Tetracycline tablets

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Tetracycline is an antibiotic. Space out your doses during the day and make sure you continue to take the tablets until you finish the course prescribed for you.

The absorption of tetracycline is adversely affected by food and dairy products. It is important that you take the tablets either one hour before a meal, or wait until two hours afterwards. Do not drink milk during the two hours before you take the tablets, or for two hours afterwards.

Swallow the tablets with plenty of water. Sit upright or stand up as you take the tablets.
Type of medicineA tetracycline antibiotic
Used forBacterial infections; acne; rosacea
Available asTablets

Tetracycline is an antibacterial medicine. This means that it stops infections caused by germs (bacteria). It is prescribed as a treatment for infections such as chest infections, mouth infections, sexually transmitted infections, and infections resulting from some types of bites.

Tetracycline is also prescribed for some longer-term skin conditions, such as acne and rosacea.

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

  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding. You should not take tetracycline.
  • If you are under 12 years of age. Tetracycline should not be taken by children.
  • If you have any problems with the way your liver works, or if you have any problems with the way your kidneys work.
  • If you have an inflammatory condition called systemic lupus erythematosus (also called lupus, or SLE), or if you have a condition causing muscle weakness, called myasthenia gravis. Tetracycline can make these conditions worse.
  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about tetracycline, and will also provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you could experience from taking it.
  • Take tetracycline exactly as your doctor tells you to. If you have an infection it is likely you will be asked to take three or four doses a day, and if it is for acne or rosacea you will be asked to take two doses a day. You will be prescribed one or two tablets to take for each dose. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you which dose is right for you, and this information will also be printed on the label of the pack to remind you about what was said to you.
  • Try to take your doses around the same times of day each day. This will help you to remember to take them regularly. Space out your doses evenly throughout the day.
  • Take the tablets when your stomach is empty. This means taking your doses one hour before you eat food, or waiting until two hours after you have eaten. It is also important that you do not drink milk within two hours (either before or after) of taking tetracycline. This is because both food and milk can reduce the amount of medicine absorbed by your body, making it less effective in fighting infection.
  • The tablets can cause throat irritation. To prevent this, you should swallow the tablets with a large drink of water. Sit upright or stand up to take the tablets. Try to avoid taking tetracycline just before lying down, or at bedtime.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. Try to take the correct number of doses each day, but do not take two doses together to make up for a missed dose.
  • Your course of treatment is likely to last for a week or so if you are being treated for an acute infection. If you are taking tetracycline for acne or rosacea, your treatment could last for several months. It is important that you keep taking the tablets until the course of treatment is finished (unless you are told to stop sooner by a doctor).
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with tetracycline, as a number of 'over-the-counter' remedies can interfere with it. In particular, do not take indigestion remedies, or supplements containing iron, magnesium, or zinc at the same time. This is because tetracycline combines with these things, which makes it less effective. If you need to take an antacid or any of the supplements mentioned, make sure you leave at least two hours before or after taking tetracycline before you have them.
  • Some people develop thrush (redness and itchiness in the mouth or vagina) after taking a course of an antibiotic. If this happens to you, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
  • Tetracycline could cause your skin to become more sensitive to sunlight than usual. Avoid strong sunlight and sunbeds until you know how your skin reacts.
  • This antibiotic can stop the oral typhoid vaccine from working. If you are due to have any vaccinations, make sure the person treating you knows that you are taking this medicine.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the ones associated with tetracycline. The best place to find a full list of the side-effects which can be associated with your medicine, is from the manufacturer's printed information leaflet supplied with the medicine. Alternatively, you can find an example of a manufacturer's information leaflet in the reference section below. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Tetracycline side-effectsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Stomach upset, tummy (abdominal) painStick to simple foods - avoid fatty or spicy meals
DiarrhoeaDrink plenty of water to replace lost fluids. If this continues or is severe, speak with a doctor
HeadacheDrink plenty of water and ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If the headache continues, speak with your doctor
Blurred visionDo not drive and do not use tools or machines while affected. If it continues, speak with your doctor

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

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the tablets, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

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

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. 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

  • Manufacturer's PIL, Tetracycline Tablets 250 mg; Actavis UK Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated February 2016.
  • British National Formulary; 72nd Edition (Sep 2016) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

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 makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other healthcare 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:
3614 (v26)
Last Checked:
29/11/2016
Next Review:
29/11/2019
The Information Standard - certified member

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