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What is Cephalosporin?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Cephalosporin is an antibiotic medication commonly prescribed to treat several different types of infections. It is also an effective prophylaxis, a drug given to hospitalized patients before surgery to prevent bacterial infections. The medication works by breaking down bacterial cell walls and destroying internal structures. Most people who take cephalosporin as directed by their doctors experience full recoveries in one to four weeks, depending on the nature and severity of their infections.

Doctors classify cephalosporin as a beta-lactum, the same category as penicillin and several other antibiotics. Chemically, the drug is comprised of a beta-lactum ring that disrupts the development of new bacterial cell walls. When protective walls cannot be built, the bacteria are unable to thrive and replicate.

Cephalosporin is often the first choice for treating acute and chronic respiratory disorders, including pneumonia and bronchitis. It is also often prescribed for ear infections, gastrointestinal tract infections, sinusitis, and skin lesions that are caused by streptococci or staphylococci. When used as a prophylaxis before surgery, the medication prevents bacteria from entering surgical scars and infecting tissue.

A doctor may prescribe cephalosporin in the form of a dissolving oral tablet, gel capsule, or liquid solution. In the hospital, the drug is often given intravenously or injected directly into infected skin or muscle tissue. Dosage amounts for oral prescriptions depend on many different factors, including the specific type of infection and the patient's age and health. Most adults are instructed to take between 200 and 500 milligram doses two to three times a day for about two weeks. It is important to follow a doctor's recommendations exactly to ensure the maximum effects.

The risk of side effects is generally low, and reactions are usually mild when present at all. The most common cephalosporin side effects include stomach upset, abdominal cramps, nausea, and low-grade fever. Some patients experience chest pains, fatigue, diarrhea, and dehydration. It is possible to have a potentially serious allergic reaction when taking the drug that causes hives and airway constriction. Patients who have experienced allergic responses to penicillin are at the highest risk of cephalosporin sensitivity since the drugs have very similar chemical arrangements.

Patients generally experience symptom relief within a few days of taking cephalosporin. By getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, and maintaining regular dosages, an individual can expect to be symptom-free in less than one month. Infections that persist or worsen despite taking antibiotics need to be re-addressed by the doctor so other treatment remedies can be considered.

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