Clindamycin is a type of medicine known as a lincomycin antibiotic. Antibiotics are used to treat all kinds of bacterial infections, either by slowing down the growth of bacteria or to kill them off completely. Clindamycin is used to treat a certain type of severe bacterial infection and limited to severe infections, as it can have quite a harsh effect on the stomach and bowel and cause diarrhoea. Clindamycin does not work on colds and the flu as these are not bacterial but rather viral infections. Bacterial infections are very common and caused by bacteria entering the body in different ways: from other people, the environment or contaminated food or water for example. If your immune system is not strong, your chances of becoming ill when infected with bacteria are higher. Bacteria can affect any part of the body and the illnesses they cause can range from very mild – ear and throat infections - to very severe – meningitis. Swelling and pain are often associated with bacterial infections. They are usually treated with some kind of antibiotic to limit the spread of the bacteria and kill it off.
What is clindamycin?
Clindamycin is a type of medicine known as a lincomycin antibiotic. Antibiotics are used to treat all kinds of bacterial infections, either by slowing down the growth of bacteria or to kill them off completely. Clindamycin is used to treat a certain type of severe bacterial infection and limited to severe infections, as it can have quite a harsh effect on the stomach and bowel and cause diarrhoea. Clindamycin does not work on colds and the flu as these are not bacterial but rather viral infections.
When is clindamycin used?
Due to the risk of side effects, clindamycin antibiotic is usually only used when suggested by a doctor and to treat serious bacterial infections, such as:
- Lung infections;
- Skin infections;
- Blood infections;
- Infections of the female reproductive organs and internal organs;
- Ear infections;
- Certain cases of tonsilitis;
- Bacterial vaginosis;
- Endocarditis (infection of the heart valves).
Clindamycin can be taken by both adults and children.
How do you use clindamycin?
Clindamycin antibiotic usually comes as a capsule. It can also be administered by intravenous injection, but this is only done in hospitals. For bacterial vaginosis, a vaginal cream containing clindamycin antibiotic is often used, while there is also a clindamycin solution as a topical treatment for acne.
To take the capsules, swallow them whole with a full glass of water to prevent stomach problems, either before or after a meal. Always take the full course of antibiotics you are prescribed by your doctor as while your symptoms may reduce quickly once you start taking your medication, to prevent them from returning, you need to ensure you have completed the treatment and killed off the bacteria.
What dosages are there?
As with all medicines, follow the instructions given to you by your doctor regarding dosages and how to take your treatment. If you are unsure, check back with them or with a pharmacist.
Clindamycin antibiotic capsules come in three different strengths: 150 mg, 300 mg and 600 mg. The usual dose for adults is 150 mg to 450 mg, every six to eight hours depending on how severe the infection you have is. You may be prescribed the 600 mg capsules: in this case, the usual dose is one capsule every eight hours. Try to take the tablets at around the same time every day. You should start to feel better after a few days, but continue the treatment until you have finished the course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.
The usual dose for children is worked out by the weight of the child, namely 3 mg to 6 mg per kilo, every six hours (four times a day). Try to take the tablets at the same time every day. You should start to feel better after a few days, but always finish the complete course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor to prevent the infection from coming back.
If you forget to take your capsule at the right time, take it as soon as you remember if you only missed the dose by a few hours, then carry on with your usual doses. If it is almost time for your next capsule, then skip the missed dose and take the next one as normal. Never take a double dose to make up for a missed capsule. It can help to set an alarm (for example on your mobile phone) to remind you to take your clindamycin antibiotics, especially if you lead a busy life. This is a particularly useful tip towards the end of your treatment when you will probably feel better and are more likely to forget, as it will help prevent the infection from returning. Taking your medication properly, at the right times, without skipping doses is the best way to ensure your body heals and does not get sick again.
If you take too much clindamycin antibiotic, seek immediate medical assistance as this could have serious consequences. Tell them what you have taken, and if you go to the hospital, take the package leaflet with you for easy identification.
What are the side effects of clindamycin?
As with all medication, clindamycin antibiotic comes with a warning of some side effects, although not everyone who takes clindamycin will experience them.
The following side effects could be very serious, so you should contact your doctor immediately if you experience them:
- A severe allergic reaction. Signs of an allergic reaction include rashes and itching (especially if it covers a large area of the body), swelling around the face, throat, eyes, lips and mouth, and shortness of breath, wheezing, difficulty breathing;
- Severe, continuous or bloody diarrhoea, with or without pain, stomach cramps and a fever – this could be a sign of serious bowel inflammation caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the large intestine. Please note this can occur during your treatment and for up to several months after you finish taking clindamycin antibiotics;
- Yellow skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice);
- Blistering or peeling over large areas of the skin surface and generally feeling unwell, swelling of the gums, tongue or lips.
Other less serious side effects include:
- Changes in your sense of taste;
- Sore throat;
- Mouth ulcers;
- Being sick;
- Stomach pain;
- Poor liver function;
- Vaginal infection;
- Reduction in the number of blood cells causing bruising, bleeding or a weaker immune system;
- White patches in the mouth;
- Thick white vaginal discharge;
- Burning, itching or swelling around the vagina;
- Pain when swallowing;
- Metallic taste in the mouth;
- Joint pain.
If you are experiencing side effects and struggling to cope with them, talk to the doctor who prescribed your medicine as you may be able to switch to something which reacts less with your body, everyone is different.
When should you not use clindamycin antibiotic?
While clindamycin is an effective antibiotic, it is not suitable for everyone. Do not use clindamycin antibiotic if you are allergic to clindamycin, lincomycin and any of the other ingredients listed on the packet, or to aspirin or tartrazine (a yellow dye found in some medication), or if you have diarrhoea.
You should also take care with clindamycin antibiotic if any of the following apply:
- You usually have diarrhoea when taking antibiotics;
- You have ever had stomach or intestine problems;
- You have kidney or liver problems (you may need to take a reduced dose);
- You have asthma, hay fever or eczema,
- You are breastfeeding as the drug can pass into breast milk.
If you are prescribed clindamycin on a long-term basis, you will need regular liver and kidney checks and blood tests. You may also find that you get other infections more frequently and that these do not respond to clindamycin.
You should also take care when taking clindamycin if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, have an intolerance to some kinds of sugar, or are having any kind of surgery (including dental surgery). In these cases, you may find a different antibiotic more suitable depending on the type of infection you have and how serious it is. Your doctor will be able to advise you.
Does clindamycin interact with other medications?
Always tell your doctor about any other medication you are taking, including vitamins and supplements, as some medicines can affect the way clindamycin antibiotic works and can make it less effective at tackling your infection. Take particular care with medicines to thin the blood and prevent clotting such as warfarin, and ones used to relax muscles for operations, as well as erythromycin, which is another type of antibiotic used to treat infections.
Where can you buy clindamycin?
You can buy clindamycin antibiotic from any pharmacy, but not in any other types of store, as the sale will need to be approved by a pharmacist.
Can I get clindamycin antibiotic without a prescription?
No, you need a prescription to buy clindamycin. The use of antibiotics is strictly controlled as the symptoms of an infection are often similar to a viral illness, so a doctor needs to confirm you are getting the appropriate treatment for you and the illness. There are also serious side effects to consider along with your medical history to find the right antibiotic for you. You can order the medication online once a doctor has examined you and advised you to take this medication.
Duda, K., 2020. Bacterial Infections. Verywell Health. Retrieved 19 March 2020 from: <https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-a-bacterial-infection-770565>
NICE Excellence, 2020. Clindamycin | Drug | BNF Content Published By NICE. Bnf.nice.org.uk. Retrieved 19 March 2020 from: <https://bnf.nice.org.uk/drug/clindamycin.html>