Easy-to-read medicine information about amoxicillin – what is it, how to take amoxicillin safely and possible side effects.
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What is amoxicillin?
Amoxicillin is an antibiotic used to treat different infections caused by bacteria such as chest infections, dental infections and infections of the throat, ear, sinus and skin. It works by killing or stopping the growth of bacteria (bugs) and gets rid of the infection. Amoxicillin is sometimes used to get rid of Helicobacter pylori, which is an infection often found in people with stomach ulcers. It is not effective against infections caused by viruses. Amoxicillin belongs to a group of antibiotics called penicillins. In New Zealand amoxicillin is available as capsules and liquid.
- The dose of amoxicillin will be different for different people depending on the type of infection and your age.
- The usual dose in adults is 250 or 500 milligrams three times a day.
- The dose for children will depend on their body weight. It is usually given three times a day.
- Your doctor will advise you how long to take amoxicillin for (usually 5 to 10 days).
- Always take your amoxicillin exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.
How to take amoxicillin
- Capsule: swallow the capsules with a glass of water or milk. Do not chew them.
- Liquid: shake the medicine well. Measure the right amount using an oral syringe or medicine spoon. You can get these from your pharmacy. Do not use a kitchen spoon as it will not give you the right amount. Read more: Tips on how to give medicines to babies and children.
- Amoxicillin is usually given three times a day. Try to space the doses evenly throughout the day such as the first thing in the morning, early afternoon and at bedtime. Ideally these times should be at least 4 hours apart.
- You can take amoxicillin with or without food.
- If you forget to take your dose at the correct time, take one as soon as you remember. Try to take the correct number of doses each day, leaving at least 4 hours between doses. Do not take two doses at the same time to make up for a forgotten dose.
- It is important to take the whole course of antibiotics for the number of days your doctor has told you to. Do not stop taking it, even if you feel your infection has cleared up. There is a risk of the infection coming back or it can lead to bacteria becoming resistant (read more about antibiotic resistance).
- You should start to get better after taking amoxicillin for 2 days. If you do not feel better or get more unwell, contact your doctor.
Precautions - before starting amoxicillin
- Do you have glandular fever?
- Have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine, especially a penicillin antibiotic?
- Are you pregnant or breast-feeding?
- Do you have problems with the way your kidneys work?
- Are taking any other medicines? This includes any medicines you are taking which you can buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines.
If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist before you start amoxicillin. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care.
Precautions - while taking amoxicillin
- Store your amoxicillin capsules in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
- If you have been given liquid medicine, this will have been made up by the pharmacy and you may need to keep it in the fridge - check the instructions on the bottle. Make sure the medicine does not freeze.
- If your child is sick (vomits) and it is less than 30 minutes after having a dose of amoxicillin, give them the same dose again. But, if your child is sick (vomits) and it is more than 30 minutes after having a dose of amoxicillin, you do not need to give them another dose. Wait until the next normal dose.
- If you are taking the contraceptive 'pill', the effectiveness of the 'pill' can be reduced if you have a bout of being sick (vomiting) or diarrhoea which lasts for more than 24 hours. If this happens, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice about what additional contraceptive precautions to use over the following few days. There is no need to use additional precautions for any bouts of sickness or diarrhoea which last for less than 24 hours.
Possible side effects
Like all medicines, amoxicillin can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.
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Amoxicillin may interact with some medicines and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting amoxicillin.