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Cleocin (clindamycin) is a potent antibiotic used to treat severe infections. It's important that patients have the bacteria responsible for an infection identified prior to treatment, as many types of bacteria are not affected by Cleocin or have developed resistance to it.

This medication will have no effect on fungal or viral infections; it works only on bacteria, including:

  • Staphylococcus epidermidis
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Propionibacterium acnes

Cleocin is available in tablets or topical gels, which are usually reserved for acne treatment. It can also be found in combination with other medications for more potent results, such as in Treclin Gel. This page is about Cleocin tablets.

Taking Cleocin

Cleocin tablets are often given when patients are unable to take penicillin or similar products. While most side effects from Cleocin are mild, it can, rarely, produce a condition called Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea, in which there is an overgrowth of bacteria not susceptible to Cleocin. Again it is rare, but untreated this condition can be lethal. Patients taking Cleocin should alert a doctor if diarrhea, stomach pain, or other severe side effects are experienced.

The medication works by interfering with protein production in susceptible bacteria, which slows or stops their growth and spread. It has been available on the market since the 1970s, and is well-studied.

Cleocin is often used to treat:

  • Empyema
  • Pneumonitis
  • Lung abcesses
  • Other severe respiratory illnesses
  • Severe skin infections
  • Severe soft tissue infections
  • Endometritis
  • Ovarian abcesses
  • Peritonitis
  • Other pelvic infections
  • Dental infections
  • Joint infections

Treatment is very similar in adults, regardless of the condition being treated. Of course, doctor instructions should be followed closely if they differ from the following:

  • For moderate to severe infections, take 150 to 300 mg every 6 hours.
  • For severe to very severe infections, take 300 to 450 mg every 6 hours.
  • Each tablet should be followed with a full glass of fluid to prevent mouth or throat irritation.
  • Food is optional, but may reduce gastrointestinal upset.

Cleocin can also be used in children of all ages, though those ranging from 1 month to 16 years will require modified dosing based on weight:

  • For moderate to severe infections, 8 to 16 mg per kg of weight per day (4 to 8 mg/lb/day), divided into three or four doses.
  • For severe to very severe infections, 16 to 20 mg per kg of weight per day (8 to 10 mg/lb/day), divided into three or four daily doses.
  • Tablets should be followed with a full glass of water.
  • Food is optional.

Duration of treatment can be variable, depending on the condition being treated and its severity; treatment typically lasts 10 to 14 days, though it might be a bit shorter or considerably longer. Regardless, patients taking Cleocin should complete treatment even if feeling fine after the first few days. Failure to do so can cause the infection to reappear and contributes to antibiotic resistance.

Cleocin Side Effects

Most side effects from Cleocin are mild and not cause for concern, including:

  • Nausea
  • Gas
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Mild diarrhea

Taking tablets with food may alleviate the above.

Rarely more serious side effects develop, which warrant medical attention:

  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Vaginal itching or discharge
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Rash
  • Sores in mouth, throat, nose, or eyes

Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea may occur. Individuals with a history of chronic diarrhea or other gastrointestinal conditions will want to make sure the prescribing doctor is aware. Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Severe, persistant diarrhea
  • Blood in stools
  • Severe nausea
  • Severe bloating
  • Unexplained fever

Again it's a rare condition, but it does happen---patients should be alert for the above symptoms throughout treatment and for several months after treatment. Don't be afraid to contact a doctor with any concerning side effects, no matter how trivial they may seem.

Cleocin may interact with other medications; of particular concern are other antibiotics that end in -mycin, such as erythromycin. Double-check with a doctor or pharmacist if unsure of the safety of mixing treatments.


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Medicines have benefits and some have risks. Always read the label and use only as directed. If symptoms persist or you have side effects see your health professional.

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