The Side Effects of Doxycycline
What to expect when you start doxycycline treatment
What are the possible side effects of Doxycycline?
Common side effects
Common side effects of doxycycline tend to happen in roughly 1 in 10 people. You should let your doctor know about side effects if they are not settling or if they seem to be getting worse. The side effects include:
- feeling/being sick (nausea/vomiting)
- sensitivity to sunlight and increased risk of sunburn
Serious side effects
Serious side effects are quite rare, but if they happen, then you should call your doctor immediately. Some of these are:
- unexplained bruising/bleeding (including nosebleeds), a sore throat, a high temperature, general unwell feeling – these could be signs of blood problems
- severe diarrhoea (perhaps with stomach cramps) that contains blood or mucus, or lasts more than 4 days
- ringing in your ears
- serious skin reactions or rashes (including irregular, red patches, blisters, peeling, skin ulcers and swelling) – these could be signs of a rare reaction to the medicine
- yellow skin or yellowing of the whites of your eyes – this could be a sign of liver problems
- joint/muscle pain
- headache, vomiting and vision problems - these could be signs of pressure around your brain
- fingernails coming off from their base – this could be a reaction to sunlight known as photo-onycholysis
- sore/swollen mouth, lips or tongue
- severe stomach pain, feeling/being sick, bloody diarrhoea – these can be signs of pancreatitis
- difficulty/pain during swallowing, acid reflux, a sore throat, chest pain, loss of appetite – these could be signs of an inflamed food pipe or ulcer
Serious allergic reactions
These are the warning signs of a serious allergic reaction. A serious allergic reaction is an emergency.
If the following symptoms occur you must contact 999 immediately:
- skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
- tightness in the chest/throat
- trouble breathing/talking
- swelling of your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat
Am I likely to get side effects from doxycycline?
You can’t be entirely sure if you’ll get side effects from a medication you’re taking, in the same way that you can’t fully rule out the possibility. The best thing you can do is take your medication as your physician has directed you to do.
There are some cases, however, in which you should not take doxycycline. In these cases, below, you might be more likely to have side effects:
- For women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Doxycycline can cause harm to the teeth and skeletal development of unborn babies, it seems best not to take doxycycline at all. If you’re pregnant planning to become pregnant. You should call your physician right away if you become pregnant while taking this drug
- For women who are breastfeeding. Doxycycline passes into breast milk and may cause permanent harm to a child who is breastfed. Talk to your doctor if you breastfeed your child. You may need to decide whether to stop breastfeeding to take this medication or seek alternative medication
- For children. Doxycycline shouldn’t be used in children who are 12 years of age or younger
How to tell if you’re having side effects
Keep a symptom diary. Like all medications, Doxycycline can cause side effects. These don’t necessarily happen in all people, but it’s still a good idea to familiarise yourself with the information leaflet that comes with the medication. In addition, you should talk to your doctor if you have questions, like if you can’t tell if what you’re experiencing is a side effect or not. If you do this, then you’re better informed and will be more aware of what there is to look out for.
Be detailed. Some people like to make a note of their side effects and/or symptoms in a diary, which could be really useful when you have appointments with your physician. No symptom is too small, and it’s always better to have more information than less. Not only should you try to make a note of your symptoms, you should also include the timing of these; you might notice, for example, that you have symptoms quite soon after you use your Doxycycline. Timings can provide some clues about whether you’re having
Visit your doctor regularly. Making regular contact with your doctor is important when it comes to monitoring your treatment and how you’re doing while you take it. As doctors deal with a lot of medications daily, they’re also in a good position to make an educated guess (and then follow up) on whether you’re having side effects from Doxycycline or something else.
Is there any way to avoid doxycycline side effects?
There might not be a full-proof way avoid side effects due to doxycycline, but there are steps you can take to minimise your chances of this:
- Take your medication properly. You should look at the product information leaflet that comes with your medication and/or talk to your doctor if you’re unclear about how to take your medication. Setting reminders is a good way to ensure you don’t miss any doses or take too much.
- Keep your doctor updated. Let your physician know about the medications you’re already taking or if you’re thinking of starting anything new
Don’t avoid taking doxycycline to make sure you don’t have side effects
Something important that you should remember is to tell your doctor about anything you’re taking, including herbal remedies, vitamin supplements, over-the-counter and prescription medications. You should do this because some medications don’t mix well with doxycycline:
- Indigestion medications (antacids)
- Supplements (containing calcium aluminium, magnesium, bismuth, zinc, iron)
- Stomach ulcer medications (containing bismuth)
- Other antibiotics
- Acne medications (containing vitamin A)
- A blood thinner called warfarin
- Medications for epilepsy (phenytoin or carbamazepine)
- Ciclosporin (immunosuppressant)
Some alternative treatments to doxycycline for malaria include:
- Atovaquone and proguanil
Some alternative treatments to doxycycline for chlamydia include:
- Amoxicillin or Erythromycin. Generally suggested if you have an allergy, are pregnant, and/or breastfeeding
- Azithromycin is no longer recommended for treating chlamydia
How to manage your side effects
Here are some ways to cope with your side effects:
- Headaches. You should drink plenty of fluids for headaches but don’t have too much alcohol. You can take painkillers, like paracetamol and ibuprofen, if you feel like you need them
- Feeling sick or being sick. It’s best to have simple meals, which aren’t too rich, flavoursome or spicy. Try having your doxycycline after your meal or a snack but try and avoid dairy products, since these can stop your body absorbing your medicine properly. Talk to your physician if you think you’re showing signs that you’re dehydrated, which include peeing less than usual or having dark, strong-smelling urine
- Sensitivity to sunlight. In this case, wear sunglasses, wear sunscreen and cover up with clothes before you head outside. Don’t schedule any sunbed or tanning sessions at this point either
Remember that if symptoms are serious or they don’t seem to be getting any better, then you should talk to your doctor. You should not stop treatment without talking to your doctor (except for an emergency situation). This can be very dangerous, so you need input from your doctor.
Dr Simran Deo Doctor
Dr Simran Deo qualified from St George’s, University of London in medicine in 2006 with a distinction in her written finals. She went on to specialise in general practice, obtaining the MRCGP certification in 2012. In 2014 she received a merit for the Diploma in Dermatology from Cardiff University.Meet our doctors
Last reviewed: 21 Mar 2022
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