Does Alcohol Stop Antibiotics Working ?

This was one of the early things I used to hear as a kid, my mum would come home with some antibiotics and say to my Dad, “I’ll have to give up sherry for a while as you can’t take antibiotics with alcohol”. So does alcohol stop antibiotics working? Of course these times have gone and there has been a pull back on doctors issuing such prescriptions. It’s very much out there now after much disagreement.

“Antibiotics are a very serious public health problem for us, and it’s getting worse. Resistant microbes outstrip new antibiotics. It’s an ongoing problem. It’s not like we can fix it, and it’s over. We have to fight continued resistance with a continual pipeline of new antibiotics and continue with the perpetual challenge.” Anthony Fauci

So of course the days when they were issued ended up actually creating resistance and there is a school of thought that it harms us long term anyhow. So could the answer be just don’t take them. Not always when they are described you can be sure that they are needed. So maybe the answer then is to switch to no alcohol choice and maybe that might lead to really cutting back on your drinking full stop. Who knows?

Here are some choices on the beer side of things that you may want to consider.

Is it a smoke screen?

There is of course a school of thought that if you drink lots of alcohol your immune system is compromised anyhow. So even if alcohol use doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of most antibiotics you could take longer to get over your illness anyhow. So, regardless of your GP advice, maybe you should abstain from alcohol until your dose of antibiotics is finished and you are more yourself.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that the recommended amount in the UK ( I know people who try to hit this) is no more than 14 units a week. So what’s that then?

So let’s go back to my favorite topic ABV which is alcohol by volume and shows how much alcohol is in a beverage. The ABV is normally on the back of the packaging. It may be referred to as “vol” or “alcohol volume”. Never ever be afraid to ask and if they don’t know complain. I’m serious! If you aim is 0.0 or alcohol free double check as some of these drinks legally contain small amounts of alcohol.

The ABV equation should know!

So lets say your favorite tipple is “13% ABV” or “alcohol volume 13%”The ABV equation you should know!
which really means 13% of what you are shoving down your throat is pure alcohol.

So your units consumed are easy, have you got your calculator app handy? Just multiply the total volume of a drink (in ml) by its ABV (measured as a percentage) and divide the result by 1,000. So the equation would read

  • strength (ABV) x volume (ml) ÷ 1,000 = units

So to work out the number of units in a pint (568ml) of strong lager (ABV 5.2%) would be 5.2 (%) x 568 (ml) ÷ 1,000 = 2.85 units. Easy right.

The point is if you are getting treatment and drinking over that limit in a world where wine glasses have got bigger then your immune system could be compromised anyway. It might be best to take a long term look at this before engaging in months of antibiotics.

Of course if you are prescribed antibiotics well let take a look.

What reactions can you have?

These are certainly relevant to all antibiotics but regardless these reactions are not at all a good sign. According to the NHS in England these can be some of them:

Alcohol can cause a serious reaction when combined with certain medications. Symptoms of this kind of reaction can include:

  • feeling or being sick
  • tummy pain
  • hot flushes
  • a fast or irregular heartbeat
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • Drowsiness

I am sure these symptoms are not very nice for anyone and of course could endanger your well-being further. Now where it is not advised that you stop drinking completely with antibiotics the following drugs are listed as a big no with alcohol according the NHS in the UK

Drugs listed that can be a non no go area include

  • metronidazole – an antibiotic sometimes used to clear dental or vaginal infections, or to clear infected leg ulcers or pressure sores
  • tinidazole – an antibiotic sometimes used to treat many of the same infections as metronidazole, as well as to help clear bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) from the gut

Overall health and your immune system

So overall the advice is a mixed mixture but remember you could start thinking of some alternatives on the 0.0% abv spectrum that I have to abide by because of my liver issues.

You can find some listed here.

However, if we go back to alcohol do remember that regardless of the 14 unit rule and specific advice on antibiotics drinking over or even less can result in

  • Dehydration
  • Less energy
  • Headache
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Increased risk of other diseases

So given all that do you really want to prolong the effect of your illness and the way you are feeling and why not take a break from alcohol and let the antibiotics if you are taking them to do their job.

deep sleep no alcohol

Talking of our immune system. This is another piece of information you gather while listening to a sleep expert do a talk from the University Of Newcastle in the UK. What I did not realize is that when you are in the deepest part of sleep, that is the only time your immune system is working at full capacity. Crikey there is food for thought and if alcohol disrupts your sleep what does that do to our bodies let alone our mental health.

So does alcohol stop antibiotics from working?

Well no not really but they might make you seriously ill and if the ones you are taking are not a complete no go area for alcohol does it make sense to risk your recovery time when you know you really want to feel like yourself again.

Remember this article is only for discussion and please check with your doctor or pharmacist. I am not here to give you medical advice of this nature. However, many people have asked the blog the question so I thought a debate and discussion can only be healthy.

A non alcohol gin – yes read about it here

I would love to hear your views on antibiotics and alcohol or if you have switched to non-alcoholic options while on a dedicated medicine? Leave a comment below to start a discussion and of course I always reply to everyone that comments.



8 thoughts on “Does Alcohol Stop Antibiotics Working ?”

  1. Hi Phil 

    A very interesting read, as I heard since I was a young child that it is not good to drink and take antibiotics. I never really thought about  this until now and what you say makes perfect sense. I think the rule came about, as when you are ill drinking alcohol will make you feel dehydrate, which will make you feel ill. If you are suffering  from a chest infection, drinking alcohol  is the last thing on your mind  but I feel people will fall into bad habits. I think it is safe as well  because people often take medication that will interfere with alcohol, some making you  very ill if you do. That is why when taking any medication  for serious illness  that drinking alcohol  is not recommended, as you do not know what will happen.



    • Thanks Antonio, it was really good of you to comment. It can come across as a complicated mesaage but when you think it about its very simple really. I think that comes across really well in your comment. Thanks for taking the time out to do so. Much appreciated, Phil

  2. It is a very good post for those who regularly use alcohol. It is obvious to me that if you take any medicine, not just antibiotics, it is harmful to use alcohol. I’ve known that since I was a kid. On the other hand, there are some diseases (mild, for example a simple cold) that can be treated with alcohol without medication. When I was a child I benefited from this experience.

    • I am sure that is right Carmen, thanks for sharing. I had a bad stomach once and my then boss gave me a double brandy and double port and told me to sleep . It seemed to sort it. 🙂 Not something I would do now though. Thanks for taking time out to comment, I really appreciate it, Phil

  3. Hello 

    wow, what an amazing website you got thereThank you so much for sharing with us you a helpful article about Alcohol when I was a kid.  there are some diseases, for example, a simple cold that can be treated with alcohol without medication but When you drink alcohol there are many negative effects that it has on your body like Physical and mental effects I am going to sharing with my social media community this helpful article and again thanks a lot for sharing that with us.

    • Thanks Nathan so much for your kind comments. I am with you on the negatives can cut out the benefits with alcohol in the mix. I really appreciate you taking time out to comment! Much appreciated, Phil

  4. Thanks Phil for the interesting insight.

    I know that if I’m feeling unwell, the best thing to do is lay low for a while and diminish all activities, including eating. The only thing I might increase is drinking water. Because I only drink alcohol occasionally, it is not too hard to not drink it during these times. 

    I didn’t know the immune system doesn’t function at full capacity until we’re asleep! No wonder my children just wanted to sleep when they were not well. Also I can confirm, that alcohol for me interferes with my sleep, so that’s a good point!

    There are so many interactions various drugs can have with the foods and vitamins as well as other drugs we take as well. So overall do you think it is best to avoid alcohol completely while we’re taking antibiotics?

    • Thanks Jacquie, I think it is probably best to avoid alcohol if you are unwell generally given that it affects our sleep patterns. So the same can be said for antibotics in that it can take away from our system while trying to get better. You make a great point about children sleeping when they are not well. I guess it is the body doing its own healing. 

      Thanks so much for contributing to the blog , I really like how your views always add to the conversation. Much appreciated, Phil


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