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Flagyl (metronidazole) functions as an antibiotic, amebicide and antiprotozoal, and is administered to combat infections caused by certain types of anaerobic bacteria, protozoa, and amoebozoa (which are a type of protozoa). The medication is used in both humans and animals to treat a number of conditions, most commonly:

  • Anaerobic infections
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Pseudomembranous Colitis
  • Clostridium difficile
  • Amoebiasis
  • Giardiasis
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Crohn's disease

It may be used in a variety of other conditions as well, and is also commonly used as a gel or cream to treat topical conditions such as rosacea, or to reduce odors from fungating wounds.

Fighting Infections with Flagyl

Flagyl is often used as a sole treatment, but it is also very common for other medications to be co-administered to enhance effectiveness, particularly in severe cases. Other factors also influence administration; age, other health concerns and other medications being taken, just to name a few. Ideally a doctor will determine the ideal course of treatment, taking all factors into consideration.

A rough guideline of Flagyl use in otherwise-healthy adults is as follows:

  • Anaerobic bacterial infections - 500 mg every 6 hours for 7 to 10 days.
  • Bacterial vaginosis - 500 mg 2 times per day for 5 to 7 days.
  • Peptic ulcers - 500 mg 2 times per day for 7 days.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease - 500 mg 2 times day for 14 days.
  • Pseudomembranous Colitis - 500 mg 3 or 4 times per day for 10 to 14 days.
  • Clostridium difficile - 500 mg 3 or 4 times per day for 10 to 14 days.
  • Amoebiasis - 750 mg 3 times per day for 5 to 10 days.
  • Giardiasis - 250 mg 3 times per day for 5 days.
  • Trichomoniasis - 250 mg 3 times per day for 7 days.
  • Crohn's disease - 250 mg every 6 hours for 4 weeks to 6 months.

Children and elderly patients will likely need modified doses based on weight and the severity of the condition. Severely overweight individuals may need somewhat higher doses.

Some tips to ensure treatment is trouble-free:

  • Flagyl may be taken with or without food; eating may ease stomach-related side effects.
  • Try to spread doses as evenly apart as possible to maximize the drug's presence in the body.
  • Similarly, try to take doses at the same times each day.
  • Complete treatment even if symptoms disappear; failure to do so may result in a resurgent infection and will contribute to resistant bacteria or protozoa.
  • Do not use Flagyl to treat an undiagnosed infection; it is only effective against certain types of bacteria and protozoa.

When the condition is mild enough to be treated outside of a hospital setting, most patients notice improvements very quickly, within one to three days of starting treatment, though symptoms may not disappear entirely for several more days.

Warnings & Side Effects

Patients with certain preexisting conditions may experience severe side effects from using Flagyl:

  • Certain types of blood disorders
  • Certain neurological disorders
  • Underactive thyroid or adrenal glands

Otherwise Flagyl side effects are unusual and typically mild, similar to those encountered with any antibiotic:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Appetite changes
  • Strange taste in mouth
  • Dry mouth

More rarely, potentially dangerous adverse reactions may develop. Warning symptoms include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing skin or eyes, dark urine, clay-colored stools)
  • Stiff neck, severe headache, any unexplained pain
  • Light sensitivity, seizures, loss of coordination
  • Tingling, pain, numbness or weakness in extremities
  • Worsening of the infections or infection symptoms

Seek medical attention before continuing treatment if the above symptoms are experienced.

Flagyl may interact with a range of other medications which may interfere with effectiveness. Medications co-administered to combat infection may complicate side effects. Speak with a doctor or pharmacist for more details according to specific medication combinations.

The safety of Flagyl use in pregnancy is somewhat disputed. Parents should discuss risks with a trusted doctor before starting treatment.


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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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