How strict are antibiotics frequency times?
November 19, 2016 4:06 AM   Subscribe

I have a recurrent problem which needs antibiotics, often multiple ones. They are to be taken every 12 hours, or every 8 hours, or whatever the doc prescribes. I don't like taking more than one at the same time, so try to stagger them.

The doc says I should stick to the frequency prescribed, but I'd like some flexibility. Doc says no, but I suspect it's not quite that strict. For example, do the "2 every day" have to be exactly 12 hours apart to keep up the medical effect, or is 11 hours acceptable - or 10 - or 9? In general, is there a percentage or proportion of time I could play with to space them out without losing efficiency?
posted by aqsakal to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
Antibiotics are a huge class of varied medications, there is no way for anyone to answer the question as written. Ask your pharmacist when you next get a script filled.
posted by chiquitita at 4:10 AM on November 19, 2016 [12 favorites]

what you want and what you are asking don't seem to be connected.

you can take two antibiotics, which each need to be 12 hours apart, without taking them at the same time, and while sticking to the 12 hours separation. for example, take A at 6am and 6pm, say, and B at 10am and 10pm.
posted by andrewcooke at 4:24 AM on November 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

The Walgreens website has a convenient "chat with a pharmacist" 24/7 option that I've used for weird med queries several times before. In my experience they've actually been really helpful.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:54 AM on November 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

Your body has clearance mechanisms for drugs (like pretty much all substances you ingest), so the drug levels are highest right after you take the drug and diminish after that. Dose amounts and times are determined to keep the amount of active ingredient at effective levels in your body.

Antibiotics are, of course, intended to kill some germ which is out of line in your body. The risk of not using antibiotics as intended is that it can foster the development of strains of that germ that are resistant to antibiotic. This is notoriously the problem when people get antibiotic regimens, start to feel better, then discontinue the course of medicine. If you are committed to taking the entire course that was prescribed to you, as you should be, then fostering resistant strains is probably less of an issue in the lulls---BUT the medicine will be less effective in that there will be times when the germs don't have the antibiotics knocking them back at effective levels, and they can gain some ground before the next dose. In short, you're really not doing your healing any favors by gaming the system.

What is your reason for being uncomfortable taking two pills of different medicines at the same time? Are you worried about an interaction of some sort? This is very, very unlikely as the combo you are receiving is probably very commonly used without incident. Please share your concerns with your doctor or pharmacist to allay your fears--and take your medicine as prescribed.
posted by Sublimity at 4:57 AM on November 19, 2016 [18 favorites]

Talk to a pharmacist and include other meds you take. If this is related to eating, as in take this antibiotic with food, you probably need to eat way less than a full meal, just crackers and a drink would do.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:59 AM on November 19, 2016

This may depend on the antibiotic and what you're using it for but when I've been prescribed antibiotics they're always been x pills y times per day so I've taken them as convenient and they've worked just fine. These were short courses for tonsillitis so your case may be very different. Your best bet is to talk to a pharmasist
posted by missmagenta at 5:43 AM on November 19, 2016

My son has had hard-to-schedule meds (have to be taken more than an hour apart, on empty stomach, multiple times a day) and at one point asked the doctor to give us an actual schedule of times when he could take each, factoring in his school hours, our unwillingness to get him up at 4am, etc. Suddenly when he had to find a solution and put it in paper, the rules got a lot more flexible (could eat a half hour instead of a full hour after taking it, could stretch the time in between, etc.)

So try giving your doctor or pharmacist your real-life parameters (flat out say "I'm not getting up before 8 on weekends" or "I'm not going to take meds at work" or whatever) and see what schedule they recommend.
posted by metasarah at 5:55 AM on November 19, 2016 [6 favorites]

I agree with the above advice to talk to your pharmacist, or maybe try again with your doctor. Why you need these antibiotics and which ones they are probably plays an important role here. It's not clear whether they're scheduled to be taken together or it's coincidental, but some drugs also have synergistic effects and actually are more effective when taken together. I can think of at least one hospital intravenous antibiotic that's actually two antibiotic drugs combined... This may be a situation like that.

When antibiotics are given in hospital, timing them as prescribed is a high priority. For example, as a nurse (I'm a student), when you have two medications that can't be given together and need to stagger one, generally the non-antibiotic is better to be flexible with. It's quite possible that it really is important to take your meds as scheduled.
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:14 AM on November 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

Many thanks to all. It's a lot clearer to me now.
posted by aqsakal at 10:31 AM on November 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

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