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Key facts

  • Doxycycline is an antibiotic medicine that belongs to a class of antibiotics known as tetracyclines.
  • Doxycycline used to treat respiratory (lung) and skin infections, and to prevent malaria.
  • It is important to always finish the course of doxycycline as prescribed by your doctor, even if you feel better, to prevent recurrence of your infection and antibiotic resistance.
  • Common side effects of doxycycline include diarrhoea, itch and skin sensitivity.
  • Doxycycline makes your skin more sensitive, so it’s extra important to protect your skin from the sun, if you are taking it.

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

What is doxycycline?

Doxycycline is an antibiotic medicine that belongs to a class of antibiotics known as tetracyclines.

What is doxycycline used for?

Doxycycline is an antibiotic used to treat and prevent certain infections.

Your doctor may prescribe doxycycline to:

Your doctor may have prescribed doxycycline for another reason. If you are unsure why you are taking doxycycline, ask your doctor.

It is important to always finish the course of doxycycline as prescribed by your doctor, even if you feel better. This will ensure your infection is treated completely and prevents complications such as antibiotic resistance (when the bacteria no longer respond to the antibiotic, and the antibiotic becomes less effective).

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How does doxycycline work?

Doxycycline works by stopping bacteria from multiplying. In acne, it reduces the number of bacteria on the skin’s surface, and it has an anti-inflammatory action.

Doxycycline also works against parasites that cause malaria.

What forms of doxycycline are available?

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

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

No matter which brand you are prescribed, doxycycline works in the same way to fight the infection.

In Australia, you can only buy doxycycline with a doctor’s prescription.

What are the possible side effects of doxycycline?

All medicines have benefits, and they also have the risk of side effects.

The more common side effects of doxycycline include:

  • diarrhoea or vomiting
  • oral or vaginal thrush
  • rash or itching
  • changes to the appearance of your nails
  • mild irritation of the oesophagus (food pipe)
  • loss of sense of taste
  • ringing or other persistent noise in the ears

Serious side effects are rare but may need urgent medical attention. They include:

  • increased pressure in the brain (headache, blurred vision, vomiting)
  • severe blisters and bleeding in the lips, eyes, mouth, nose and genitals
  • severe skin reactions
  • difficulty or pain in swallowing
  • dizziness
  • fast heart rate

Although it is rare, some people can have an allergic reaction to doxycycline. The reaction can include hives (raised, red and itchy rash), breathing problems and swollen lips, tongue or face. If you’ve ever had allergies to any antibiotics in the past, especially in the tetracycline class, be sure to tell your doctor.

If you’ve taken doxycycline and are having difficulty breathing call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

This is not a full list of side effects. For more information about the side effects of doxycycline, read Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) for the brand of doxycycline prescribed, or speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

What should I be careful of when taking doxycycline?

Doxycycline can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, increasing your risk of sunburn. If you are taking doxycycline, it’s especially important to make sure you protect exposed skin with at least SPF30+ sunscreen, clothing and a hat.

Doxycycline can stain teeth and affect how teeth enamel forms, so it should not be taken by children under the age of 8 years, or if you are more than 16 weeks pregnant (when the baby’s teeth are developing).

Doxycycline can also reduce the effectiveness of some oral contraceptive pills. If you are taking oral contraceptive pills, ask your doctor if you need to use another form of contraception while you take doxycycline.

How do I take doxycycline?

You should take doxycycline with food or immediately after eating to minimise the chance of side effects.

You should also try to remain upright (by sitting up or standing) for at least 30 minutes after taking the medicine. This reduces your chance of developing irritation of the oesophagus (oesophagitis).

When should I speak to my doctor?

Speak to your doctor if you:

  • have side effects that trouble you
  • have signs of an allergic reaction
  • have a health condition or are taking medicine that may affect how your body reacts to doxycycline
  • 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 doxycycline. You can also discuss your concerns with your pharmacist.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Are there any alternatives to doxycycline?

If you can’t take doxycycline, there are other antibiotics that you can take instead. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Resources and support

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

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

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

Last reviewed: April 2023

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