Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content


5-minute read

LOOKING FOR A MEDICINE? — See this list of medicines that contain cefalexin to find out more about a specific medication.

What is cefalexin used for?

Cefalexin is an antibiotic that can kill certain types of bacteria that cause infections. To get cefalexin, you must have a prescription written for you by a doctor.

Cefalexin is used to treat bacterial infections in various parts of the body. This includes infections of your airways (chest and lungs), throat, sinuses, ears, skin and soft tissue, kidneys and bladder.

How does cefalexin work?

Cefalexin works by killing different bacteria that cause an infection. Always finish the full course of cefalexin as prescribed by your doctor to get rid of the infection. If you don’t, you risk the infection returning.

What forms of cefalexin are available?

Cefalexin is the name of the active ingredient. It is available in many different brands, which have different:

  • names
  • appearances (size, shape or colour)
  • forms (capsules and suspension)
  • packaging

No matter which brand you are prescribed, cefalexin works in the same way to treat your infection.

What should I do if I cannot get my cefalexin?

Currently, there is a shortage of some antibiotics in Australia, such as amoxicillin, cefalexin and metronidazole.

If you cannot get the medication that you need, speak to your pharmacist or doctor. They can advise on alternatives. For more information, visit Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

What are the possible side effects of cefalexin?

Cefalexin helps to treat most infections, although some strains of bacteria are resistant to it. Side effects are usually rare.

The more common side effects include:

Serious side effects are very rare. See your doctor immediately or go to the emergency department of your nearest hospital if you experience sudden signs of allergy such as:

  • rash, itching or hives on your skin
  • swelling of the face, lips, tongue or other part of the body
  • difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or wheezing

You should also tell your doctor immediately if you develop severe stomach pain or severe watery or bloody diarrhoea along with a fever, especially if this happens several weeks after stopping cefalexin treatment.

This is not a full list of side effects. For more information about the risks of side effects, read the Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) on cefalexin or speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Note that cefalexin is similar in some ways to penicillin. Don’t take cefalexin if you’ve had a serious allergic reaction to penicillin.

When should I see my doctor?

Speak to your doctor if you:

  • experience side effects that trouble you
  • have signs of an allergic reaction
  • have a health condition or are taking medication that may affect how your body reacts to cefalexin
  • become pregnant or start breastfeeding

See the CMI for full details about when to speak with your doctor before or after you have started taking cefalexin.

Are there alternatives to cefalexin?

If you can’t take cefalexin, there are other antibiotics that you can use. 

Resources and support

Asking about your treatment or medicine is important to help you understand your options. Read our guide on important questions to ask your pharmacist or doctor before taking a medicine.

You can also visit healthdirect's list of medicines that contain cefalexin to read the CMI for the brand of cefalexin you have been prescribed.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2020

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Antibiotics -

Antibiotics attack bacteria - germs responsible for certain infections. Each antibiotic attacks different types of bacteria and will be useful for treating particular infections.

Read more on myDr website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Impetigo

A-Z OF SKIN Impetigo BACK TO A-Z SEARCH What is it? Also known as…School Sores What is Impetigo? Impetigo is an infection of the skin that can be passed from person to person

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Breastfeeding – mastitis and other nipple and breast problems - Better Health Channel

Mastitis affects some breastfeeding women and may be caused by blocked milk ducts or a bacterial infection.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.