There are many types of antibacterial medications available for the treatment of infections caused by the microbes. Of the available types, cephalosporin antibiotics are prescribed to stop the further spread of infections caused by bacteria. This class of antibiotics can actually treat a wide range of infections – such as, respiratory conditions like pneumonia, infections in your urinary tract, middle-ear or outer ear infections, skin conditions caused by microbial attacks, etc. Cephalexin is a drug belonging to the cephalosporin genre of antibiotics. Its use is known to stop the spread of bacterial attacks and control resultant infections. It however is capable of triggering a few side effects. Knowledge of its side effects is necessary for the safer intake of this drug.
Cephalosporin antibiotics are classified based on their efficacy to work against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. The first generation of cephalosporin – under which cephalexin forms part of – is more efficient in working against gram-positive bacteria. These bacterial strands have thicker walls, which make it easier to penetrate. Cephalexin (or, in general, the first generation cephalosporin) may be only partially effective against gram-negative microbes (these strands have a thinner but stronger wall; making it very hard for penetration).
The common infections against which cephalexin is used include infections in the respiratory tract such as pneumonia, inner-ear or mid-ear infections, throat-related infections, attacks of bacteria on your urinary tract, infections of other soft tissues or skin. However, cephalexin may have a few serious limitations in working against viral or fungal infections.
Use of cephalexin
You are advised to use the drug as per the advice of your treating doctor. This is because – a prolonged use or unnecessary use of this drug can make it less efficient. Such usage can also make the microbes to turn resistant to this drug and its main ingredients. In general, you are advised to take this drug orally, either before or after a meal. Remember that this drug is also available in other forms. For instance, if you are using a suspension-form of cephalexin, use a proper ladle or spoon provided along with the pack for correct measurements. If you are using a kitchen spoon, you are likely to measure it inaccurately, and this may at times lead to an overdosed condition.
Cephalexin is usually administered in evenly timed intervals. In general, its use is prescribed once every 9 to 12 hours, primarily based on the type of infection and ensuing medical condition. In case of children or younger adults, dosage strength as well as frequency is based on the body weight. For adults, dosage strength and frequency depend on the severity of your medical condition, your age, gender, and above all, how well your body responds to this medication.
Before completing your medication plan, you may find the infection ceasing to show up, and the signs tend to disappear. In such instances, never stop taking this drug; instead, continue taking it. Stopping to take this drug soon after noticing a relief may lead to a possible regrowth of bacteria. Hence, it is always advised to complete your treatment plan regardless of disappearance of visible traces of bacterial infections. Your doctor will decide and let you know when to stop taking this drug.
Side effects of cephalexin
Foremost of all, remember that your physician has recommended this drug as its benefits far exceed its side effects. Also, it is a fact that a majority of those who used cephalexin did not witness any major or serious side effects. A few minor discomforts may be witnessed; these include abdominal problems such as nausea, vomiting or indigestion. Other common side effects are upset of stomach, diarrhea, etc. A short term use of this drug is rarely known to result in acute side effects or adverse reactions. But, a prolonged use of cephalexin may lead to a few allergic reactions or harmful side effects. Long term use is likely to cause fungal infections such as thrushes in your oral parts or growth of yeast. It can turn into an acute condition if you witness discharge of a whitish fluid from the vagina or if you have developed white-colored spots (or patches) on your oral parts.
In very rare or extremely remote instances, this drug is known to trigger a few allergies. In the event of experiencing allergic reactions such as shortness of breath, gasping, wheezing, rashes on skin, feeling dizzy, internal swelling or inflammation of oral or facial organs, you are advised to seek medical help on an emergency basis. It is highly recommended to talk to your treating physician as soon as possible. One other option is to call 911. You can also reach out to the food and drug administration (FDA) through their emergency helpline or hotline numbers. As an alternative, you can call a local poison control center for needful medical attention on an urgent basis. Those living in a Canadian province can reach out to Health Canada or report about allergies to a poison control unit located closer to where you live.
Likely risks associated with a bacterial strand called Clostridium difficile
Like most antimicrobial medicines, use of cephalexin may also trigger risks linked to a bacterial strand called C. difficile. This strand represents a drug-resistant form of a microbe. Its emergence may be spotted in several weeks or at times, a few months after discontinuing the use of cephalexin. This strand is likely to show up as infections in your gastric tract; common signs are pain in the lower abdomen, frequent spells of diarrhea, cramping of abdominal muscles, traces of mucus or blood in stools, etc. In such instances, self-medication or use of meds to stop diarrhea may not bring needful relief. In most cases, intake of such meds can only make the signs to turn worse. It is hence highly recommended to consult your treating physician or a pharmacist and take needful drugs to stop the spread of this drug-resistant microbe.
Precautionary measures to limit or avoid side effects of cephalexin
This drug may have a few inactive (or passive) ingredients which are likely to trigger some adverse side effects. Those who have had episodes of allergies while taking antibacterial drugs – especially, the various types of cephalosporin or medicines like penicillin – will need to share details about such prior signs as well as medical conditions.
Women who are pregnant and those who are breastfeeding
This drug may cause a few discomforts if taken by women who are pregnant. Hence, those who are currently pregnant as well as those who are planning to become pregnant are advised not to take cephalexin. However, if the need for cephalexin is very acute, your doctor may decide to administer a diluted dosage of this drug – for a very short period of time. In essence, it is taken by pregnant women only when it is inevitable and the underlying need is a pressing one.
When consumed by women who are nursing an infant (i.e., breastfeeding), cephalexin is likely to pass through mother’s milk. Infants who consume such milk may report a few adverse reactions such as persistent spells of crying, sleeping difficulties as well as feeding problems. Hence, nursing women are advised not to take cephalexin. If a need emerges for nursing mothers to take this drug, your doctor may recommend safer alternatives or a few other substitutes.
Co-administration of vaccines
If you are planning to go for a shot of vaccine made with live bacteria – say, for example – vaccines administered to treat typhoid, you are advised to exercise needful caution. This is mainly due to the limitations cephalexin may pose on these vaccines. In other words, your vaccines may be rendered powerless by this drug. So, if you are planning to take shots of vaccines, it is very important to tell the treating doctor about intake of antibacterial drugs – especially, meds like cephalexin.
Similarly, cephalexin is likely to interact with a few other drugs. It is a good practice to keep a list of all the drugs you are currently consuming. As you are making this list, ensure to add over the counter drugs (OTC), prescription meds, herbal supplements, vitamins, nutraceuticals, dietary aids, etc. to it. More importantly, never discontinue, change or alter the medications in the list after sharing it with your medical team. Such alterations can lead to dangerous outcomes because your doctor would have decided on the strength and frequency of cephalexin based on your list. So, making changes to the drugs in the list – without telling your doctor – can lead to harmful consequences.
On the risks of interactions with other chemicals, cephalexin may work adversely with reagents used in a few lab tests. Intake of this drug may lead to false results of tests done to monitor urine-glucose levels and may interact with reagents used for coomb’s test (a lab procedure done to detect the presence of antibodies in blood; especially, agents that can attack red cells of blood).
Surgical or dental interventions
On a precautionary note, you need to tell your surgeon about consumption of cephalexin prior to your surgical procedure. Your surgeon may recommend discontinuation of the drug at least for 10 to 15 days prior to the date of your surgery. For the same reason, you also need to inform your dentist about your medication plan and the dosage levels of cephalexin.
Diabetes and intake of cephalexin
Those who live with conditions like diabetes mellitus need to keep their pharmacist as well as the treating doctor informed of their condition. Such people are at an added risk if they take liquid variants of cephalexin; this is due to the presence of fairly high levels of sugar in the liquid form of the drug. If needful caution is not exercised, it may increase your blood sugar levels.
When you have forgotten to take a dose, never take a double dose of this drug. You are advised to skip the dose you missed, wait for the next dose and take a normal dosage. People who took a double dose are likely to witness an overdosed condition. A few signs of overdose of cephalexin are traces of blood in urine, frequent spells of vomiting and fits or convulsions. Upon spotting any of these signs, it is highly recommended to seek medical help immediately by calling 911 or a local poison control unit as quickly as possible.
Above all, always remember that the adverse reactions, discomforts and allergies listed above are not a complete list all possible side effects. It is quite likely that a few unknown or unlisted reactions may show up. In all such circumstances, it is a good practice to call a qualified medical practitioner or 911 based on your medical condition.