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Your guide to doxycycline hyclate

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Here’s what you need to know about this antibiotic’s many uses, benefits and, yes, side effects.
Written by Hallie Levine
Updated on December 2, 2022

If you’ve ever had a skin or lung infection, your doctor might have given you doxycycline hyclate. It’s in a class of medications known as tetracycline antibiotics. They’re used to cure bacterial infections in many parts of the body.

Here’s more on what you need to know about this medicine.

What is doxycycline hyclate used for?

Doxycycline hyclate (Targadox®, Doryx, Doryx® MPC, Acticlate) can manage many kinds of infections. But it’s mainly for skin and respiratory infections. “It tends to be very well tolerated. That makes it easy to prescribe and take,” says Hannah Goldberg, MD. She’s an emergency medicine and internal medicine physician at Mercy Medical Center outside of Baltimore.

It is also one of the few antibiotics that is still effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). “I’ll often use it as the first-line treatment for a patient who has a skin abscess that I think might be due to a MRSA infection,” she explains.

The medicine can be used for other conditions, too, such as:

  • Some sexually transmitted diseases
  • Management or prevention of anthrax
  • Prevention of malaria
  • Killing bacteria that cause acne
  • Reducing inflammation that causes rosacea
  • Management of Lyme disease (your doctor may also give you a single dose as a preventive measure after a high-risk tick bite)

(If you’re given a prescription for doxycycline hyclate, show your pharmacist this free prescription discount card. It could save you up to 80% on your medications.)

How do I know if I should stay away from this treatment?

Be sure to let your doctor know about any of the following:

  • You are allergic to minocycline, demeclocycline or tetracycline. These are in the same family of medications as doxycycline.
  • You take any other medications, including over the counter (OTC). Doxycycline may interact with other medications.
  • You have or have ever had lupus.
  • You have or have ever had a yeast infection, stomach surgery, asthma, kidney disease or liver disease.
  • You are on hormonal birth control such as the pill, patch, ring or injections.
  • You are pregnant, plan to become pregnant or are breastfeeding.

Doxycycline isn’t usually given to children under the age of 8. It can cause permanent stains on teeth and problems with bone growth.

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If it’s safe for me, how do I take this medication?

Check with your doctor, but it’s usually recommended that you take doxycycline once or twice a day. It’s taken as a capsule, tablet or liquid. You should drink a full glass of water with each dose. If it upsets your stomach, take it with food or milk.

Some OTC ingredients can make doxycycline less effective.

  • If you take antacids, calcium supplements or laxatives that contain magnesium: Wait 1 to 2 hours before taking doxycycline.
  • If you take a multivitamin that contains iron: Wait 3 hours before taking doxycycline. Or wait 2 hours before you take the multivitamin.

If you’re taking doxycycline to prevent malaria, start it 1 to 2 days before travel. Continue taking it up to 4 weeks after you leave the affected area.

What side effects can I expect?

Most people respond well to this medication. But several possible side effects do exist. The most common include:

  • Gastrointestinal (GI) upset such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Increased skin sensitivity to sunlight
  • Headache

Other more serious — but less common — side effects include:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Swelling of the eyes, lips, tongue, throat or face
  • Hives
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Blurred vision, seeing double or loss of vision
  • Skin redness, peeling or blistering

If you notice any of the above symptoms, call your doctor right away. You may need to stop taking doxycycline.

(Remember, you can save up to 80% on all prescription medications — including prescriptions for doxycycline hyclate — with the Optum Perks discount app.)

Additional sources:
Questions and answers for consumers on doxycycline: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
How to use doxycycline: Medline Plus
Lyme disease antibiotic treatment research: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases