces of blood in stools.

You are advised to stay aware of possible risks associated with fungal infections. These risks may get triggered when you are taking bactrim for a fairly longer span of time. The early signs of a likely yeast infection are – changes in fluid discharged from vagina, white colored patches on oral organs such as tongue, etc. It is hence very important to inform your medical team about known allergies and hypersensitivity. It is equally essential to tell your doctor about prior medical conditions or clinical history of your own as well as your family. If the medical history includes conditions such as hepatic damage (like cirrhosis, hepatitis, etc.), renal disorders, blood-related ailments like anemia, etc., your doctor needs to know about such conditions. Also, if your family’s clinical history has ailments such as hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland), respiratory disorders, bone marrow problems, etc., you need to keep your medical team informed about such disorders.

This antibacterial drug can impair the efficiency of immunization shots – especially those administered to defend against conditions like typhoid. So, tell your caregiver if you are taking this drug prior to taking such inoculations. Bactrim may also turn your body to become extra-sensitive to sunlight. You are hence advised to restrict the time spent under the sun. You are likely to develop blisters or rashes upon an increased exposure to direct sunlight; hence, consult your doctor if you experience any such skin related disorders.

Pregnant women and women who are nursing a baby

Women who are pregnant – especially those in the advanced stages of pregnancy – are advised not to take this drug. This drug is likely to injure your fetus. It is strongly recommended to talk to the treating physician before giving this medication to pregnant women. Similarly, women who are nursing a baby are not advised to take this drug. As this medication can pass through breastmilk, babies – especially those prematurely born – may develop conditions like high bilirubin content, jaundice or other liver related disorders. So, mothers who are nursing their prematurely born or unwell babies need to avoid feeding breastmilk.

Possible interactions with drugs and likely side effects

Bactrim may interact with other drugs you may be taking. Your pharmacist and treating doctor need to know about all the medications you are currently taking. It is hence a good practice to compile a list of all drugs as well as treatment plans, if any. As you are making this list, ensure you have added over the counter (OTC) drugs, herbal supplements, dietary aids as well as prescription medications to the list. Once you have shared this list to your treating doctor, never stop taking any of these drugs.

Bactrim is known to interact with a few laboratory reagents and may falsify some of the diagnostic tests’ results. It may also work adversely if taken along with drugs prescribed to treat autoimmune conditions like arthritis, cancers, etc. – for example, drugs such as methotrexate. It is also likely to interact adversely with medications like methenamine – taken for the treatment of urinary tract infections, triggered by the onset of a few types of bacteria. Care must be taken if bactrim is taken along with heartbeat regulating drugs such as dofetilide; these drugs are categorized as antiarrhythmic medications. Similarly, you are advised to be cautious about taking blood thinners such as warfarin, etc.

Overdose of bactrim and possible side effects

An overdose of bactrim can lead to several serious side effects like an acute spell of dizziness, mental problems such as mood shifts, depression, restlessness and abdominal discomforts like diarrhea, indigestion, vomiting and nausea. Upon experiencing any of these symptoms, you are advised to call 911 or contact the nearest poison control center without delay.

In sum, most common side effects of bactrim are abdominal discomforts such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. A marked drop in appetite levels is also experienced commonly. Such discomforts are noticed only over a shorter duration. As your body gets used to the ingredients of bactrim, these side effects and discomforts will soon disappear. However, if these side effects persist, you are advised to contact your treating doctor promptly.

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