Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

A/T/S topical

Ethyl Alcohol/Selected Cephalosporins

This information is generalized and not intended as specific medical advice. Consult your healthcare professional before taking or discontinuing any drug or commencing any course of treatment.

Medical warning:

Serious. These medicines may interact and cause very harmful effects. Contact your healthcare professional (e.g. doctor or pharmacist) for more information.

How the interaction occurs:

The structure of some cephalosporins resemble disulfiram, a medicine used to make alcoholics intolerant to alcohol. Your body may not be able to properly break down alcohol. Many medicines (prescription and nonprescription), mouthwashes, and aftershaves contain alcohol. Even a small amount of alcohol (e.g. 15 ml or one tablespoon) can trigger the effects.

What might happen:

Ingesting alcohol during or for a few days after taking your antibiotic may result in throbbing in the head and neck, irregular heart beat, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, sweating, nausea, and vomiting. This reaction may last from 30 to 60 minutes to several hours, depending on the amount of alcohol consumed.

What you should do about this interaction:

If possible, avoid the use of medicines that contain alcohol when using your antibiotic and for several days after finishing it. Use of topical products such as creams or lotions that contain alcohol may also cause this reaction. The amount of alcohol required to cause this interaction varies with individuals.If you are using your antibiotic with a product that contains alcohol or if you notice signs or symptoms of this interaction, contact your healthcare professional (e.g. doctor or pharmacist). Your doctor may want to make changes to your medicines.Your healthcare professionals may already be aware of this interaction and may be monitoring you for it. Do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any medicine before checking with them first.


1.Elenbaas RM, Ryan JL, Robinson WA, Singsank MJ, Harvey MJ, Klaassen CD. On the disulfiram-like activity of moxalactam. Clin Pharmacol Ther 1982 Sep; 32(3):347-55.
2.Portier H, Chalopin JM, Freysz M, Tanter Y. Interaction between cephalosporins and alcohol. Lancet 1980 Aug 2;2(8188):263.
3.Drummer S, Hauser WE Jr, Remington JS. Antabuse-like effect of beta-lactam antibiotics. N Engl J Med 1980 Dec 11;303(24):1417-8.
4.Rotoli B, De Rosa G, Selleri C, Luciano L. Alcohol and cephamandole. Haematologica 1985 Jul-Aug;70(4):372-3.
5.Foster TS, Raehl CL, Wilson HD. Disulfiram-like reaction associated with a parenteral cephalosporin. Am J Hosp Pharm 1980 Jun;37(6):858-9.
6.Reeves DS, Davies AJ. Antabuse effect with cephalosporins. Lancet 1980 Sep 6;2(8193):540.
7.McMahon FG. Disulfiram-like reaction to a cephalosporin. JAMA 1980 Jun 20; 243(23):2397.
8.Norrby SR. Adverse reactions and interactions with newer cephalosporin and cephamycin antibiotics. Med Toxicol 1986 Jan-Feb;1(1):32-46.
9.Neu HC, Prince AS. Interaction between moxalactam and alcohol. Lancet 1980 Jun 28;1(8183):1422.
10.Brown KR, Guglielmo BJ, Pons VG, Jacobs RA. Theophylline elixir, moxalactam, and a disulfiram reaction. Ann Intern Med 1982 Oct; 97(4):621-2.
11.Umeda S, Arai T. Disulfiram-like reaction to moxalactam after celiac plexus alcohol block. Anesth Analg 1985 Mar;64(3):377.
12.Fromtling RA, Gadebusch HH. Ethanol-cephalosporin antibiotic interactions: an animal model for the detection of disulfiram (Antabuse)-like effects. Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol 1983 Nov; 5(9):595-600.
13.McMahon FG, Noveck RJ. Lack of disulfiram--like reactions with ceftizoxime. J Antimicrob Chemother 1982 Nov;10 Suppl C:129-33.
14.Buening MK, Wold JS. Ethanol-moxalactam interactions in vivo. Rev Infect Dis 1982 Nov-Dec;4 Suppl:S555-63.
15.Buening MK, Wold JS, Israel KS, Krammer RB. Disulfiram-like reaction to beta-lactams. JAMA 1981 May 22-29;245(20):2027.
16.Marcon G, Spolaor A, Scevola M, Zolli M, Carlassara GB. Disulfiram-like effect of cefonicid: first observation. Recenti Prog Med 1990 Jan; 81(1):47-8.

See 1 Reviews for this Drug. - OR -

Review this Treatment

Find a Drug:

by name or medical condition or shape/color (Pill Identifier)

(for example: aspirin)

(for example: diabetes)

Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Ask the pharmacist

Questions about medications? Get expert answers by video or live chat about allergies, pregnancy, sleep, and more.
See the Ask the Pharmacist event schedule.

Ask a Question

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Can you catch one?
Woman sitting in front of UV lights
Is yours working?
woman using breath spray
What's causing yours?
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
bowl of yogurt with heart shape
Eat for a healthy heart.
woman doing pushups
To help you get fit.
Colored x-ray of tooth decay
Know what to look for.
Woman sitting with child
Do you know the symptoms?
Stings, bites, burns, and more.
Allentown, PA
Are you living in one?
Thyroid exam
See how much you know.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.

WebMD the app

Get trusted health information. Whenever. Wherever... with your iPhone, iPad or Android.

Find Out More

IMPORTANT: About This Section and Other User-Generated Content on WebMD

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, reviews, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. User-generated content areas are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatment or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD User-generated content as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.