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cephalexin

Pronunciation

Generic Name: cephalexin (sef a LEX in)
Brand Name: Daxbia, Keflex, Biocef, Zartan, Panixine

What is cephalexin?

Cephalexin is a cephalosporin (SEF a low spor in) antibiotic. It works by fighting bacteria in your body.

Cephalexin is used to treat infections caused by bacteria, including upper respiratory infections, ear infections, skin infections, and urinary tract infections.

Cephalexin may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

What is the most important information I should know about cephalexin?

You should not use this medicine if you are allergic to cephalexin or to similar antibiotics, such as Ceftin, Cefzil, Omnicef, and others. Tell your doctor if you are allergic to any drugs, especially penicillins or other antibiotics.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before taking cephalexin?

Do not use this medicine if you are allergic to cephalexin or to other cephalosporin antibiotics, such as:

  • cefaclor (Raniclor);

  • cefadroxil (Duricef);

  • cefazolin (Ancef);

  • cefdinir (Omnicef);

  • cefditoren (Spectracef);

  • cefpodoxime (Vantin);

  • cefprozil (Cefzil);

  • ceftibuten (Cedax);

  • cefuroxime (Ceftin); or

  • cephradine (Velosef), and others.

To make sure cephalexin is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:

  • an allergy to any drugs (especially penicillins);

  • kidney disease; or

  • a history of intestinal problems, such as colitis.

The liquid form of cephalexin may contain sugar. This may affect you if you have diabetes.

Cephalexin is not expected to be harmful to an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant.

Cephalexin can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Tell your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

How should I take cephalexin?

Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not take this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Do not use cephalexin to treat any condition that has not been checked by your doctor.

Shake the oral suspension (liquid) well just before you measure a dose. Measure liquid medicine with the dosing syringe provided, or with a special dose-measuring spoon or medicine cup. If you do not have a dose-measuring device, ask your pharmacist for one.

Use this medicine for the full prescribed length of time. Your symptoms may improve before the infection is completely cleared. Skipping doses may also increase your risk of further infection that is resistant to antibiotics. Cephalexin will not treat a viral infection such as the flu or a common cold.

Do not share cephalexin with another person, even if they have the same symptoms you have.

This medication can cause you to have unusual results with certain medical tests. Tell any doctor who treats you that you are using cephalexin.

Store the tablets and capsules at room temperature away from moisture, heat, and light.

Store the liquid medicine in the refrigerator. Throw away any unused liquid after 14 days.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

Overdose symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, and blood in your urine.

What should I avoid while taking cephalexin?

Antibiotic medicines can cause diarrhea, which may be a sign of a new infection. If you have diarrhea that is watery or bloody, call your doctor. Do not use anti-diarrhea medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Cephalexin side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe stomach pain, diarrhea that is watery or bloody;

  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);

  • easy bruising, unusual bleeding (nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum), purple or red pinpoint spots under your skin;

  • little or no urination;

  • agitation, confusion, hallucinations; or

  • severe skin reaction--fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling.

Common side effects may include:

  • diarrhea;

  • dizziness, feeling tired;

  • headache, joint pain; or

  • vaginal itching or discharge.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Cephalexin dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Otitis Media:

250 to 333 mg orally every 6 hours OR 500 mg orally every 12 hours
-Maximum dose: 4 g per day
-Duration of therapy: 7 to 14 days

Use: Treatment of otitis media caused by susceptible Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, and Moraxella catarrhalis

Usual Adult Dose for Pharyngitis:

250 to 333 mg orally every 6 hours OR 500 mg orally every 12 hours
-Maximum dose: 4 g per day
-Duration of therapy: 7 to 14 days

Use: Treatment of skin and skin structure infections caused by susceptible gram-positive bacteria (e.g., S aureus, S pyogenes)

IDSA Recommendations:
Skin or soft tissue infections: 500 mg orally 4 times a day

Impetigo: 250 mg orally 4 times a day

Pharyngitis: 20 mg/kg orally 2 times a day
-Maximum dose: 500 mg/dose
-Duration of therapy: 10 days

Uses:
-Empirical treatment for nonpurulent cellulitis and diabetic foot infections caused by beta-hemolytic streptococci (e.g., methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus [MSSA], Streptococcus species)
-Treatment of skin or soft tissue infections caused by MSSA in patients who have penicillin allergies (except immediate hypersensitivity)
-Treatment of impetigo caused by Staphylococcus and Streptococcus species
-Treatment of Group A streptococcal pharyngitis in patients with penicillin allergy (except immediate hypersensitivity)
-Treatment of surgical site infections of the trunk/extremity away from the perineum or axilla

Usual Adult Dose for Skin or Soft Tissue Infection:

250 to 333 mg orally every 6 hours OR 500 mg orally every 12 hours
-Maximum dose: 4 g per day
-Duration of therapy: 7 to 14 days

Use: Treatment of skin and skin structure infections caused by susceptible gram-positive bacteria (e.g., S aureus, S pyogenes)

IDSA Recommendations:
Skin or soft tissue infections: 500 mg orally 4 times a day

Impetigo: 250 mg orally 4 times a day

Pharyngitis: 20 mg/kg orally 2 times a day
-Maximum dose: 500 mg/dose
-Duration of therapy: 10 days

Uses:
-Empirical treatment for nonpurulent cellulitis and diabetic foot infections caused by beta-hemolytic streptococci (e.g., methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus [MSSA], Streptococcus species)
-Treatment of skin or soft tissue infections caused by MSSA in patients who have penicillin allergies (except immediate hypersensitivity)
-Treatment of impetigo caused by Staphylococcus and Streptococcus species
-Treatment of Group A streptococcal pharyngitis in patients with penicillin allergy (except immediate hypersensitivity)
-Treatment of surgical site infections of the trunk/extremity away from the perineum or axilla

Usual Adult Dose for Osteomyelitis:

250 to 333 mg orally every 6 hours OR 500 mg orally every 12 hours
-Maximum dose: 4 g per day
-Duration of therapy: 7 to 14 days

Use: Treatment of bone infections caused by susceptible S aureus and Proteus mirabilis

Usual Adult Dose for Cystitis:

250 to 333 mg orally every 6 hours OR 500 mg orally every 12 hours
-Maximum dose: 4 g per day
-Duration of therapy: 7 to 14 days

Use: Treatment of genitourinary tract infections caused by susceptible Escherichia coli, P mirabilis, and Klebsiella pneumoniae

Usual Adult Dose for Prostatitis:

250 to 333 mg orally every 6 hours OR 500 mg orally every 12 hours
-Maximum dose: 4 g per day
-Duration of therapy: 7 to 14 days

Use: Treatment of genitourinary tract infections caused by susceptible Escherichia coli, P mirabilis, and Klebsiella pneumoniae

Usual Adult Dose for Pyelonephritis:

250 to 333 mg orally every 6 hours OR 500 mg orally every 12 hours
-Maximum dose: 4 g per day
-Duration of therapy: 7 to 14 days

Use: Treatment of genitourinary tract infections caused by susceptible Escherichia coli, P mirabilis, and Klebsiella pneumoniae

Usual Adult Dose for Upper Respiratory Tract Infection:

250 to 333 mg orally every 6 hours OR 500 mg orally every 12 hours
-Maximum dose: 4 g per day
-Duration of therapy: 7 to 14 days

Use: Treatment of respiratory tract infections caused by susceptible S pneumoniae and S pyogenes

Usual Adult Dose for Bacterial Endocarditis Prophylaxis:

American Heart Association (AHA) and Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) Recommendations: 2 g orally as a single dose 30 to 60 minutes before the procedure

Use: Prevention of infective endocarditis in patients allergic to penicillins/ampicillins undergoing a dental procedure (except in immediate hypersensitivity)

Usual Adult Dose for Bacterial Infection:

IDSA Recommendations: 500 mg orally 3 to 4 times a day

Uses:
-Preferred antimicrobial for chronic suppression of oxacillin-susceptible staphylococci
-Alternative antimicrobial for chronic suppression of beta-hemolytic streptococci or Propionibacterium species

Usual Pediatric Dose for Otitis Media:

12.5 to 25 mg/kg orally every 6 hours

Usual Pediatric Dose for Pharyngitis:

Over 1 year of age:
Streptococcal pharyngitis: 12.5 to 25 mg/kg orally every 12 hours

Usual Pediatric Dose for Skin or Soft Tissue Infection:

12.5 to 25 mg/kg orally every 12 hours

Usual Pediatric Dose for Upper Respiratory Tract Infection:

1 to 15 years:
Mild to moderate infections: 25 to 50 mg/kg orally per day, given in equally divided doses
Severe infections: 50 to 100 mg/kg orally per day, given in equally divided doses
Duration of therapy: 7 to 14 days

15 years and older: 250 to 333 mg orally every 6 hours OR 500 mg orally every 12 hours
-Maximum dose: 4 g per day
-Duration of therapy: 7 to 14 days

Comment: Beta-hemolytic streptococcal infections should be treated for at least 10 days.

Use: Treatment of respiratory tract infections caused by susceptible S pneumoniae and S pyogenes

Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS) and IDSA Recommendations:
Greater than 3 months:
Step-down therapy or mild infection: 75 to 100 mg/kg orally per day, in 3 to 4 divided doses

Use: Preferred treatment of community acquired pneumonia caused by MSSA

Usual Pediatric Dose for Osteomyelitis:

15 years and older: 250 to 333 mg orally every 6 hours OR 500 mg orally every 12 hours
-Maximum dose: 4 g per day
-Duration of therapy: 7 to 14 days

Use: Treatment of bone infections caused by susceptible S aureus and P mirabilis

Usual Pediatric Dose for Cystitis:

15 years and older: 250 to 333 mg orally every 6 hours OR 500 mg orally every 12 hours
-Maximum dose: 4 g per day
-Duration of therapy: 7 to 14 days

Use: Treatment of genitourinary tract infections caused by susceptible E coli, P mirabilis, and K pneumoniae

Usual Pediatric Dose for Prostatitis:

15 years and older: 250 to 333 mg orally every 6 hours OR 500 mg orally every 12 hours
-Maximum dose: 4 g per day
-Duration of therapy: 7 to 14 days

Use: Treatment of genitourinary tract infections caused by susceptible E coli, P mirabilis, and K pneumoniae

Usual Pediatric Dose for Pyelonephritis:

15 years and older: 250 to 333 mg orally every 6 hours OR 500 mg orally every 12 hours
-Maximum dose: 4 g per day
-Duration of therapy: 7 to 14 days

Use: Treatment of genitourinary tract infections caused by susceptible E coli, P mirabilis, and K pneumoniae

Usual Pediatric Dose for Bacterial Infection:

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Recommendations:
Children (Older than neonates):
-Mild to moderate infection: 25 to 50 mg/kg orally in 2 to 4 doses
-Severe infection: 75 to 100 mg/kg orally in 3 to 4 doses

Comment: Current guidelines should be consulted for additional information.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Bacterial Endocarditis Prophylaxis:

AHA and IDSA Recommendations: 50 mg/kg orally as a single dose 30 to 60 minutes before the procedure

Use: Prevention of infective endocarditis in patients allergic to penicillins/ampicillins undergoing a dental procedure (except in immediate hypersensitivity)

What other drugs will affect cephalexin?

Other drugs may interact with cephalexin, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use now and any medicine you start or stop using.

See also: Side effects (in more detail)

Where can I get more information?

  • Your pharmacist can provide more information about cephalexin.
  • 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.
  • Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Copyright 1996-2012 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 9.01.

Date modified: October 13, 2017
Last reviewed: April 18, 2017

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