Everything You Need to Know About Amoxicillin

Amoxicillin capsules. Tek Image/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Amoxicillin is one of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics in the United States. It seems like it is used for almost everything. People frequently report taking it to clear up things like a cold or the flu - even though there is absolutely no benefit to taking antibiotics for a viral infection. In fact, the opposite is true. Taking antibiotics when they aren't needed can do far more harm than good in the long run as it leads to antibiotic resistance.

Stronger and more lethal bacteria which are harder to treat is a threat to us all.

However, that doesn't mean you should never take antibiotics. Amoxicillin in particular can be quite useful, especially for childhood illnesses like ear infections and strep throat.

If it has been prescribed for you or your child, here's what you need to know.

How It Works

Amoxicillin is a penicillin-like antibiotic used to treat many types of infections. It works by stopping the growth of bacteria. It does not stop viruses. Viruses are not killed by amoxicillin or any other type of antibiotic. Viruses cause colds, the flu (influenza) and many other type of common illnesses. Your health care provider can help determine if your illness is caused by a virus or bacteria.  

Side Effects

Most people experience minimal side effects when taking amoxicillin. The most common include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

More serious side effects may include:

  • Rash or hives
  • Seizure
  • Yellowing of skin or eyes
  • Pale skin
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Extreme tiredness or lack of energy

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your health care provider. If you have difficulty breathing or other signs of a serious allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.


How to Take It

Amoxicillin is available in many forms under various brand names and in generic form. It may be sold as Amoxil, Amoxil Pediatric Drops, Larotid Suspension, Moxtag or generic amoxicillin. They all contain the same active ingredient. 

It is available as a liquid suspension, concentrated pediatric drops, chewables, capsules or tablets. Most often it is prescribed to be taken every 8 or 12 hours and should be taken at the same times each day. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is close to time for the next dose, skip the missed dose. Do not double the dose if you have missed one. 

If your doctor has prescribed amoxicillin for you or your child, give it exactly as prescribed. Do not stop taking the medication just because you feel better and do not take it longer than prescribed either. Stopping the medication too soon may not completely kill the infection and allows the bacteria to get stronger and resist the antibiotics, meaning the infection may come back and could be harder to treat.

When people don't take their antibiotics as prescribed, it contributes to the very real problem of antibiotic resistance

When to Use Caution

If you are pregnant, have kidney disease, allergies, asthma, hay fever, hives or phenylketonuria, tell your doctor about your conditions before taking amoxicillin. 

If you have ever had an allergic reaction to penicillin or a penicillin-like antibiotic, discuss it with your health care provider. You may need to take something other than amoxicillin for your illness. Always discuss other medications - including over the counter and herbal or natural supplements - with your health care provider before taking amoxicillin. 


"Amoxicillin". Drugs, Herbs and Supplements 21 Jul 15. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. US National Library of Medicine. US Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. 29 Jul 15. 

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