Ciprofloxacin (Cipro): Uses, Side Effects, Dosages, Contra-indications, Warnings, Interactions & More

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed
July 2, 2021

Most bacteria won’t hurt you—in fact, less than 1% of the various types of bacteria make people sick.

But that small percentage of infectious bacteria can affect any part of the body, resulting in many kinds of bacterial infections. That’s where antibiotics like ciprofloxacin come in.

Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) is a prescription drug used to treat or prevent serious bacterial infections, including skin, bone and joint, lower respiratory tract, and urinary tract infections.

It is among the top 100 most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States.

In this article, I’ll explain in detail how ciprofloxacin works, what conditions it can treat, common doses, side effects, and if you can get ciprofloxacin online.

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What Is Ciprofloxacin?

Ciprofloxacin is a fluoroquinolone (or quinolone) antibiotic that works to kill and prevent the growth of bacteria. This ultimately eliminates an infection.

Of all the fluoroquinolone antibiotics, ciprofloxacin is the most potent against gram-negative bacilli bacteria. (These bacteria have a thinner cell wall than gram-positive bacteria.)

The drug is considered a broad-spectrum antibiotic because it is effective in fighting many common bacteria, including: 

  • Bacillus anthracis
  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • Enterococcus faecalis
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae
  • Salmonella typhi
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae

What Is It Used For?

Ciprofloxacin is prescribed to treat a variety of infections caused by bacteria including: 

Less common FDA-approved uses include the treatment of:

  • Anthrax
  • Plague
  • Typhoid fever

Can You Get Ciprofloxacin Online?

You must get a prescription for ciprofloxacin. And these days, there’s no need to leave home. You can get a prescription online through your healthcare provider.

Once you receive this, you can purchase ciprofloxacin online. When doing so, consider these tips from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

  • Only use sites that require a prescription and offer the option to ask a pharmacist questions.
  • Before sharing any personal information (especially credit card numbers), be sure the site is secure and will protect that data.

What Forms Does Ciprofloxacin Come In?

Ciprofloxacin comes as a tablet, suspension (liquid), and extended-release tablet to take by mouth with or without food.

The suspension may also be turned into ear or eye drops. Ciprofloxacin is available under the brand names Cipro (tablets and powder for suspension) and Cipro XR (extended-release tablets). 

Keep all forms of ciprofloxacin in their original containers, tightly closed, and out of reach of children.

Store the tablets and extended-release tablets at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (that means not in the bathroom). Store the suspension in the refrigerator or at room temperature for up to 14 days. Do not freeze ciprofloxacin suspension. 

What Are Common Doses of Ciprofloxacin?

The prescribed dose of ciprofloxacin depends on the type of infection someone has, its severity, and the person’s age. Here are some of the most common doses of ciprofloxacin for adults:

  • For UTI: 250-500 milligrams (mg) every 12 hours for 3-14 days
  • For bone and joint infections: 500-750 mg every 12 hours for 4-6 weeks
  • For diarrhea caused by infection: 500 mg every 12 hours for 5-7 days
  • For respiratory infections: 500-750 mg every 12 hours for 7-14 days
  • For sinus infections: 500 mg every 12 hours for 10 days
  • For abdominal infections: 500 mg every 12 hours for 7-14 days (taken with the antibiotic metronidazole)

Children’s dosage

For children ages 1-17, the typical oral dosage of ciprofloxacin for a UTI or kidney infection is 10-20 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) of body weight every 12 hours for 7-21 days.

Children should not take more than 750 mg every 12 hours.

Side Effects

As with all medications, if prescribed ciprofloxacin, you should be aware of potential adverse effects. Most of these are mild and short term. However, if any of the below symptoms are severe or do not go away, contact your doctor:

Ciprofloxacin can also cause an allergic reaction. If you experience any of the following more serious side effects, stop taking the ciprofloxacin and call your doctor immediately or seek emergency medical attention: 

  • Cramps
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Swelling of any parts of the face, mouth, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • Throat tightness
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Ongoing or worsening cough
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Extreme thirst or hunger
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Sudden pain in the chest, stomach, or back

How to Take Ciprofloxacin

Ciprofloxacin tablets and suspension are usually taken twice a day, while the extended-release tablets are usually taken once a day. Take ciprofloxacin at around the same time(s) every day, exactly as directed.

Some other things to keep in mind while taking ciprofloxacin:

  • Be sure to drink plenty of water while taking ciprofloxacin.
  • Swallow the tablets and extended-release tablets whole; do not split, crush, or chew them. If you cannot swallow tablets whole, tell your doctor.
  • If you take the suspension, shake the bottle very well for 15 seconds before each use to mix the medication evenly.
  • Take ciprofloxacin until you finish the prescription, even if you feel better sooner. 
  • If you miss a dose of ciprofloxacin, take your missed dose as soon as possible, unless you are closer to your next dose time. In that case, skip the missed dose and wait until the next one. Never double up doses.
  • Calcium can decrease the absorption of ciprofloxacin. So do not take ciprofloxacin with dairy products or calcium-fortified juices alone. However, you may take ciprofloxacin with a meal that includes these foods or beverages.
  • Ciprofloxacin may increase the effects of caffeine. Consider cutting back your intake of caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, energy drinks, and soda as well as foods like chocolate when taking ciprofloxacin.

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Contraindications

Ciprofloxacin should be prescribed with caution to individuals with certain conditions or sensitivities, including people with a history of hypersensitivity to ciprofloxacin or any member of the quinolone class of antibiotics.

In addition, people with the following conditions should consult with a doctor before taking ciprofloxacin: 

  • Diabetes
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low amount of magnesium in the blood
  • Low amount of potassium in the blood
  • A low seizure threshold
  • Pseudotumor cerebri (pressure in the skull)
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Myasthenia gravis 
  • Slow or irregular heartbeat
  • Kidney transplant
  • Tendon problems like rheumatoid arthritis
  • Seizures

Drug interactions

Cciprofloxacin can negatively interact with certain medications. Taking ciprofloxacin with these drugs raises your risk of side effects at all severity levels.

Share a complete list of the medications you’re taking with your doctor so they can determine if ciprofloxacin is right for you. Drug interactions include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • Cyclosporine
  • Methotrexate
  • Phenytoin
  • Probenecid
  • Ropinirole
  • Sildenafil
  • Theophylline
  • Didanosine
  • Glipizide, glyburide, insulin, or other diabetes medication
  • Tizanidine
  • Zolpidem
  • Blood thinners (such as warfarin)
  • Diuretics or “water pills”
  • Heart rhythm medication
  • Steroid medicine (such as prednisone)
  • Antacids
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), aspirin (Bayer), celecoxib, diclofenac, indomethacin, and meloxicam

Warnings

Specific groups of people should be mindful of the following warnings with ciprofloxacin.

  • Allergy warning: If you are allergic or have had a severe reaction to ciprofloxacin or any other quinolone or fluoroquinolone antibiotic such as delafloxacin (Baxdela), gemifloxacin (Factive), levofloxacin (Levaquin), moxifloxacin (Avelox), and ofloxacin, you should not take ciprofloxacin.
  • Sunlight exposure warning: Avoid unnecessary or prolonged exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet light. Ciprofloxacin may make your skin sensitive to this light, and exposure could cause your skin to become red, swollen, or blistered like an intense sunburn. If you do need to go out, wear sunscreen and protective clothing. 
  • Women who are breastfeeding: Do not breastfeed while taking ciprofloxacin and for at least 2 days after your final dose to prevent it from passing into breast milk.

Get a Ciprofloxacin Prescription Today with K Health

K Health provides a simple, accessible option for prescription treatment. Chat with a doctor on your phone to determine whether you need a prescription. Your doctor will then prescribe you medication, which can be picked up at a local pharmacy or shipped discreetly directly to you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What does ciprofloxacin treat?
Ciprofloxacin is used to treat infections caused by many different types of bacteria. These include infections in the urinary tract, abdomen, skin, prostate, and bones.
What are the most common side effects of ciprofloxacin?
The more common side effects of ciprofloxacin include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and upset stomach.
How fast does ciprofloxacin work for a UTI?
Ciprofloxacin begins to work against bacterial infections in the first hours after you take it. However, you may not notice improvement in your symptoms for a few days.
Is ciprofloxacin used to treat STDs?
Ciprofloxacin is used to treat uncomplicated genital gonorrhea infections (a sexually transmitted disease).
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.