Generic Name: tetracycline (TET tra SYE kleen)
Brand Names: Ala-Tet, Panmycin, Sumycin
What is tetracycline?
Tetracycline is an antibiotic that fights bacteria in the body.
Tetracycline is used to treat many different bacterial infections, such as urinary tract infections, acne, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and others.
Tetracycline may also be used for other purposes not listed in this medication guide.
Do not use tetracycline if you are pregnant. It could cause harm to the unborn baby, including permanent discoloration of the teeth later in life. Tetracycline can make birth control pills less effective. Use a second method of birth control while you are taking this medicine to keep from getting pregnant. Tetracycline passes into breast milk and may affect bone and tooth development in a nursing baby. Do not take this medication without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby. Do not give this medicine to a child younger than 8 years old. Tetracycline can cause permanent yellowing or graying of the teeth, and it can affect a child's growth.
Avoid exposure to sunlight or artificial UV rays (sunlamps or tanning beds). Tetracycline can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and sunburn may result. Use a sunscreen (minimum SPF 15) and wear protective clothing if you must be out in the sun.
Do not take iron supplements, multivitamins, calcium supplements, antacids, or laxatives within 2 hours before or after taking tetracycline. These products can make this medicine less effective.
Throw away any unused tetracycline when it expires or when it is no longer needed. Do not take this medicine after the expiration date on the label has passed. Expired tetracycline can cause a dangerous syndrome resulting in damage to the kidneys.
Before taking this medicine
Do not use this medication if you are allergic to tetracycline, or to similar medicines such as demeclocycline (Declomycin), doxycycline (Adoxa, Doryx, Oracea, Vibramycin), or minocycline (Dynacin, Minocin, Solodyn, Vectrin). Before taking tetracycline, tell your doctor if you have liver or kidney disease. You may not be able to take this medicine, or you may require a dosage adjustment or special monitoring during therapy.
If you are using tetracycline to treat gonorrhea, your doctor may test you to make sure you do not also have syphilis, another sexually transmitted disease.
FDA pregnancy category D. Tetracycline can cause harm to an unborn baby, including permanent discoloration of the teeth later in life. Do not use tetracycline without your doctor's consent if you are pregnant. Tell your doctor if you become pregnant during treatment. Tetracycline can make birth control pills less effective. Use a non-hormonal method of birth control (such as a condom, diaphragm, spermicide) to prevent pregnancy while you are taking this medicine. Tetracycline passes into breast milk and may affect bone and tooth development in a nursing infant. Do not take this medication without first talking to your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby. Children younger than 8 years old should not take this medicine. This medicine can cause permanent tooth discoloration and can also affect a child's growth.
See also: Pregnancy and breastfeeding warnings (in more detail)
How should I take tetracycline?
Take tetracycline exactly as it was prescribed for you. Do not take the medication in larger amounts, or take it for longer than recommended by your doctor. Follow the directions on your prescription label.
Take tetracycline with a full glass of water (8 ounces).
Take this medication on an empty stomach, at least 1 hour before or 2 hours after meals.
Do not take tetracycline with milk or other dairy products, unless your doctor has told you to. Dairy products can make it harder for your body to absorb the medicine.
Shake the oral suspension (liquid) well just before you measure a dose. To be sure you get the correct dose, measure the liquid with a marked measuring spoon or medicine cup, not with a regular table spoon. If you do not have a dose-measuring device, ask your pharmacist for one. Take tetracycline for the entire length of time prescribed by your doctor. Your symptoms may get better before the infection is completely treated. Tetracycline will not treat a viral infection such as the common cold or flu. Do not give this medicine to another person, even if they have the same condition you have.
If you need to have any type of surgery, tell the surgeon ahead of time that you are taking tetracycline. You may need to stop using the medicine for a short time.
Throw away any unused tetracycline when it expires or when it is no longer needed. Do not take this medicine after the expiration date printed on the label. Using expired tetracycline can cause damage to your kidneys.
Store this medication at room temperature away from moisture and heat.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take the medicine at the next regularly scheduled time. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.
What happens if I overdose?
Seek emergency medical attention if you think you have used too much of this medicine. Overdose symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
What should I avoid?
Antibiotic medicines can cause diarrhea, which may be a sign of a new infection. If you have diarrhea that is watery or has blood in it, call your doctor. Do not use any medicine to stop the diarrhea unless your doctor has told you to.
Avoid exposure to sunlight or artificial UV rays (sunlamps or tanning beds). Tetracycline can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and sunburn may result. Use a sunscreen (minimum SPF 15) and wear protective clothing if you must be out in the sun. Do not take iron supplements, multivitamins, calcium supplements, antacids, or laxatives within 2 hours before or after taking tetracycline.
Tetracycline side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. Stop using tetracycline and call your doctor at once if you have any of these serious side effects:
severe headache, dizziness, blurred vision;
fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms;
severe blistering, peeling, and red skin rash;
urinating less than usual or not at all;
pale or yellowed skin, dark colored urine, fever, confusion or weakness;
severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back, nausea and vomiting, fast heart rate;
loss of appetite, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes); or
easy bruising or bleeding, unusual weakness.
Less serious tetracycline side effects may include:
sores or swelling in your rectal or genital area;
mild nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach upset;
white patches or sores inside your mouth or on your lips;
swollen tongue, trouble swallowing; or
vaginal itching or discharge.
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Tell your doctor about any unusual or bothersome side effect. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
See also: Side effects (in more detail)
What other drugs will affect tetracycline?
Before taking tetracycline, tell your doctor if you are taking any of the following drugs:
cholesterol-lowering medications such as cholestyramine (Prevalite, Questran) or colestipol (Colestid);
tretinoin (Renova, Retin-A, Vesanoid);
an antacid such as Tums, Rolaids, Milk of Magnesia, Maalox, and others;
a product that contains bismuth subsalicylate such as Pepto-Bismol;
minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and over-the-counter vitamin and mineral supplements;
a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin); or
a penicillin antibiotic such as amoxicillin (Amoxil, Trimox, others), penicillin (BeePen-VK, Pen-Vee K, Veetids, others), dicloxacillin (Dynapen), carbenicillin (Geocillin), oxacillin (Bactocill), and others.
This list is not complete and there may be other drugs that can interact with tetracycline. Tell your doctor about all the prescription and over-the-counter medications you use. This includes vitamins, minerals, herbal products, and drugs prescribed by other doctors. Do not start using a new medication without telling your doctor.
More about tetracycline
- Tetracycline suspension
- Tetracycline (class) Oral, Parenteral (Advanced Reading)
- Tetracycline Mucous membrane, oral (Advanced Reading)
Related treatment guides
Where can I get more information?
- Your pharmacist can provide more information about tetracycline.
- Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
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