Doxycycline

Take doxycycline with plenty of water. Stand or sit up to take your doses - this will stop the capsules/tablets from causing any irritation to your throat.

Do not take indigestion remedies, or supplements containing iron, magnesium, or zinc at the same time as doxycycline.

Make sure you continue to take this medicine until you finish the course prescribed.

The most common side-effects are stomach upset and diarrhoea.

Type of medicine Antibiotic
Used for Bacterial infections
To prevent malaria
Also called Efracea®; Periostat®; Vibramycin-D®; Vibrox®
Available as Capsule, dispersible tablet, and modified-release capsules

Doxycycline is an antibacterial medicine. This means that it stops infections caused by bacteria. It is given as a treatment for a number of different types of infection, including chest and urinary infections, some skin conditions, sexually transmitted infections, and infections in or around the mouth.

Doxycycline is also used to prevent people from getting malaria when they travel to countries where malaria occurs. Although doxycycline can only be obtained on a prescription from a doctor, it is not prescribable on the NHS to prevent malaria. This means that you will be given a private (non-NHS) prescription and you will be asked to pay the full price for the tablets/capsules if you are taking it for this reason.

Because doxycycline can be given for so many different reasons, it is important that you know why your doctor is prescribing it for you. You will be prescribed a brand of doxycycline that is appropriate for your need, as not all brands are suitable for all of these indications.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking doxycycline it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you are under 12 years of age.
  • If you have ever had an alcohol addiction.
  • If you have problems with the way your liver works.
  • If you have systemic lupus erythematosus (this is an inflammatory condition also called lupus or SLE).
  • If you have myasthenia gravis (this is a condition causing muscle weakness).
  • If you have porphyria (this is a rare inherited blood disorder).
  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about the specific brand of doxycycline you have been given, and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Take doxycycline exactly as your doctor tells you to. It is likely you will be asked to take one (or sometimes two) doses a day depending upon the reason for you taking it. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you what dose is right for you, and this will also be printed on the label of the pack to remind you.
  • If you have been given capsules to take, you must swallow these whole (do not open or chew them). Take them with a glassful of water to make sure you have swallowed them properly. Make sure that you take them while you are sitting or standing up so that they do not get caught in your throat and cause irritation. This also means that you should not take them immediately before you go to bed.
  • If you have been given dispersible tablets (Vibramycin-D®), you should stir these into a small glass of water to take them.
  • Do not take indigestion remedies, or supplements containing iron, magnesium, or zinc at the same time as you take this medicine. This is because doxycycline combines with these things and makes it less effective. If you need to take these preparations, make sure you leave at least two hours before or after taking doxycycline before you have them.
  • If you are taking doxycycline to protect against malaria, you must start taking it 1-2 days before you travel. This is to ensure there is sufficient medicine in your bloodstream to give you the required protection. You should continue to take it throughout your stay and for a further four weeks after you have left the area.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If you do not remember until the following day, skip the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • Your course of treatment may last from a week or so, to several months (depending on what you are being treated for). Keep taking this medicine until the course is finished, unless you are told to stop by a doctor.
  • Doxycycline may cause your skin to become more sensitive to sunlight than usual. Avoid strong sunlight and sunbeds. Use a sun cream with a high sun protection factor on bright days, even when it is cloudy.
  • This antibiotic may stop the oral typhoid vaccine from working. If you are having any vaccinations, make sure the person treating you knows that you are taking this medicine.

Additional information about protection against malaria:

  • Doxycycline will help prevent you from getting malaria, but it is also important that you take the following precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes:
    • Cover up bare areas of your arms and legs with long-sleeved, loose-fitting clothing, long trousers and socks. This is especially important if you are outside after sunset, as this is when mosquitoes feed.
    • Use an effective insect repellant spray on your clothing and any area of your skin which is bare.
    • Spray the room with an insecticide each evening a couple of hours before you go to bed. Check your sleeping areas for mosquitoes - pay particular attention to furniture and areas under your bed where insects can hide.
    • If you are sleeping in an unscreened room, use a mosquito net impregnated with an insecticide.
  • If you feel ill or develop a fever or flu-like symptoms while you are travelling or within one year of returning home, you should see your doctor straightaway. This is important, even if you have taken doxycycline correctly.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Possible doxycycline side-effects What can I do if I experience this?
Stomach upset, indigestion, abdominal pain Stick to simple foods - avoid rich or spicy meals. Try taking your doses after a meal or a snack
Diarrhoea Drink plenty of water to replace lost fluids. If this continues or is severe, speak with a doctor
 Headache  Ask a pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller
Thrush (a yeast infection which causes redness and itchiness in the mouth or vagina) Speak with a doctor or pharmacist for advice
Throat irritation Remember to take your doses with a large glass of water while you are standing or sitting upright

Important: doxycycline can occasionally cause allergic reactions, such as a skin rash. Speak with a doctor as soon as possible if this happens.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with your other medicines.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital at once. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Document ID:
4029 (v28)
Last Checked:
17/01/2013
Next Review:
17/01/2016
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