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Doxycycline is an antibiotic used to treat infections and prevent malaria. This page explains what doxycycline is used for, how it works, its risks and whether there are any other treatment options available in its place.

Looking for a medicine?

Visit healthdirect’s list of medicines that contain doxycycline to find out more about a specific medicine.

What is doxycycline used for?

Doxycycline treats infections. Your doctor may prescribe doxycycline to:

To get doxycycline, you have to have a prescription written for you by a doctor. Your doctor may have prescribed doxycycline for another reason. If you are unsure about why you are taking doxycycline, ask your doctor.

How does doxycycline work?

Doxycycline works by stopping bacteria from multiplying. In acne it kills off the bacteria that cause the infection or worsen the acne. 

Doxycycline also works against malaria-causing parasites.

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.

Risks and benefits of doxycycline

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

Doxycycline has some common side-effects.

Some people get stomach ache, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting or indigestion. So take doxycycline during or after a meal with a full glass of milk or water. 

Doxycycline can also make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, increasing your risk of sunburn and causing pain. So 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 given to children under the age of 8 or women who are more than 16 weeks pregnant (when the baby’s teeth are developing). 

Although it is rarer, 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, be sure to tell your doctor. And if you’ve taken doxycycline and are having any difficulties breathing, have someone get you to a hospital emergency department immediately or call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

For more information about the risks and side effects of doxycycline, read the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) for the brand of doxycycline prescribed, or speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

More information

Asking about your treatment or medication 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: December 2018

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