Antibiotics Home > Tetracycline Precautions and Warnings

Among the people who should not take tetracycline are children younger than eight years of age and women who are pregnant or nursing. Some of the things you should let your healthcare provider know about before you take tetracycline include other drugs you are taking and whether you have any allergies to medications or will be undergoing any surgery. A few other tetracycline precautions and warnings include the risk of other infections, severe diarrhea, or permanent discoloring of the teeth in some people taking this drug.

Tetracycline: What Should I Tell My Healthcare Provider?

There are a number of precautions and warnings to be aware of with tetracycline (sold as generic Tetracycline tablets or capsules, or under a variety of brand names, including Sumycin®, Achromycin®, and Wesmycin®). You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking tetracycline if you:
  • Have liver disease or failure
  • Have kidney disease or failure
  • Are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Have any allergies to medications
  • Will be having any surgery.
Also, tell your healthcare provider about all other medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, oral contraceptive, blood-thinners, antacids, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Some Tetracycline Precautions and Warnings

Some precautions and warnings to be aware of with tetracycline include:
  • Tetracycline can interact with certain other medications (see Tetracycline Drug Interactions).
  • Tetracycline can decrease the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.
  • Tetracycline is considered pregnancy Category D medicine. This means that it has been studied in pregnant women and there is a significant risk to an unborn baby if it is taken during pregnancy. However, there may be extreme circumstances under which the use of tetracycline may justify the risk. If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, you should talk with your healthcare provider (prior to taking tetracycline) about the safety of taking tetracycline while pregnant.
  • If you have severe liver disease, your healthcare provider may choose to lower the dose of tetracycline normally given, or opt to not prescribe this medication whatsoever.
  • Tetracycline is known to pass through breast milk. Therefore, if you are nursing and taking tetracycline, it is recommended that you stop nursing.
  • Tetracycline can cause permanent discoloring of the teeth in children if a woman takes the antibiotic during pregnancy or if it is used to treat children younger than eight years of age.
  • Tetracycline may cause pseudomembranous colitis (severe diarrhea). If you experience any symptoms of severe diarrhea, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
  • Tetracycline may cause pseudotumor cerebri, which is a condition that causes high pressures inside the brain. This condition commonly causes headaches, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. In most cases, the symptoms improve when tetracycline is stopped.
  • During treatment with antibiotics such as tetracycline, other infections (for example, vaginal yeast infections) have been known to occur. If you are taking tetracycline and you notice symptoms unrelated to your original condition, talk with your healthcare provider.
  • Antibiotics such as tetracycline have been known to cause increased pressure in the skull. This side effect usually stops when the antibiotic is discontinued. If you notice this side effect while taking tetracycline, talk with your healthcare provider.
  • Tetracycline can cause ulcers and pain in your esophagus. Drinking plenty of fluids while you are taking tetracycline may help prevent these side effects. Also, not taking the medicine close to bedtime will help.
  • Skin reactions that resemble serious sunburns may occur if you are exposed to sunlight while taking tetracycline. Try to avoid unnecessary sunlight exposure while taking this antibiotic. If sunlight exposure is unavoidable, cover as much of your skin as possible (by wearing long sleeves, long pants, a hat, etc.) and use a sunscreen with a rating of SPF 45 or higher.
  • Some people on tetracycline may experience lightheadedness, dizziness, or a spinning sensation (vertigo). If you experience any of these symptoms while taking tetracycline, you should not drive or operate heavy machinery.
  • Never take outdated tetracycline. This can cause serious problems because outdated tetracycline can be toxic to the kidneys.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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