What are the Different Tetracycline Side Effects?

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  • Written By: Lindsey Rivas
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2019
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There are several tetracycline side effects that one should be aware of if taking this medication. Tetracycline is an antibiotic prescribed for bacterial infections such as pneumonia, acne, urinary tract infections, and certain sexually transmitted diseases. For women who are pregnant, the side effects are damaging to the fetus after the fourth month of pregnancy because it hinders bone development. In general, there are a few non-serious side effects, including nausea, various types of sores, and changes to skin coloring. More serious tetracycline side effects can be flu-like symptoms, dizziness, severe pain, and allergic reactions.

A pregnant woman should be aware of tetracycline side effects that affect the fetus, and she should discuss different medication options with her doctor. In the first trimester, there is a slight increase for minor birth defects in the fetus when the mother is taking tetracycline. During the second and third trimesters, the medication can negatively affect the growth of the baby’s developing bones and cause discoloration of the baby’s teeth. Approximately five days after the mother stops taking tetracycline, the baby is no longer affected by the medication and the bone growth returns to normal, but the teeth discoloration may remain. There is little risk to an infant from tetracycline in breast milk, however.


Most of the time, tetracycline side effects are not serious, and they might include symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. One might also experience sores, swelling, or itching of the genital area. Other side effects are changes to skin coloring where the skin might turn red or yellowish, and white spots might appear in the mouth or on the lips.

In some cases, tetracycline side effects can be severe and require medical attention. Some of them include flu-like symptoms, headache, extreme weakness and lethargy, and stiffness or swelling of the joins. Further serious side effects can be blurry vision, dizziness, and confusion. Additionally, one might have a skin rash with blisters and peeling, jaundice of the skin or eyes, loss of appetite, or less frequent or discolored urination from taking tetracycline. Also, pain in the stomach that spreads to the back, pain or sores in the mouth and throat, and bruising or bleeding easily can be tetracycline side effects as well.

Some people might experience an allergic reaction to tetracycline. The main symptoms in this situation include hives on the skin, trouble breathing, and swelling of the face, tongue, or throat. If one has an allergic reaction, he should seek immediate medical help.


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Post 3

The only side effects of tetracycline I experienced were upset stomach and diarrhea. I realized after the first couple of days of treatment that I need to take the medication on a full stomach or it causes acidity and nausea. It wasn't very pleasant, but compared to some of the other possible side effects of tetracycline, it wasn't too bad either.

Post 2

@donamrs-- I'm not a doctor but I think that tetracycline can stay in the system for a while, depending on the dose. So it was probably still in your body to some degree while the fetus was developing.

Does your child also have stained teeth? I heard that tetracycline can cause discoloration of teeth in the fetus and it won't show up until the baby starts teething.

It's all very scary and this is why antibiotics like tetracycline have to be avoided if there is a chance of pregnancy. I'm not saying it's your fault though. You couldn't have know. Doctors probably need to be more reluctant in prescribing this to young women.

Post 1

I was only a few months pregnant when I realized it and I was taking tetracycline at the time. My child still had a bone deformity when he was born. How is this possible?

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