Penicillin is used to treat different kinds of infections, which are caused by bacteria, and it works by killing the bacteria and preventing their growth. There are several different kinds of penicillin and one kind of penicillin usually cannot be replaced by another. Sometimes, penicillin may be prescribed together with other antibacterial medicines.
What Does Penicillin Treat?
Penicillins are a group of antibiotics used to treat a large range of bacterial infections. They are derived from penicillium fungi and can be taken orally or via injection and treat the following conditions:
- Acute nose, throat or sinus infections: Including strep throat and tonsillitis.
- Middle ear infections: Including infections caused by streptococcus and s. pneumonia bacteria.
- Upper respiratory infections: Including infections caused by pneumococcus and streptococcus.
- Mouth and gum infections: Including trench mouth, and infection prevention following tooth extractions.
- Skin infections caused by group A streptococcus, or staphylococcus aureus bacteria
- Anthrax after exposure: Including skin infections, pneumonia, infection of the spinal cord or brain, and preventing bacterial intestine or stomach infection.
- Rheumatic and scarlet fever
- Actinomyces bacteria (Non-contagious)
- Bacteria anaerobes infection
- Lyme disease
- Infection prevention from streptococcus in sickle cell disease
How Does Penicillin Work?
Many bacteria produce a cell wall that is composed of a macromolecule called peptidoglycan, comprised of a combination of amino sugars and peptides that form a macromolecule around the bacteria’s plasma membrane. Human cells do not need or make peptidoglycan. When a bacterium multiplies, small openings are created in their cell walls as the cells divide. These holes are then filled with newly produced peptidoglycans and the wall is reconstructed. Penicillin prevents the final cross-linking step, or transpeptidation, in the assembly of this macromolecule. The result is a very fragile cell wall that bursts through osmosis, killing the bacterium. No harm comes to people because penicillin does not inhibit any normal biochemical process that goes on within us.
Precautions to Take Before Using
After knowing “what does penicillin treat?” you should also have an idea about some precautions of the medicine.
Inform your health care provider if you have ever had any allergic or unusual reaction to penicillin or any other medication. You may also want to share any information concerning any other types of allergies, such as food preservatives, foods dyes, or allergies to animals.
Many penicillins are used to treat children, and potential problems are the same for children and for adults. However, some of the amoxicillin tablets that are chewable contain aspartame, which could be changed by the body to a substance that can be harmful to children with phenylketonuria.
Penicillins have been widely used in pregnant women, and that therapeutic doses during pregnancy are unlikely to pose any substantial risk. However, penicillin is only recommended for use during pregnancy when the benefit outweighs the risk.
4. Drug Interaction
Antibiotics can sometimes interact with many other medicines or other substances. This means the effects of one of the medicines can be altered by the other. People who take penicillin should consult with their health care provider about all other medicines they are taking. Drugs that may interact with penicillin are the following:
High Risk: Avoid combinations, because the risk of the interaction outweighs the benefit.
You may have increased side effects such as mouth ulcers, nausea, vomiting, and low blood cell counts, which can make you more likely to develop bleeding problems, anemia, and infections.
Moderate Risk: Use it only under special circumstances, and try to avoid combinations.
Amoxicillin or large doses of injectable penicillin may cause an increased chance of bleeding from your nose or gums, dark stools, or unusual bruising.Birth control pills may not work properly when taken together with penicillin.
Minor Risk: Minimize and assess the risk and consider an alternative drug.
How to Take the Medicine Properly
Apart from “what does penicillin treat?” another thing you should realize before taking the medicine is how to take it.
- Amoxicillin, pivampicillin, penicillin V, and pivmecillinam can be taken after a meal or on an empty stomach. Amoxicillin in liquid form can be taken by itself, or mixed with water, milk, formulas, fruit juice, ginger ale, or other cold drinks. If mixed with other fluids, be sure to drink it immediately after mixing, and make sure to consume all the liquid in order to get the full dose.
- Bacampicillin in liquid form is best mixed with 8 ounces of water, and consumed on an empty stomach, 1 to 2 hours after your last meal, unless otherwise directed by your health care provider. The tablet form can be taken after a meal, or on an empty stomach.
- For penicillin G, do not drink acidic fruit juices such as, orange or grapefruit juice or other acidic beverages within 1 hour of a penicillin G dosage, since this can prevent the medicine from working properly.
- Oral liquid form of penicillin is to be taken orally, even if it is packed in a dropper bottle. If this oral form of penicillin does not come with a measured dropper, use a specially marked medicine cup to measure each dose accurately. Do not use an average household teaspoon; it may not hold the right amount of liquid.
Do not use any medicines after the expiration date on the label. The medicine may not work properly after that date.
The Side Effects of Penicillin
1. Typical Side Effects
Common side effects of penicillin include:
- Vaginal discharge and itching
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- A sore mouth and tongue, occasionally with white patches
- Black hairy tongue
2. Less Typical Side Effects
Other less common side effects could include:
- Irregular breathing, or a shortness of breath
- Painful joints
- Sudden light-headedness, fainting
- Puffiness and/or redness of the face
- Scaly or red skin
3. Serious but Rare Side Effects
- Fear and/or confusion
- Feelings of impending death
- Anxiety and/or hallucinations
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Abnormal bleeding
- Reduced urination
- Cramps, spasms, or tenderness