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Can I take clindamycin if I am allergic to penicillin?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on May 1, 2023.

Official answer


Yes, you can. It is recommended that the use of the antibiotic clindamycin be reserved for patients who are allergic to penicillin or for those patients a healthcare provider determines penicillin to be an inappropriate treatment.

About 10% of Americans report that they have an allergic reaction to penicillin, but many who report a past allergic reaction do not have a true allergy. Actually, fewer than 1% of people are truly allergic to penicillin, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 80% of those with a true allergy to penicillin lose their sensitivity after 10 years.

Clindamycin is used to treat a variety of bacterial infections, such as infections of the lungs, skin, blood, female reproductive organs and internal organs. It works by slowing or stopping bacteria growth.

It comes as either a capsule or a liquid, and you usually take it three or four times a day. How long you take it depends on the kind of infection you have and how well the medication works for you.

As with any antibiotic, you'll most likely start to feel better in the first few days of treatment. Be sure to take all the medication in your prescription, even after you start to feel better. If you don't feel better or get worse, call your doctor.

Side effects of clindamycin

Side effects of clindamycin include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bad or metallic taste in the mouth
  • Joint pain
  • Painful swallowing
  • Heartburn
  • White patches in the mouth
  • Thick, white vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal burning, itching and swelling

These side effects are usually mild, but seek medical attention if they are severe or don't go away.

Some side effects are more serious. Seek medical treatment right away if you have:

  • Skin that’s peeling or blistering
  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Breathing or swallowing difficulties
  • Hoarseness
  • Swelling in areas such as your face, tongue, lips, eyes, throat, hands, lower legs, ankles or feet
  • Yellowing skin or eyes
  • Decreased urination

Clindamycin may cause other side effects, so call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Cleocin HCl clindamycin hydrochloride. March 2020. Available at: [Accessed April 19, 2021].
  2. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Evaluation and diagnosis of penicillin allergy for healthcare professionals. October 31, 2017. Available at: [Accessed April 19, 2021].
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine (MedlinePlus). Clindamycin. April 16, 2021. Available at: [Accessed April 19, 2021].

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