Cephalosporins are medicines that kill bacteria or prevent their growth. Theyare used to treat infections in different parts of the body, including the ears, nose, throat, lungs, sinuses, and skin. Physicians may prescribe these drugs to treat pneumonia, strep throat, staph infections, tonsillitis, bronchitis, and gonorrhea. These drugs will not work for colds, flu, and other infections caused by viruses.

The structure of cephalosporin C, the first of the cephalosporin family of antibiotics, was discovered in the 1950s by English scientists Edward Abraham and Guy Newton. Examples of currently used cephalosporin drugs are cefaclor (Ceclor), cefadroxil (Duricef), cefazolin (Ancef, Kefzol, Zolicef), cefixime, (Suprax), cefoxitin (Mefoxin), cefprozil (Cefzil), ceftazidime (Ceptaz, Fortaz, Tazicef, Tazideme), cefuroxime (Ceftin) and cephalexin (Keflex). These medicines are available only with a physician's prescription. They are sold in tablet, capsule, liquid, and injectable forms.

Always take cephalosporins exactly as directed by your physician. Never takelarger, smaller, more frequent, or less frequent doses. Take all of the medicine to treat the infection for which it was prescribed. The infection may notclear up completely if too little medicine is taken. Taking this medicine for too long, on the other hand, may open the door to new infections that do not respond to the drug. Do not save some doses of the drug to take for futureinfections. The medicine may not be right for other kinds of infections, evenif the symptoms are the same.

Some cephalosporins work best when taken on an empty stomach. Others should be taken after meals. Check with the physician who prescribed the medicine orthe pharmacist who filled the prescription for instructions on how to take the medicine.

Certain cephalosporins should not be combined with alcohol or with medicinesthat contain alcohol. Abdominal or stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing, and other symptoms may result within 15-30 minutes and may last forseveral hours. Do not drink alcoholic beverages or use other medicines that contain alcohol while being treated with cephalosporins and for several days after treatment ends.

People with certain medical conditions can have problems if they take cephalosporins. These include: allergies, diabetes, phenylketonuria (PKU), pregnancy, stomach or intestinal problems, kidney problems, bleeding problems, and liver disease. Patients with any of these conditions should check with their doctor if they are prescribed cephalosporins.

Cephalosporins may pass into breast milk and may affect nursing babies. Womenwho are breastfeeding and who need to take this medicine should check with their physicians. They may need to stop breastfeeding until treatment is finished.

Get medical attention immediately if any of these symptoms develop while taking cephalosporins: shortness of breath, pounding heartbeat, skin rash or hives, severe cramps or pain in the stomach or abdomen, fever, severe watery or bloody diarrhea, and unusual bleeding or bruising.

Taking cephalosporins with certain other drugs may affect the way the drugs work or may increase the chance of side effects. Anyone who takes cephalosporins should let the physician know all other medicines he or she is taking.

Some patients experience diarrhea while taking cephalosporins, and certain diarrhea medicines, such as diphenoxylate-atropine (Lomotil), may make the problem worse. Check with a physician before taking any medicine for diarrhea caused by cephalosporins.

Birth control pills may not work properly when taken at the same time as cephalosporins. To prevent pregnancy, use other methods of birth control in addition to the pills while taking cephalosporins.

Taking cephalosporins with certain other drugs may increase the risk of heavybleeding. Among the drugs that may have this effect when taken with cephalosporins are: anticoagulants such as warfarin (Coumadin), blood viscosity reducing medicines such as pentoxifylline (Trental), and the antiseizure medicinesdivalproex (Depakote) and valproic acid (Depakene).

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