Antibiotics play an important role in fighting disease by killing bacteria and stopping the growth of associated infections that cause unwanted symptoms. Unfortunately, these prescription medications can also cause unpleasant side effects, including secondary infections such as yeast infections. Here’s what you need to know about staying healthy when taking antibiotics.
The Cause of Secondary Infections
Although antibiotics destroy bad bacteria that can make you sick, they also destroy good bacteria that helps ward off infection-causing organisms. For example, the vagina has an acidic environment supported by microbes called lactobacilli, which will be largely wiped out by an antibiotic prescribed for strep throat or another minor infection.
The lack of these healthy organisms can lead to fungal growth and associated symptoms, often affecting the throat, mouth and vagina. A type of yeast called candida, which occurs naturally in the vagina, will spread unhindered when lactobacilli levels are low. This can lead to issues like yeast infections, thrush, bacterial vaginosis and UTIs (urinary tract infections).
Symptoms of Antibiotic-Related Vaginal Infections
When the vaginal environment becomes unbalanced with the lack of healthy bacteria, you might experience symptoms such as:
- Itching, burning and redness in the vaginal area
- Abnormal white or gray discharge, often with a lumpy consistency
- Painful intercourse
- Burning during urination and/or frequent urination
- Fever and/or chills
If a fungal infection affects the mouth or throat, you may notice white patches on the tongue or interior of the mouth. You might also have throat pain or difficulty swallowing.
How To Prevent Infection
Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent UTIs and vaginal infections, particularly if you’ve been prescribed an antibiotic. Consider these measures:
- Take probiotics to keep your vagina regulated. These oral supplements replenish the vagina’s healthy bacteria so it can withstand the antibiotic attack.
- Wear cotton underwear that allows the area to breathe. Keep the vagina clean and dry.
- Avoid douches and other feminine hygiene products. Like antibiotics, these remove both good and bad bacteria and can be irritating to the skin and tissue. Choose gentle soaps without added fragrance.
- Change into dry clothes immediately after swimming. Shower and change right away when you work out.
- Wipe from front to back when you use the bathroom. Change menstrual products frequently during your period.
- Avoid using antibiotics if you don’t have a bacterial infection. They can’t treat ailments like the common cold. When you are prescribed this medication, take it as directed and finish the entire dose even if you feel better.
- Don’t wear jeans or leggings that are too tight. This can trap moisture and sweat in the area, leading to infection.
- If you have diabetes, control your blood sugar. High glucose raises your risk for infection as well as other dangerous complications.
- Boost your immune system by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables along with whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Avoid processed foods and items with lots of added sugar.
- Get enough exercise, aiming for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Physical activity also helps your body fight infection.
When you’re prescribed antibiotics, take advantage of the best way to prevent UTIs naturally. Good hygiene practices and careful attention to your body can help you avoid medication-related infections.