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What Is Nalidixic Acid?

By A. Gamm
Updated May 17, 2024
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Nalidixic acid is a prescription only antibiotic in the quinolone family and is primarily used for various urinary tract infections as it kills bacteria and prevents more from growing. It is believed to be ineffective for other infections or illnesses. Some side effects are associated with this antibiotic, but only a few, such as vision problems and seizures, require medical assistance. Nalidixic acid interactions affect both medicines and certain foods. It is recommended that a healthcare professional discusses the benefits and risks of taking this antibiotic before it is used.

The antibiotic quickly passes through the body and in the kidneys and liver, which typically means it enters the bladder in higher concentrations. This is partially why nalidixic acid is effective for urinary infections and so ineffective for other infections. It is rare for this medicine to be prescribed for other types of infections.

Side effects of nalidixic acid typically include abdominal pain, loss of appetite, headache, nausea, vomiting and occasionally diarrhea. More serious side effects that may require medical attention include problems with vision, insomnia, seizures and hallucinations. There is also a chance of allergic reaction, which is typically followed by rash, fever, swelling or difficulty breathing. It is possible for anaphylactic shock to occur, so it is highly recommended to seek medical help if an allergic reaction is suspected.

Certain drugs, such as those that contain calcium, aluminum or magnesium, are not recommended while using nalidixic acid unless noted otherwise by the prescribing healthcare professional. This is because it may interfere with proper drug absorption. The antibiotic may also create false positives during urinary glucose tests. It may also prolong the amount of time it takes for caffeine to be processed through the body.

Typically, nalidixic acid dose is dependent on the exact type of the urinary infection as well as the severity. Doses for adolescents and small children also depend on their height and weight. It is not recommended for infants under the age of three months. There are no specific dose changes for elderly people, but anyone with kidney or liver problems may require a smaller dose.

This antibiotic is labeled by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as category C for pregnant women. Category C means there is a chance that the drug may cause fetal abnormalities if taken at any stage of pregnancy. Nalidixic acid may also pass through breast milk, so it is recommended that nursing mothers first discuss the benefits and risks of taking the antibiotic before use.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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