How Fast Does Doxycycline Work?

Doxycycline is one of the most popular and widely-used drugs on the market today. It is used to treat a variety of conditions, and a big reason it’s so commonly used is that it works very quickly. Many patients wonder how long it takes for doxycycline to kick into action, so we’ve created a guide that explains everything you need to know about this medication. 

Table of Contents

What Is Doxycycline?

Doxycycline is an antibiotic that’s used to treat infections and prevent certain diseases – like malaria. It is classified as a tetracycline antibiotic and has been used by clinical professionals for over 50 years. As such, there is plenty of research revolving around this drug and its efficacy and side effects. It’s known as a drug that’s absorbed extremely well, which is partially attributed to its impressive efficacy in patients. Typically, it is administered in 100-mg doses, once or twice a day. 

You may also know doxycycline as Monodox. If you have only ever heard of the latter term, just know that it’s a brand name for doxycycline.  

It’s also important to note that this drug is only used to treat bacterial infections because of how it works. According to one study from 2002, it exhibits impressive bacteriostatic activity on many bacteria in the body. Effectively, this means that it stops bacteria from growing and can prevent bacterial infections from getting worse. Consequently, you won’t use this drug to treat viral infections, only ones caused by bacteria. 

How Long Does Doxycycline Take To Work?

The exact timescale can vary from patient to patient depending on their infection and how they react to the drug. 

Nevertheless, doxycycline is fully absorbed within moments of it being taken orally. While the absorption is instant, the impact isn’t. It will still take a couple of hours for the drug to reach maximum concentration in your body. Within this period, you should start to see improvements in your symptoms, particularly those associated with pain. 

After 48 hours, most patients see a significant reduction in the symptoms associated with their bacterial infection. 

What Could Affect How Fast Doxycycline Works?

A few factors can impact how quickly this drug gets to work. Primarily, your infection is the key factor. Some infections are easier to treat than others, meaning the drug works a lot faster. For instance, it’s extremely effective at working quickly to treat sore throats caused by bacterial infections. 

Aside from this, one of the main things that might slow down the efficacy of the drug is consuming certain supplements. Unlike many other bacterial antibiotics, research suggests doxycycline isn’t impacted or slowed down by food. It can be taken with meals, but it will be impacted by supplements or vitamins that contain the following: 

  • Magnesium
  • Aluminum
  • Calcium
  • Iron

Moreover, antacids and laxatives are both seen to interfere with this medication, making it less effective. If you are taking it while also taking any of the above supplements, then it is likely to have less of an effect and take much longer to work. 

As with a lot of medication, drinking alcohol while on this antibiotic could impact how fast it works. The good news is that it isn’t as disastrous – it is usually safe to drink alcohol in moderation on doxycycline. However, there have been reports and studies indicating that people with a history of heavy drinking may see a decrease in efficacy when taking this antibiotic. Therefore, it can take much longer to work and destroy the harmful bacteria in your system. 

What Else Should You Know About Doxycycline?

As an antibiotic, there is obviously a lot you need to know about this drug before taking it. It has a list of potential side effects, as well as interactions with other drugs. Here’s all the key information you need to know: 

Side Effects of Doxycycline

The most common side effects for healthy individuals not taking additional medication will include: 

  • Diarrhea and stomach pain – studies have shown a strong link between doxycycline and other bacterial antibiotics and issues with the gastrointestinal tract
  • An increased chance of developing thrush in women – this is because the drug directly targets bacteria, reducing it in the body. For women, this also reduces vaginal bacteria, creating an imbalance in favor of yeast, leading to a yeast infection
  • Skin becomes more sensitive to the sun – one of the most unique side effects of doxycycline is that it makes your skin more sensitive to sun exposure. There was once a study that looked at individuals taking this drug and measured their sun sensitivity after. It was observed that 9 in 10 subjects saw an increase in sun sensitivity while on doxycycline. 

Moreover, some other side effects could be: 

  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itching around the genital area in women
  • Sore throat
  • Dry mouth
  • Back pain
  • Tiredness

Doxycycline Drug Interactions

You must be aware of what drugs interact with doxycycline so you can take the right action to prevent problems. Here’s a list of what’s known to interact with it: 

  • Antacids
  • Penicillin
  • Contraceptive pills
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners)
  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Laxatives containing magnesium
  • Iron, calcium, and magnesium supplements

What Should You Avoid While Taking Doxycycline?

It’s wise to avoid too much sun exposure when taking this antibiotic. As mentioned above, photosensitivity is one of the side effects experienced by some patients. You can still go outside, just ensure that you protect your skin at all times – which you should be doing anyway. Perhaps increase the SPF that you usually use, and try to stick to shaded areas just to be safe. 

We’ve also mentioned a couple of times that certain supplements interfere with this medication. If you are currently taking iron supplements, calcium supplements, magnesium supplements, or any supplements containing aluminum, you need to take your doxycycline a couple of hours beforehand so it is absorbed correctly.  

Pregnant women should avoid breastfeeding while on this medicine as well. When it was first introduced, doctors thought it fine to prescribe doxycycline to breastfeeding mothers. However, as more evidence and research have come out, the scientific community concludes that it should only be given selectively because some of the medication can get into the breast milk and cause complications for the baby.

Lastly, try to avoid being overly active. Tiredness and fatigue are known side effects, so you need to take some time to rest and recover. 

How Can DrHouse Help You?

If you have any questions about this or any other medication, our online doctors are always here to help. At DrHouse, we pride ourselves on making things as easy and convenient as possible for our patients. With us, you can start on-demand virtual visits and see a doctor within 15 minutes. Our clinicians can also prescribe doxycycline and other antibiotics if they think it’s the best course of treatment for you. 

FAQs

How Do You Know When Doxycycline Is Working?

The most obvious way to know if doxycycline is working is by monitoring your symptoms. Have you seen a reduction in the symptoms associated with your infection? If so, the antibiotics are doing their job and fighting back against the bacteria. It’s also common to feel tired, or to experience some other minor side effects – this is just your body responding to the treatment. 

What Infections Will Doxycycline Clear Up?

Doxycycline will clear up a range of bacterial infections, but it will not work with any viral infections. Some common bacterial infections it treats include gonorrhea, chlamydia, UTIs, eye infections, throat infections, respiratory infections, and acne. 

Is Doxycycline a Powerful Antibiotic?

Yes, doxycycline is a powerful antibiotic that’s absorbed almost instantly and starts working within a couple of hours. It’s extremely effective at treating bacterial infections and can see a reduction in symptoms in as little as 48 hours. Most patients undergoing a course of doxycycline antibiotics see a full recovery from their infection. 

Does Doxycycline Get Worse Before It Gets Better?

If you take it for acne, you are likely to see your symptoms get slightly worse before they improve. 

However, if you take it for other bacterial infections, your symptoms are unlikely to get worse before they get better. Acne is the anomaly in this situation. 

How Long Does Doxycycline Stay In Your System?

Doxycycline can stay in your system for around 2-5 days. After this, it should be completely gone. 

Does Doxycycline Start Working Immediately?

Yes, it is absorbed immediately and can start working right away. Still, it will take a couple of hours before there’s enough of it in your system to see any effects. 

Key Takeaways

Doxycycline is a bacterial antibiotic that treats a wide variety of bacterial infections. It is absorbed extremely quickly, meaning it starts working within 2 hours after it has been administered – provided it’s taken orally. Most patients see improvements in their infection-related symptoms 48 hours after taking the first dose. 

Naturally, this antibiotic presents some common side effects, such as stomach pain, tiredness, photosensitivity, and an increased chance of thrush in women. If you notice these side effects and they don’t go away after the antibiotics have been used up, contact a doctor for advice. To ensure your doxycycline works as quickly as possible, you need to avoid taking certain medications that interact with it, along with supplements containing calcium, magnesium, or iron. 

Sources:

  • Gary P. Wormser, Ronald P. Wormser, Franc Strle, Ronnie Myers, Burke A. Cunha, How safe is doxycycline for young children or for pregnant or breastfeeding women?, Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Disease, Volume 93, Issue 3, 2019, Pages 238-242, ISSN 0732-8893, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.diagmicrobio.2018.09.015.
  • Blank H, Cullen SI, Catalano PM. Photosensitivity Studies With Demethylchlortetracycline and Doxycycline. Arch Dermatol. 1968;97(1):1–2. doi:10.1001/archderm.1968.01610070007001
  • Riond JL, Riviere JE. Pharmacology and toxicology of doxycycline. Veterinary and Human Toxicology. 1988 Oct;30(5):431-443. PMID: 3055652.
  • Cunha BA, Sibley CM, Ristuccia AM. Doxycycline. Therapeutic Drug Monitoring. 1982 ;4(2):115-135. DOI: 10.1097/00007691-198206000-00001. PMID: 7048645.
  • Bonnetblanc JM. [Doxycycline]. Annales de Dermatologie et de Venereologie. 2002 Jun-Jul;129(6-7):874-882. PMID: 12218915.
  • Holmes NE, Charles PGP. Safety and Efficacy Review of Doxycycline. Clinical Medicine Therapeutics. 2009;1. doi:10.4137/CMT.S2035

DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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