If you've ever taken antibiotics (or are currently taking them), you might've noticed the label lists yeast infections as a possible side effect. While this doesn't happen to everyone, it's natural to worry about the risk.
Thankfully, there are medications that can help treat yeast infections. But can you treat a yeast infection while on antibiotics?
Video of the Day
Here, learn why antibiotics can cause yeast infections along with how to treat and prevent these infections.
Talk to your doctor before adding any new medication, including yeast infection medicine, to your routine while you're on antibiotics.
Can Antibiotics Cause Yeast Infections?
In some cases, yes. Your body typically does a great job of balancing the amount of yeast and good bacteria on your skin and in your body, per the Cleveland Clinic.
But when you take antibiotics, bad and good bacteria are often killed at the same time, which can throw off your body's natural microbiome. This can leave you vulnerable to an overgrowth of yeast, and potentially a yeast infection, per the Mayo Clinic.
While anyone can get a yeast infection — in your skin folds, in your mouth, in your nail beds or on your penis — it is most common to get a vaginal yeast infection (from a fungus called Candida) while taking antibiotics, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Vaginal yeast infection symptoms can include the following, per the Mayo Clinic:
- Itching and irritation in the vagina and vulva
- A burning sensation, especially during intercourse or while peeing
- Redness and swelling of the vulva
- Vaginal pain and soreness
- Vaginal rash
- Thick, white, odor-free vaginal discharge with a cottage cheese appearance
- Watery vaginal discharge
In some cases, a Candida overgrowth can also cause oral thrush — redness, burning and creamy white lesions on your tongue, inner cheeks and roof of your mouth, per the Mayo Clinic.
How Does It Happen?
Usually, the vagina is slightly acidic (thanks to good bacteria like Lactobacillus), which helps keep yeast overgrowth at bay, per Harvard Health Publishing.
But with broad-spectrum antibiotics, that natural acidity is lowered, increasing your risk for yeast overgrowth, per Henry Ford Health.
A list of antibiotics that can cause yeast infections include the following, among many others, per Purdue University:
- Penicillin, including amoxicillin and ampicillin
- Triple Sulfa
And while antibiotics are supposed to treat infections, they don't work on all infections. For example, they kill bacteria, but not viruses or yeast, which is a type of fungus, per the Mayo Clinic.
When antibiotics kill both that good and bad bacteria, it gives the once-balanced yeast an opportunity to spread.
Can You Take Yeast Infection Medication While on Antibiotics?
Antibiotics won't kill yeast infections, so what will? The most common yeast infection treatment is an antifungal — a type of medication that comes in ointment, tablet or suppository form.
Antifungals work to kill yeast in the same way antibiotics kill bacteria, per the Cleveland Clinic. Some examples include the following, per the Mayo Clinic:
- Miconazole (Monistat 3): This can be purchased in ointment or suppository form over the counter or with a prescription. It's usually taken for three to seven days.
- Terconazole: Another antifungal that can be purchased over the counter or with a prescription from a doctor.
- Fluconazole (Diflucan): A one-time, single pill that is prescribed by your doctor. This can also treat oral thrush from antibiotics. For more severe infections, you may have to take two doses three days apart.
But can you take these medications while on antibiotics? Most of the time, yes.
In fact, it may be recommended by your doctor to take an antifungal at the same time as an antibiotic, as a preventative measure if you're prone to yeast infections, per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
There's also little to no reported drug interactions between the two. In fact, topical antifungals specifically have less interaction potential compared to oral antifungals, according to an April 2018 review in Expert Opinion on Drug Metabolism & Toxicology.
Of course, always talk to your doctor before trying an antifungal while on antibiotics. They can go over your health history and symptoms to make sure it's the right choice for you. For example, if you've never had a yeast infection before, taking an antifungal as a preventative may be unnecessary.
How Long Does It Take for a Yeast Infection to Heal?
If you take an antifungal, your yeast infection should go away within a few days. You may still feel some leftover irritation and itching as your body heals.
Unfortunately, yeast can start to regrow once you're done with both medications, per Baylor Medicine.
If this happens, call your doctor before going back on an antifungal. They may be able to suggest other treatment options and preventive measures for yeast infections.
If you're getting recurring yeast infections, you may have an underlying health concern like a hormonal imbalance, a weakened immune system or diabetes. Your birth control method may also be the culprit. Talk to your doctor to rule out any underlying causes.
How to Prevent a Yeast Infection
Whether on antibiotics or not, yeast infections are often uncomfortable and annoying. Here are some ways to help prevent them, per the Mayo Clinic:
- Wear breathable cotton underwear: Make sure it's not too tight, which can trap in moisture.
- Avoid wearing wet clothes for too long: This includes a wet bathing suit, sweaty workout clothes or damp underwear.
- Avoid hot tubs or very warm baths: Yeast thrives in hot and moist environments.
- Do not douche: This can remove good bacteria from your vagina.
- Avoid scented menstrual and bath products: This includes tampons, pads, bubble baths and body wash.
- If yeast infections are from antibiotics, only take them when absolutely necessary: Talk to your doctor about other options if one particular kind of antibiotics causes a yeast overgrowth.
You can take yeast infection medications and antibiotics at the same time, but only if your doctor gives the OK.
They may suggest taking an antifungal while on antibiotics if you're prone to yeast infections, or prescribe one for an existing yeast infection. But they may not suggest it if yeast infections aren't really a concern based on your health history.
Talk to your doctor before taking any medication with an antibiotic to avoid any negative or harmful drug interactions.
Will probiotics help prevent a yeast infection?
Getting enough food rich in probiotics (i.e., good bacteria like Lactobacillus) can be a natural yeast infection remedy and preventative. Not only is it a promising remedy, but it's also safe to have while pregnant, per a January 2020 study in Microorganisms. Try eating more yogurt, kimchi or sauerkraut, or take a high-quality probiotic supplement.
Does cranberry juice help a yeast infection?
While cranberry juice and extract are touted as prevention for urinary tract infections, they are not known to help treat or prevent yeast infections. More research needs to be done to support these claims, per the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Are there foods to avoid with a yeast infection?
There are some foods to avoid with a yeast infection, mostly those high in simple sugars and yeast. Some examples include things like soda, candy or highly processed snacks (which are high in sugar) or alcohol and bread (which are high in yeast).
- Cleveland Clinic: "Candidiasis Fungal Infection"
- Mayo Clinic: "Yeast Infection (vaginal)"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Should You Use Probiotics for Your Vagina?"
- Henry Ford Health: "Antibiotics and Probiotics: How Medications Affect Your Gut"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Yeast Infection"
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Think You Have a Vaginal Infection? Here’s What You Need to Know."
- Expert Opinion on Drug Metabolism & Toxicology: "Common drug-drug interactions in antifungal treatments for superficial fungal infections"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Antifungals"
- Microorganisms: "Warding Off Recurrent Yeast and Bacterial Vaginal Infections: Lactoferrin and Lactobacilli"
- University of Rochester Medical Center: "Cranberry"
- Mayo Clinic: "Oral Thrush"
- Purdue University: "Antibiotic Table"
- Baylor Medicine: "Recurrent Yeast Infections"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.