The effectiveness of antibiotic treatment depends on a person taking it correctly. Missing several doses of an antibiotic can result in ineffective treatment and potentially contribute to antimicrobial resistance.

Antibiotics are essential medications that doctors prescribe to help prevent and treat bacterial infections.

This article explores what to do after missing a dose of antibiotics. It also looks at the potential risks involved, the importance of finishing a course of antibiotics, and strategies to help a person remember to take the medication.

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It is important that a person takes their antibiotics as a doctor prescribes. If they miss a dose, they should check the information leaflet that came with their medication.

If a person is unsure whether they can take their missed dose of antibiotics, they should speak with a pharmacist or doctor.

If a person forgets a single dose

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, a person may be able to take the missed dose of antibiotics as soon as they remember.

Some antibiotics may allow for a “grace period,” meaning a person can take the missed dose if it is not too close to the next scheduled dose.

Afterward, it is important for a person to continue to take the course of antibiotics as originally instructed.

If a person forgets a dose, but it is nearly time for the next one

If it is nearly time to take the next scheduled dose of antibiotics, a person should skip the missed dose. They should then continue taking the antibiotics as prescribed until all the medication is complete.

If a person forgets several doses

Missing several doses of antibiotics may negatively affect the effectiveness of the treatment. In these cases, a person should consult with a pharmacist or doctor.

Taking a double dose of antibiotics, also called “doubling up,” cannot compensate for missing multiple doses.

If a person takes a single extra dose of antibiotics, they are unlikely to experience serious complications. However, they will have an increased risk of experiencing side effects, such as:

Poison Control states that a person does not need treatment for an antibiotic overdose. Instead, a person will need to watch for side effects such as an upset stomach or diarrhea. In these cases, it is important to drink plenty of fluids to remain hydrated.

Medication labels include important information about the medication. People may also refer to them as patient package inserts, medication guides, and instructions for use.

Some antibiotics have a lengthy half-life, which means they remain in a person’s system for an extended duration. This allows for flexibility if a person misses a dose. However, some antibiotics require strict adherence to the dosing schedule.

Some facts a person might want to know about their antibiotic medication include:

  • the name of the antibiotic
  • its uses
  • how to take it
  • how often to take it
  • its ingredients
  • any warnings
  • the expiration date

Reviewing the medication labels or package inserts and seeking guidance from a healthcare professional can provide insight into the dosing requirements for the specific antibiotic.

Completing the full course of antibiotics is crucial for treating the underlying condition. Taking the full course means that the concentration of antibiotics in the bloodstream remains strong enough to treat the condition.

It is important for a person to take antibiotics for as long as a doctor prescribes, even if they begin to feel better before completing the course.

Not finishing a course of antibiotics can also contribute to antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial resistance happens when bacteria develop the ability to survive the drugs designed to eliminate them. Not completing courses of antibiotics or stopping them prematurely can lead to the survival of bacteria, potentially resulting in infections that are resistant to antibiotics.

This not only poses a significant public health threat, as resistant bacteria are harder to treat and can spread to others, but may also mean the bacteria require a different, more potent antibiotic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2.8 million antimicrobial-resistant infections occur each year.

To avoid missing doses of antibiotics, a person can consider the following strategies from 2013 research:

  • Set alarms or reminders: Using sticky notes, a phone, watch, or device to set alarms or reminders for a dosing schedule can be especially helpful if a person has multiple medications to take.
  • Medication organizers: Using an organizer that separates medications by day and time can help a person visualize their dosing schedule and track their adherence.
  • Link medication to daily routines: Associating taking antibiotics with a specific daily habit, such as brushing teeth or having a meal, can make it easier to remember.
  • Educate: Individuals should understand why they are taking antibiotics, the potential complications of missed doses, and the importance of completing the course.
  • Involve a support system: A person could inform a family member or friend about a medication schedule and ask them for reminders.
  • Make it visible: Keeping antibiotics in a visible location may be helpful. However, a person should ensure that children or pets cannot access the medication.

If a person misses a dose of antibiotics, they should check the leaflet that came with the medication. This leaflet may provide guidance on when it is safe to take the missed dose of antibiotics.

In most cases, a person will be able to take the missed dose once they remember and continue to take the rest of the course as prescribed. However, they should skip the missed dose if it is nearly time for the next antibiotic dose.

If a person is unsure about whether taking the missed dose of antibiotics is safe, they should speak with a pharmacist or doctor.

Adhering to the antibiotic schedule is important to ensure that the antibiotics treat the underlying condition. A person may find it beneficial to set alarms or use medication organizers to help them remember to take their medication.