Kinds of Medicines 481
Sulfas (sulfonamides): sulfamethoxazole (part of cotrimoxazole), sulfisoxazole
These medicines fight many different kinds of infections and they are cheap and widely
available. But they are less effective now because some infections are resistant to them.
They cause more problems with allergic reactions than other medicines.They can be taken
during pregnancy, but it is better to take a different medicine just before you give birth and
during the first few weeks of the baby’s life. Stop using sulfonamides immediately if you
develop signs of allergy (see page 483).
Aminoglycosides: gentamicin, streptomycin, and others
These are effective and strong medicines, but most of them can cause serious side
effects and can only be given by injection.They should only be used when infection is severe
and no safer drug is available.
Cephalosporins: cefixime, ceftriaxone, cephalexin, and others
These are a large family of newer, powerful drugs that treat many women’s infections
that have become resistant to the older antibiotics.They are often safer and have fewer side
effects than the older antibiotics but can be quite expensive and hard to find.They are safe
to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Quinolones: ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin, and others
Ciprofloxacin and norfloxacin are newer, powerful antibiotics.They are expensive and
may be hard to find.They cannot be taken while pregnant and breastfeeding or by children
less than 16 years old.
Use antibiotics only when necessary
Many antibiotics, especially penicillin, are used too often. Use antibiotics only
when necessary because:
• while they kill some germs, antibiotics allow others—ones that are normally in
the body and usually harmless—to grow out of control. This can cause problems
like diarrhea and vaginal yeast infections.
• some antibiotics can cause serious side effects and allergic reactions.
• using antibiotics when they are not needed or for diseases they cannot cure has
made some harmful germs stronger and resistant to the medicine. This means
the medicine can no longer cure the disease.
For example: In the past it was easy to cure gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted
infection, with penicillin. But penicillin has been used incorrectly and too often for
many other, less serious problems.
Now there are new
kinds of gonorrhea
that resist penicillin
and other antibiotics.
These new kinds are
harder and more
expensive to cure.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012