In this part of the world, it is very common for people to pop Flagyl (metronidazole) or tetracycline (red and yellow capsule) pills each time they experience frequency and urgency in passing loose or watery stools.
Many swear by them and have either of them handy to avoid being caught unprepared for a stomach disaster.
In this article, you would be learning more about Flagyl and tetracycline, and what you should do when you have diarrhoea.
What is diarrhoea?
A person is said to have diarrhoea when bowel movements are frequent, with the urgent need to pass loose and watery stools.
Common causes are:
- Eating foods that upset the digestive system
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Allergies to certain foods
- Bacterial or viral infections, which leads to the common food poisoning
- Side effects of some medications
There are other causes of diarrhoea, but the above are the most common. Usually, diarrhoea is not serious because many cases of diarrhoea resolve without intervention.
Flagyl and Tetracycline
These drugs are common medications that you find in wallets, bags, and homes of people that say they have sensitive stomachs. Flagyl is a brand name for “metronidazole”, which is an antibiotic.
Tetracycline is also an antibiotic that works by stopping the growth of a variety of bacteria. Many people do not know it is an antibiotic because of how it has been abused as a treatment for diarrhoea.
From one of the causes above, diarrhoea can be a result of a gastrointestinal infection (treated with antibiotics), which is only one possible cause of diarrhoea.
But should antibiotics like tetracycline and Flagyl be the first medications that come to mind when you have diarrhoea?
Read on to find out.
Why you shouldn’t consider Flagyl and tetracycline as first line of treatment for diarrhoea
Because Flagyl and tetracycline are antibiotics, making them your go-to pills for diarrhoea puts you at a risk of developing antibiotic resistance. To explain that, it was earlier stated that Flagyl (metronidazole) and tetracycline are treatments for other infections.
People that use Flagyl and tetracycline for diarrhoea only take one dose and leave it until the next time they have stomach upset. This is a wrong use of antibiotics because antibiotics should be used as a course (more than one dose) of treatment, not one-off.
More importantly, the use of antibiotics without medical advice is considered drug misuse. As much as possible, avoid the use of antibiotics, except really needed and prescribed by a doctor. This is because antibiotics kill good bacteria along with bad bacteria and make you susceptible to other infections.
Imagine this scenario, Mr A has diarrhoea, and because he always has these medications handy, he quickly swallows one tablet of Flagyl and one red and yellow capsule. After some minutes, he feels better and moves on. Two weeks later, he goes to a party and eats every food in sight. Later that night, his stomach starts to rumble, and he feels discomfort. He pops another tablet of Flagyl and another capsule of tetracycline, and he’s fine.
He is used to this cycle because it works for him. Not only that, he has put his friends on to it, and they are happy. He and his friends do not know that they are misusing Flagyl and tetracycline, and developing antibiotic resistance.
If they later have an infection, and the doctor prescribes Flagyl, first, they see it as a common drug because they use it regularly. Secondly, the infection would have developed resistance to Flagyl or tetracycline, and they would need to use stronger and more expensive antibiotics.
In addition, for antibiotics in general, after a few days of treatment, most people start to feel better. But that doesn’t mean the infection is entirely gone. Take all the medication that was prescribed to ensure that the infection is completely gone.
What to do when you have diarrhoea
Diarrhoea would usually go on its own without any treatment, and should only be a cause for worry if it lasts for more than two days and is accompanied by blood in the stool, fever and severe body weakness. You should seek medical help if you experience any of these.
However, you might not experience any of the above, but the visits to the bathroom are frequent and disturbing your normal activities. With each bathroom trip, you’re also losing water and electrolytes from your body, which can lead to dehydration and body weakness.
Here is what you should do:
1. Visit your local pharmacy for diarrhoea medications, not Flagyl or tetracycline. Two types of medications relieve diarrhoea:
- Loperamide (popularly known as Imodium): Imodium works by slowing down the movement of food through your digestive tract, which in turn leads to firmer and less frequent stools.
- Bismuth Subsalicylate (popularly known as Pepto-Bismol): This works by balancing out how fluid moves through your digestive tract, and reduces the diarrhoea. It is also used to treat digestive problems like heartburn, indigestion, gas, etc. Also, Pepto-Bismol should not be used in children less than 12.
Your pharmacist will tell you how to use either of them, and you should expect them to start working between 20 minutes to an hour. Don’t take more than recommended, as it won’t make the drug work better or faster. Loperamide and Pepto-Bismol should also not be used together.
2. Take lots of water to rehydrate.
3. Take oral rehydration salts (ORS) to replace the electrolytes that have been lost.
4. Watch what you eat, and get to know foods that upset your stomach or foods you’re allergic to.
How to prevent diarrhoea
In addition to watching what you eat and avoiding foods you know can upset your stomach, diarrhoea can be prevented by:
- Practising good hygiene. Washing your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, before and while cooking, and before eating is a good way to prevent you and people around you from getting diarrhoea from infections.
- Storing and cooking food properly: When food items are well covered, foods are cooked properly, and you avoid foods that have gone bad, you can reduce your chances of having an upset stomach.
Flagyl and tetracycline are antibiotics, and not first line of treatment for diarrhoea. With this knowledge, you can educate friends and family that misuse these medications around you. In addition, diarrhoea should be allowed to run its course sometimes. Just make sure you’re taking a lot of fluids.