Is it safe to use any antibiotics on only an occasional basis?
October 9, 2012 9:24 PM   Subscribe

Is it safe to use any antibiotics on only an occasional basis?

I get ingrown hairs, and generalized facial infections (multiple spots, swelling), about once every three months. I don't feel that I need daily, constant, antibiotics, and I don't want to use antibiotics. That said, I feel like I do need something when I get these horrible breakouts.

I tend to get these skin infections when I am sick and/or when I get a number of ingrown hairs because of a shaving mistake.

So, is it safe to go on/off something like doxycycline when these horrible breakouts occur?
posted by denverco to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My dermatologist recommended taking doxycycline on an as-needed basis. Unfortunately, it doesn't work for me, but I assume that means it's reasonably safe to do.
posted by HotToddy at 9:37 PM on October 9, 2012

It is safe to use antibiotics intermittently, where in this case "safe" means that you risk the typical side effects of the medication. In the case of doxycycline, this includes nausea, diarrhea, yeast infections, sun sensitivity, amongst the more common side effects. Antibiotics like doxycycline knock out good bacteria along with bad bacteria, so the diarrhea and yeast infections tend to be due to imbalances in your body's normal 'flora'.

The more often you take courses of antibiotics, and assuming that you will probably miss doses and not take the full course at times.... the more risk of developing resistant bacteria (they are exposed and reexposed to the antibiotic and whenever doses are missed or courses not finished, they have an opportunity to develop resistance).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:39 PM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

As someone else who suffers from these sorts of issues (I tend to develop boils on the sides of my torso, and I have had issues with ingrown hairs and infections as a result of shaving) I kind of wonder if there are other more proactive things you could be doing to treat these skin conditions.

With ingrown hairs as a result of shaving, it might be worth it to determine when you are shaving, and keep it a the same time of day, every day.

With other skin problems such as boils etc, I've had some success keeping them under control with aspergillus pills.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:52 PM on October 9, 2012

Might be worth trying to chase down some triggers for these infections so that you can reduce the frequency of your antibiotic use (if only because the side effects are annoying, also because you do up the risk of developing your own strain of resistant bugs if you're not perfect with your use).

For me, I get perioral dermatitis that requires antibiotics if I use any kind of mainstream toothpaste (tom's of maine is a-ok though). Is there anything besides being sick that you're doing/changing when these breakouts happen? Hormonal birth control (I'm guessing not since you shave, but other hormonal effects maybe?), diet changes, weather changes, new clothes, detergent changes, etc?
posted by nat at 9:59 PM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Using a topical antibiotic would avoid the systemic side effects and allow you to apply it directly (and only) to the affected area. Clindamycin, for example, is formulated as a topical solution for acne. Whether it would be appropriate for this use, however, is really a question for a dermatologist.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:20 PM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is not entirely clear whether you are talking about taking a full course of antibiotics (usually 10-14 days) or just a couple days to clear your problem up. If it really is a bacterial infection you need to follow doctors orders and do the full course. If you don't, things will likely not get worse for you but over the long term they won't get better (I wouldn't see it as much as causing resistant bacteria more like just washing only one hand).
On the other hand I would talk to a different dermatologist and see if they have any better ideas of how you can avoid painful ingrown hairs and related skin infections.
posted by boobjob at 11:47 PM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

What do you mean by 'as needed', as someone says above? If you mean, take three days of antibiotics whenever you get a flare-up, the answer is no. You will just start breeding more resistant strains of staphylococcus or streptococcus or whatever and the problem will get worse long-term. Topical antibiotics are also notorious for causing resistance in these bugs, so it might not necessarily be a good idea as they'll get smarter anyway. Topical antiseptics like betadine might be better for long-term use if you can get on top of the infection early, since bacteria don't get resistant to iodine.

Full courses of antibiotics would be appropriate if it's really bad, but prevention is really the key here. Knowing bad shaving is a trigger could help.

Have you tried topical acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide etc? They come as face washes too and regular use - even if it's every second day - could help keep bacteria on your face in check.
posted by chiquitita at 1:08 AM on October 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

Have you tried tend skin? I bet using it twice a day would really help the situation. Also you can make it at home for literally under $5.
posted by whoaali at 4:49 AM on October 10, 2012

Please, please, please don't take oral antibiotics PRN ("as needed"). That's how we end up with antibiotic strains of bacteria, which are a serious/potentially lethal problem. If you're getting ingrown hairs, generalized infections, and the like, see a dermatologist.
posted by ellF at 5:50 AM on October 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

I have had problems with nasty ingrown hairs in all sorts of uncomfortably private places and had lot of nasty boils from them. What finally helped me was using an antibacterial soap, I actually just used a cheap generic foaming antibacterial hand soap from the supermarket as that's what I had on hand. I have ended up not having to use it all the time, but when I see a sore starting I wash the area with the soap every time I shower and put antibiotic lotion on the sore. While it doesn't always stop the first sore from appearing, it has stopped it becoming a never ending battle as the sores spread etc.

I would avoid using it all over your body though and all the time as the good bacteria on your skin are needed to help keep you healthy, but it might be a good compromise of going onto antibiotic tablets as they are pretty serious and can end up with all sorts of resistance problems if you take them "as needed".
posted by wwax at 8:12 AM on October 10, 2012

You must be seeing a doctor to get the prescription for the antibiotics, yes? Ask your doctor.
posted by Lexica at 6:31 PM on October 10, 2012

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