This information from Lexicomp® explains what you need to know about this medication, including what it’s used for, how to take it, its side effects, and when to call your healthcare provider.
Brand Names: US
Daxbia [DSC]; Keflex
Brand Names: Canada
APO-Cephalex; AURO-Cephalexin; DOM-Cephalexin [DSC]; Keflex; LUPIN-Cephalexin; PMS-Cephalexin; TEVA-Cephalexin; TEVA-Cephalexin 125; TEVA-Cephalexin 250
What is this drug used for?
- It is used to treat bacterial infections.
What do I need to tell my doctor BEFORE I take this drug?
- If you have an allergy to cephalexin or any other part of this drug.
- If you are allergic to this drug; any part of this drug; or any other drugs, foods, or substances. Tell your doctor about the allergy and what signs you had.
- If you are taking probenecid.
This is not a list of all drugs or health problems that interact with this drug.
Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all of your drugs (prescription or OTC, natural products, vitamins) and health problems. You must check to make sure that it is safe for you to take this drug with all of your drugs and health problems. Do not start, stop, or change the dose of any drug without checking with your doctor.
What are some things I need to know or do while I take this drug?
- Tell all of your health care providers that you take this drug. This includes your doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists.
- Have your blood work checked if you are on this drug for a long time. Talk with your doctor.
- If you have high blood sugar (diabetes) and test your urine glucose, talk with your doctor to find out which tests are best to use.
- This drug may affect certain lab tests. Tell all of your health care providers and lab workers that you take this drug.
- Do not use longer than you have been told. A second infection may happen.
- Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan on getting pregnant, or are breast-feeding. You will need to talk about the benefits and risks to you and the baby.
What are some side effects that I need to call my doctor about right away?
WARNING/CAUTION: Even though it may be rare, some people may have very bad and sometimes deadly side effects when taking a drug. Tell your doctor or get medical help right away if you have any of the following signs or symptoms that may be related to a very bad side effect:
- Signs of an allergic reaction, like rash; hives; itching; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin with or without fever; wheezing; tightness in the chest or throat; trouble breathing, swallowing, or talking; unusual hoarseness; or swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat.
- Signs of liver problems like dark urine, feeling tired, not hungry, upset stomach or stomach pain, light-colored stools, throwing up, or yellow skin or eyes.
- Fever, chills, or sore throat; any unexplained bruising or bleeding; or feeling very tired or weak.
- Feeling confused.
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there).
- Not able to pass urine or change in how much urine is passed.
- Very bad dizziness.
- Very bad headache.
- Very bad joint pain.
- Vaginal itching or discharge.
- Diarrhea is common with antibiotics. Rarely, a severe form called C diff–associated diarrhea (CDAD) may happen. Sometimes, this has led to a deadly bowel problem. CDAD may happen during or a few months after taking antibiotics. Call your doctor right away if you have stomach pain, cramps, or very loose, watery, or bloody stools. Check with your doctor before treating diarrhea.
- A severe skin reaction (Stevens-Johnson syndrome/toxic epidermal necrolysis) may happen. It can cause severe health problems that may not go away, and sometimes death. Get medical help right away if you have signs like red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin (with or without fever); red or irritated eyes; or sores in your mouth, throat, nose, or eyes.
What are some other side effects of this drug?
All drugs may cause side effects. However, many people have no side effects or only have minor side effects. Call your doctor or get medical help if any of these side effects or any other side effects bother you or do not go away:
- Stomach pain or diarrhea.
- Upset stomach or throwing up.
These are not all of the side effects that may occur. If you have questions about side effects, call your doctor. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.
You may report side effects to your national health agency.
You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-332-1088. You may also report side effects at https://www.fda.gov/medwatch.
How is this drug best taken?
Use this drug as ordered by your doctor. Read all information given to you. Follow all instructions closely.
- Take with or without food. Take with food if it causes an upset stomach.
- Keep taking this drug as you have been told by your doctor or other health care provider, even if you feel well.
- Shake well before use.
- Measure liquid doses carefully. Use the measuring device that comes with this drug. If there is none, ask the pharmacist for a device to measure this drug.
What do I do if I miss a dose?
- Take a missed dose as soon as you think about it.
- If it is close to the time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your normal time.
- Do not take 2 doses at the same time or extra doses.
How do I store and/or throw out this drug?
Tablets and capsules:
- Store at room temperature.
- Store in a dry place. Do not store in a bathroom.
- Store in a refrigerator. Throw away any part not used after 2 weeks.
- Keep lid tightly closed.
- Keep all drugs in a safe place. Keep all drugs out of the reach of children and pets.
- Throw away unused or expired drugs. Do not flush down a toilet or pour down a drain unless you are told to do so. Check with your pharmacist if you have questions about the best way to throw out drugs. There may be drug take-back programs in your area.
General drug facts
- If your symptoms or health problems do not get better or if they become worse, call your doctor.
- Do not share your drugs with others and do not take anyone else’s drugs.
- Some drugs may have another patient information leaflet. If you have any questions about this drug, please talk with your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
- Some drugs may have another patient information leaflet. Check with your pharmacist. If you have any questions about this drug, please talk with your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
- If you think there has been an overdose, call your poison control center or get medical care right away. Be ready to tell or show what was taken, how much, and when it happened.
Consumer Information Use and Disclaimer
Last Reviewed Date
© 2021 UpToDate, Inc. and its affiliates and/or licensors. All rights reserved.
What is cephalexin?
Are there any alternatives?
There are other drugs available to treat your condition. Some may be better suited for you than others. Talk with your doctor about other drug options that may work for you.
Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.
Cephalexin side effects and how to avoid them
Cephalexin side effects | Serious side effects | How long do side effects last? | Warnings | Interactions | How to avoid side effects
Cephalexin (brand name Keflex) is a cephalosporin antibiotic, or antimicrobial, that is used to treat bacterial infections. Cephalexin treats bacterial infections such as respiratory tract infections, otitis media (middle ear infection), strep throat, skin infections, skin structure infections, bone infections, and urinary tract infections.
Cephalexin works by preventing bacteria from making cell walls, which causes the bacteria to die. Cephalexin is similar to penicillin. Cephalexin is approved by the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) and is available as a prescription drug.
More specifically, cephalexin works against infectious diseases caused by certain gram-positive bacteria, including:
- Staphylococcus aureus (methicillin-susceptible)
- Streptococcus pneumoniae (penicillin-susceptible)
- Streptococcus pyogenes
And certain gram-negative bacteria, including:
- Escherichia coli (E. coli)
- Haemophilus influenzae
- Klebsiella pneumoniae
- Moraxella catarrhalis
- Proteus mirabilis
Cephalexin is typically taken as a capsule by mouth two, three, or four times daily with or without food. It is also available as a tablet and oral suspension.
Cephalexin, like other antibiotics, can only treat bacterial infections and is not effective against viral infections such as the common cold, flu, or COVID-19. Using an antibiotic like cephalexin for a viral infection will not help treat the viral infection, and it can increase the development of drug-resistant bacteria.
Continue reading below to learn all about cephalexin and its side effects, warnings, and drug interactions.
Cephalexin, as with any drug, can cause side effects. The most common side effects of cephalexin are:
- Increased liver enzymes
- Eosinophilia (high level of a certain type of white blood cell)
Other, less common side effects of cephalexin may include:
- Genital and anal itching
- Genital fungal infection
- Vaginal discharge
- Joint pain
Serious side effects, while less common, may occur. Serious possible side effects of cephalexin may include:
- Anaphylaxis (serious allergic reaction)
- Angioedema (swelling of the face and lips)
- Erythema multiforme (bullseye-shaped lesions on the skin or mouth)
- Stevens-Johnson syndrome (a medical emergency characterized by flulike symptoms, rash, and blisters)
- Toxic epidermal necrolysis (a life-threatening skin disorder with symptoms of skin peeling and blistering)
- Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (also called CDAD; symptoms can range from mild diarrhea to life-threatening colitis)
- Neutropenia (low neutrophil count, a type of white blood cells)
- Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)
- Hemolytic anemia (destruction of red blood cells)
- Aplastic anemia (the body stops making enough new blood cells)
- Hemorrhage (bleeding)
- Hepatitis (inflammation of the liver)
- Cholestatic jaundice (bile flow from the liver slows or stops; symptoms include itching, dark urine, and yellowing of the skin or eyes)
- Seizures (especially in people with kidney problems who did not take a reduced dose of cephalexin)
Cephalexin and hypersensitivity reactions
Cephalexin is contraindicated in people who are allergic to cephalexin or any drug in the cephalosporin class of drugs. Before taking cephalexin, discuss any allergies to medication with your healthcare provider. Up to 10% of people with a penicillin allergy may be allergic to cephalexin.
Allergic reactions may manifest in the form of a skin reaction (rash, hives, itching, blisters, peeling), angioedema, or trouble breathing. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop taking cephalexin and seek emergency medical treatment.
Cephalexin and Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD)
Any antibiotic, including cephalexin, can cause CDAD. Severity may range from mild diarrhea to fatal colitis. CDAD can occur during treatment and up to two months after antibiotic treatment. If you are taking cephalexin and you have diarrhea, or you experience diarrhea up to two months after finishing cephalexin, contact your doctor. If symptoms are severe, seek emergency medical treatment.
Cephalexin side effects tend to be mild and go away as your body adjusts to the medication or when you finish taking the medication. If you are taking cephalexin, it is important to take it for the full course prescribed by your healthcare professional. Cephalexin does not tend to cause long-lasting side effects. However, some patients get CDAD, which can occur during cephalexin treatment or up to two months after treatment. If you have diarrhea after you finish cephalexin, be sure to tell your doctor that you took cephalexin.
If you have bothersome or severe adverse effects, call your doctor or seek emergency treatment as required.
Cephalexin contraindications & warnings
Abuse and dependence
Cephalexin is not a controlled substance. It is not habit-forming. When the course of treatment is complete, you can stop taking cephalexin. There is no need to taper off the medication.
The maximum total daily dose of cephalexin is 4000 mg per 24 hours, divided every six hours or every 12 hours. A standard dose of cephalexin is 500 mg every six hours for a total daily dose of 2000 mg. Older adults and people with impaired kidney function generally take a lower dose of cephalexin.
Overdose symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain or rib pain, diarrhea, and blood in the urine. Contact your doctor or the poison control center for information on cephalexin overdose.
People who are hypersensitive to cephalexin or cephalosporins should not take cephalexin. People who are allergic to penicillin may be allergic to cephalexin, too, and should consult a healthcare provider before using cephalexin.
Cephalexin should be used with caution in people who have:
- Kidney disease
- Recent antibiotic-associated colitis (CDAD)
- A history of gastrointestinal problems
Cephalexin is classified as a pregnancy category B drug. Because there is not enough data in pregnant women, cephalexin should only be used during pregnancy if clearly needed and under close supervision of the healthcare professional. Cephalexin is excreted in breast milk. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your doctor for medical advice.
Cephalexin is safe in children at recommended dosages.
People with kidney problems are generally prescribed a lower dose of cephalexin, depending on the creatinine clearance.
In older adults, cephalexin is safe, but this population is more likely to have decreased kidney function, so dosing may be lower.
- Metformin: Cephalexin increases metformin levels, which can cause hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels) or other side effects of metformin. If the medications must be taken together, carefully monitor blood sugar. A dose adjustment of metformin may be required while taking cephalexin.
- Dofetilide: Cephalexin and dofetilide should not be used together. The combination can cause increased dofetilide levels, leading to QT prolongation and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat).
- Probenecid: Cephalexin and probenecid should not be used together. This combination can increase levels of cephalexin and cause increased side effects of cephalexin.
Although these are the most common drug interactions, other drug interactions may occur. Consult your healthcare provider for a full list of drug interactions.
- Medical history: Discuss medical conditions and your medical history with your doctor, so he or she can determine if cephalexin is safe for you.
- Interactions: Because cephalexin has potential drug interactions, be sure to review all of the medications you take with your prescriber. This includes prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and any vitamins or dietary supplements you take.
- Dosage: Follow the instructions given by your doctor. Take cephalexin for the full course of treatment. Do not stop taking it early, even if you are feeling better unless your doctor instructs you to do so. Stopping the medication early may result in a regrowth of bacteria. Your doctor will instruct you on the proper length of time to take cephalexin.
- Storage: Store your medication properly. Store cephalexin capsules at room temperature, away from heat, light, and moisture. Cephalexin oral suspension should be stored in the refrigerator for up to 14 days. Discard after the course of treatment is complete.
- Communicate: Talk to your doctor and/or pharmacist. If you experience mild side effects, your healthcare provider may be able to give you tips on avoiding them. For example, cephalexin can be taken with or without food, but if it causes stomach issues, you may want to try taking it with food. Keep a journal where you can jot down notes about any side effects and what helps them. If you have serious side effects, tell your doctor right away or seek emergency medical attention when needed.
- Read the patient leaflet: When you fill your cephalexin prescription, you will receive a patient information leaflet with drug information about side effects and warnings. Read the information, and ask your pharmacist if you have any questions.
Cefalexin - Brand name: Keflex
1. About cefalexin
Cefalexin is an antibiotic. It belongs to a group of antibiotics called cephalosporins.
It's used to treat bacterial infections, such as pneumonia and other chest infections, skin infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Cefalexin is only available on prescription. It comes as capsules, tablets or as a liquid for children and people who find it difficult to swallow capsules or tablets.
2. Key facts
- You'll usually start to feel better in a few days, depending on the type of infection you have.
- The most common side effects of cefalexin are feeling sick (nausea) and diarrhoea.
- You can drink alcohol while taking cefalexin.
- It's important to keep taking cefalexin until you've completed the course, even if you feel better.
3. Who can and cannot take cefalexin
Cefalexin can be taken by most adults and children.
Cefalexin is not suitable for some people. To make sure cefalexin is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:
- had an allergic reaction to cefalexin or any other medicine in the past
- kidney problems
- ever had a severe skin rash or skin peeling, blistering and/or mouth sores after taking antibiotics
- had severe or bloody diarrhoea when you've taken antibiotics before
4. How and when to take it
Always follow the advice of your doctor and the instructions that come with your medicine.
The dose of cefalexin can vary but for most infections you will take 500mg, two or three times a day.
The dose may be higher for severe infections and lower for children.
Try to space the doses evenly throughout the day. If you take it 3 times a day, this could be first thing in the morning, mid-afternoon and at bedtime.
Keep taking this medicine until you've completed the course, even if you feel better. If you stop your treatment early, the infection could come back.
How to take it
Cefalexin can be taken with or without food.
Capsules or tablets – swallow whole with a drink of water. Do not chew or break them.
Liquid – if you or your child are taking cefalexin as a liquid, it will usually be made up for you by a pharmacist. The medicine will come with a plastic syringe or medicine spoon to help you measure the right dose. If you do not have one, ask a pharmacist for one. Do not use a kitchen teaspoon as it will not give the right amount.
What if I forget to take it?
If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember, unless it's nearly time for your next dose. In this case, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the usual time. Try to leave a gap of at least 4 hours between doses.
Never take 2 doses at the same time. Never take an extra dose to make up for a forgotten one.
If you forget doses often, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask a pharmacist for advice on other ways to remember your medicines.
What if I take too much?
Accidentally taking 1 extra dose of cefalexin is unlikely to harm you or your child.
Speak to a pharmacist or doctor if you're worried or you take 2 extra doses or more.
7. Pregnancy and breastfeeding
It's usually safe to take cefalexin during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Read about how cephalosporin antibiotics like cefalexin can affect you and your baby on the Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS) website.
For safety, tell your doctor if you're trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or if you're breastfeeding.
8. Cautions with other medicines
There are some medicines that do not mix well with cefalexin.
Tell your doctor if you're taking any of these medicines before you start taking cefalexin:
- probenecid (a medicine used to treat gout)
- metformin (a medicine used to treat diabetes)
- medicines that make you pee more (diuretics) including furosemide
- other antibiotics
Mixing cefalexin with herbal remedies and supplements
Do not take cefalexin at the same time as zinc supplements or anything with zinc in it. This is important because zinc may reduce the amount of cefalexin in your body, meaning the medicine cannot work as it's meant to.
If you do take supplements with zinc in them, make sure there is a gap of at least 3 hours before and after you take your cefalexin.
For safety, tell your doctor or a pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements.
9. Common questions
Term cephalexin side effects long
.Cephalexin ( Keflex ): What is Cephalexin Used For, Dosage, Side Effects \u0026 Precautions?
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