What is Amoxicillin? - Uses & Side Effects

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

This lesson explains amoxicillin. We will look at the various infections and uses related to amoxicillin along with the common and serious side effects seen with amoxicillin use.

Amoxicillin: A Definition

Do you remember that pink medicine that you had to take when you were little? Not the one you took when you had a stomach ache, but the one when you had an ear infection or bronchitis. You may remember because it was the only medicine that tasted really sweet -- almost like bubble gum! It was probably the only medicine that your parents didn't have to fight with you to take.

Well that medicine that you were so fond of is amoxicillin. If you look closely at the name, it might remind you of one you're more familiar with -- penicillin. That's because amoxicillin is a penicillin.

The sweet, pink liquid medicine is amoxicillin
Picture of medicine dropper with pink medicine

Amoxicillin Uses

Like all other penicillins, amoxicillin is an antibiotic. Antibiotics are medicines that kill bacteria that infect the body. Not all bacteria are the same, and so not all antibiotics are the same. Antibiotics are prescribed by physicians based on the type of infection and bacteria causing the infection.

Amoxicillin is used to treat ear infections and bronchitis. It can also be used to treat other infections of the respiratory tract such as pneumonia, tonsillitis, and pharyngitis. Amoxicillin is useful as well to treat infections that occur in the urinary tract, like bladder and kidney infections. Staph skin infections and H. pylori stomach infections may also be treated with a course of amoxicillin antibiotics.

Amoxicillin Side Effects

Though you might enjoy the great taste of amoxicillin, there are some side effects, or undesirable effects, that can occur when taking it. The most common side effects that you may experience when taking amoxicillin are digestive system issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Your tongue may possibly turn dark, become swollen or feel like hair is growing on it due to the development of a fungal infection. Headaches are another common complaint when taking amoxicillin. Females may have the added side effects of vaginal discharge and itching.

Stomach ache is a common side effect of amoxicillin
Picture of guy with stomach pain

There are also some less commonly seen, but more serious side effects of amoxicillin. They include jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin and eyes; nerve, joint or muscle pain; watery or bloody diarrhea; unusual bleeding from the mouth, nose, or anus; and swollen glands. Some people may have the unfortunate experience of having an allergic reaction to amoxicillin. When this occurs they may notice swelling in the face, breathing problems, swelling in the throat and hives.

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