Side Effects of Metronidazole and Alcohol Interaction

fluconazole and alcohol


Metronidazole is a prescription drug commonly used to treat bacterial infections and parasitic infestations in various parts of the body. It comes in different forms, such as capsules, tablets, topical creams, gels, lotions, and vaginal gels. Each form of metronidazole can have distinct side effects. In this article, we will explore the side effects associated with different forms of metronidazole and discuss the potential interactions between metronidazole and alcohol.

Side Effects of Capsules and Tablets

Metronidazole capsules and tablets are taken orally and absorbed through the stomach. Immediate-release tablets and capsules are used to treat bacterial infections in multiple body parts and parasitic infections in the intestines, liver, and reproductive tract. Extended-release tablets specifically target vaginal infections.

Common Side Effects

While taking metronidazole capsules or tablets, you may experience common side effects such as:

  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Constipation
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Yeast infection
  • Vaginal discharge

Serious Side Effects

Although rare, metronidazole tablets or capsules can lead to serious side effects, including:

  1. Cancer: Metronidazole carries a black box warning due to animal studies suggesting a potential risk of cancer development with high doses and prolonged use. While the risk in humans is not yet confirmed, caution is advised.
  2. Encephalopathy: In some cases, metronidazole can cause abnormal brain function, resulting in symptoms like lack of muscle control, dizziness, and slurred speech. These symptoms should be reported to your doctor immediately.
  3. Seizures: Individuals with a history of seizures should inform their doctor before starting metronidazole treatment, as the medication may trigger seizures. Seek medical attention promptly if a seizure occurs.
  4. Meningitis: Metronidazole can cause inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, leading to severe headache, fever, and a stiff neck. If you experience these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
  5. Peripheral Neuropathy: Damage to the nerves, resulting in symptoms like tingling, burning sensations, numbness, and sharp pains in the hands and feet, may occur. Promptly consult your doctor if you notice these symptoms.
  6. Severe Allergic Reaction: Allergic reactions to metronidazole may manifest as trouble breathing, swelling of the tongue or throat, hives, or a rash. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.
  7. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome: A rare but serious skin disorder characterized by flu-like symptoms, painful red rashes, blistering, and shedding of the top layer of skin. Seek medical help if you develop such symptoms.
  8. Neutropenia: Metronidazole can cause low levels of neutrophils, a type of white blood cells responsible for fighting infections. Notify your doctor if you develop a new infection while taking metronidazole.

Side Effects of Topical Cream, Gel, and Lotion

Metronidazole topical formulations are used to treat inflammation associated with rosacea, a condition characterized by facial redness and small bumps.

Common Side Effects

Common side effects of metronidazole topical cream, gel, and lotion are generally mild and may include:

  • Burning and stinging sensations
  • Irritation
  • Itching
  • Worsening of rosacea symptoms
  • Dryness
  • Redness

Additionally, the topical gel may cause the following side effects:

  • Common cold
  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Headache

If these side effects persist or worsen, consult your doctor or pharmacist for further guidance.

Side Effects of Vaginal Gel

Metronidazole vaginal gel is used to treat bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection affecting the vagina.

Common Side Effects

The common side effects associated with metronidazole vaginal gel include:

  • Vaginal yeast infection
  • Vaginal itching
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Menstrual cramps

Serious Side Effects

Serious side effects of the vaginal gel are rare but can include the same side effects observed with tablets and capsules, such as cancer, peripheral neuropathy, and seizures.

Alcohol Interaction

It is important to avoid consuming alcohol or using any products containing alcohol while taking metronidazole. Combining alcohol with metronidazole can lead to a chemical reaction that hinders alcohol metabolism. This reaction may result in adverse effects such as abdominal cramps, nausea, severe vomiting, headaches, and flushing. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.

Furthermore, be cautious of other products that may contain alcohol, including cough syrups, mouthwashes, breath strips, aftershaves, perfumes, hair sprays, bug sprays, hand sanitizers, and body washes. Always check product labels to ensure they do not contain alcohol. It is advisable to avoid alcohol-containing products for at least three days after completing your metronidazole treatment, as even a small amount of alcohol can lead to a dangerous reaction.

Consult Your Doctor

If you have any concerns or questions regarding the side effects of metronidazole, it is essential to consult your doctor. They can provide you with personalized advice and help you understand the potential risks and benefits of metronidazole. Consider asking your doctor the following questions:

  • Am I at higher risk for specific side effects from metronidazole?
  • Are there alternative medications with fewer side effects that I could take?
  • Do you have any suggestions to prevent or alleviate the side effects?

By working together with your doctor, you can ensure the safe and effective treatment of your infection.