Medical News Today: What is the difference between Augmentin and amoxicillin?

Augmentin and amoxicillin are two types of antibiotics. Antibiotics help treat bacterial infections that may be too strong for the body’s immune system to clear.

The two drugs are very similar. Amoxicillin is a very common type of antibiotic, and Augmentin contains amoxicillin and clavulanate or clavulanic acid, which may make it more effective against some types of infection.

In this article, learn about the difference between the two antibiotics and the potential side effects of each.

Augmentin vs. amoxicillin

pharmacist holding packets of medicine
Doctors commonly prescribe Augmentin or amoxicillin for bacterial infections.

Augmentin and amoxicillin are both in the penicillin drug class, which is a group of common antibiotics.

Augmentin contains amoxicillin, as the primary ingredient, and it also contains clavulanate. Clavulanate can help treat infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The two antibiotic drugs are generally the first line of defense against troublesome bacterial infections.

It is important to note that these types of drugs do not work on viral infections, such as the common cold or flu. Taking antibiotics unnecessarily may make them less effective over time and lead to antibiotic resistance.


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Uses

Doctors use amoxicillin and Augmentin to fight off bacterial infections. Learn more about their uses below:

Amoxicillin

Many people are familiar with amoxicillin. It is a conventional drug that doctors prescribe to treat bacterial infections in children and adults.

Children may be more likely to receive prescriptions for amoxicillin, as it is effective against several childhood infections, and it tends not to cause many troubling side effects.

Amoxicillin combats a wide range of bacteria, including gram-positive and gram-negative strains.

Doctors may recommend amoxicillin for infections such as:

Augmentin

Augmentin is a combination drug. It is a mixture of amoxicillin and clavulanate or clavulanic acid.

Clavulanate is a beta-lactamase blocker. It stops the enzymes that infectious bacteria produce to make themselves more resistant to antibiotics.

Because it contains clavulanate, Augmentin can treat some strains of bacteria that may be resistant to traditional antibiotics. As a result, the drug may be more effective for a wider range of bacteria.

Doctors may prescribe Augmentin to treat the same infections as amoxicillin. They may also prescribe it to treat infections that could be more drug-resistant, including:

  • sinus infections
  • stubborn or chronic ear infections
  • laryngitis
  • pharyngitis
  • severe skin infections, such as abscesses or erysipelas
  • bacterial infections related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Doctors may also prescribe Augmentin for people who have recurring infections, such as UTIs or strep throat.


Side effects

Amoxicillin and Augmentin share some side effects, while others are specific to Augmentin.

Side effects of both drugs

man standing at desk holding stomach in pain
Both medications may cause abdominal pain and diarrhea.

As both drugs contain amoxicillin, they have some common side effects, such as:

  • heartburn
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea that lasts longer than 1 day
  • easy bruising
  • bloody diarrhea
  • rashes

Augmentin and amoxicillin may also alter the healthy growth of bacteria in the intestines. This may lead to a temporary imbalance in the intestinal flora.

People who frequently use antibiotics may have a higher risk of these issues, because their gut bacteria may have less time to recover.

According to the authors of a 2015 review, consuming probiotic foods after a round of antibiotics could help reestablish balance in the gut bacteria.

As a review in the Canadian Medical Association Journal notes, Augmentin and amoxicillin may also increase the risk of yeast infections in some people. These are fungal infections that need antifungal treatment.

In very rare cases, some people may also experience seizures or low blood or platelet levels after taking these antibiotics.

It is also possible to be allergic to these medications. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology notes that 5–10 percent of drug reactions result from allergies.

A severe allergic reaction can lead to a dangerous complication called anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • swelling of the face, mouth, or throat
  • wheezing
  • vomiting
  • difficulty breathing
  • lightheadedness
  • shock

Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek emergency medical care.

Side effects of Augmentin

Augmentin may cause additional side effects, including:

Also, Augmentin may lead to an overgrowth of bacteria called Clostridium difficile. This can cause severe diarrhea that requires treatment to prevent complications.

It is essential to report any severe side effect to a doctor.

The United States Food and Drug Administration note that, while Augmentin has a low risk of toxicity, people who take it for a longer period should be under close supervision, as there may be a chance of damage to the kidney or liver.


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What to ask a doctor

senior woman speaking to male doctor
It is important to tell a doctor about any previous allergic reactions to antibiotics.

Anyone with questions about their antibiotics should consult a doctor or pharmacist.

Before taking any antibiotic, it is important to ensure that the infection is bacterial. Augmentin and amoxicillin will have no effect on viral or fungal infections.

Anyone who has experienced an allergic reaction to an antibiotic, especially penicillin, should inform their doctor before taking another antibiotic.

It is also best to check the packaging for additional ingredients, such as flavorings or coatings. Some medications contain lactose or gelatin. Discuss any potential allergens with a doctor before using either medication.

Some drugs or supplements can change how effective an antibiotic is. Doctors may ask people to stop taking certain supplements or medications while on the antibiotics, if possible.

Anyone who has had kidney or liver disease should consult their doctor before taking these drugs.

Augmentin may also make birth control pills less effective. Sexually active people should use other forms of birth control while taking Augmentin to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

Anyone who becomes pregnant or learns that they are pregnant while taking Augmentin should speak to a doctor. Women who are breastfeeding may also need to avoid taking Augmentin.


Summary

Amoxicillin and Augmentin are similar drugs that may help clear a wide range of bacterial infections. A doctor may recommend Augmentin if an infection could be antibiotic-resistant or if amoxicillin alone does not work.

The drugs are generally well-tolerated, but there is still a chance of side effects. Anyone taking these drugs should follow their dosage instructions closely.

A doctor may need to order other tests, such as kidney or liver function tests, to monitor a person’s overall health.

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