My Helpful Yet Grim Experience with Doxycycline Antibiotic

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Doxycycline, one of the more advanced antibiotics in the tetracycline family, was prescribed for my acute bronchitis and acute sinusitis on March 16, 2015. That sounded logical; our family had used tetracycline to treat calves for scours (deadly diarrhea) when I was growing up on the ranch. Besides, March 16 happens to be my sister’s birthday–one of my sisters; I have two. So at the age of 71, never having used this particular antibiotic before, I called said sis…who also happens to be a lifetime Registered Nurse. She hasn’t retired yet, either, but I called on her 65th birthday, so likely she’s getting close.

“It’s worked several times for me,” she stated. That sounded good. We’re related, after all; the odds that doxycycline would work for me, too, seemed pretty good.

But I blew it. I’m not afraid to deal with members of the American Medical Association as needed, but I don’t expect them to do my job for me, either. In every other case I can remember, at least for the past forty years or so, I’ve thoroughly researched a medication before actually popping a pill. This time I did not; I was just too sick. I did pay attention to the doctor’s warning not to take this antibiotic too close to dairy, but that was about it. I stopped at a restaurant, chowed down, and took my first doxycycline pill. Then I drove on home and went to bed.

I’m starting this post six days later. The last six days have been, if not Hell, at least heck. First, I’m going to throw some “esoteric” stuff in here; if it’s not to your taste, skip on down to the hard fact stuff below.

For one thing, I knew I’d opened myself up to this bug by making a huge spiritual mistake. They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and sometimes they are right. I won’t go into the details here for various reasons, one of them being that the post is about doxycycline, not “spiritual stuff”.

For another thing, I chase any antibiotic dose with a shot of colloidal silver. I used to tell people that I’d come across a study in which adding trace silver to an antibiotic made the antibiotic ten times more effective. I was mistaken. I just came across my old screen shot of that news clipping: It was a Los Angeles Times article in which the study was cited as having increased the antibiotic’s effectiveness 1,000 times. That’s right. One thousand times. Okay, so that was in mice. So call me Mickey if you must.

For a third thing, one day into doxycycline usage, I had a dramatic dream. I quote from my dream journal notes:

I spot an orange-ish ant on the bed and smunch it–but instead of being killed, it grows–and reforms (MUTATES?)–finally do get it killed but it takes much effort (many).

The bug I've been fighting, as it appeared in one of my dreams.

The bug I’ve been fighting, as it appeared in one of my dreams.

Between two and three days into the doxy cycle, I began blowing chunky yellow snot–which, if you’ve had as many nasty colds in your early years as I did, you know is a good sign. It means your system, with the antibiotic’s help, is finally killing the crap out of the enemy. (If you don’t know this, you’ve likely hit the Back button out of here because I’m just too graphic for your tastes, but I don’t know any other way to describe it.) Unfortunately, that didn’t last long; the product of my nose-blows swiftly faded back to the colorless stuff.

Not good. Coupled with the Tough Bug dream, it make me think I was maybe dealing with a superbug or at least one that had developed a resistance to doxycycline. Fortunately, the powers that be let me go with a call this time. I did not tell the doctor about the side effects I was having on the doxycycline because I wanted, if possible, to add another antibiotic to it. Because why? Because at this point I suspected my life might actually be in danger (though I later figured out this was probably as much due to the doxy side effects as to the infection) and I wanted to whack this bug with the biggest double barreled baseball bat I could find.

What? They don’t make double barreled baseball bats? Hey, give me a break; I’m still a bit sick here!

Fortunately, I got the okay. Not only that, but the Azithromycin (Zith) dosage was huge: 1,000 milligrams twice a day, taken at the midpoints between the doxycycline doses (which are “only” 100 mg., but believe me, that’s enough). I knew I could safely add Zith to anything; it’s been my go-to antibiotic for at least the last couple of decades. It can have side effects, but not with me.

Now, six days into doxycycline plus Zith, at 5:00 p.m., I found myself lying in bed thinking, “You know, I believe I may actually feel pretty good. Maybe I’ll get up and see.” So I did, and I was. Feeling pretty good, that is. Relatively. There are still a whole lot of symptoms that need to go away, but I’m thinking the vicious doxycycline has done its job–well enough, anyway–and continuing on Azithromycin alone for a few more days should finish fixing me right up.

One thing I did not want to do was cut the doxy out too early. Letting this Bug recover from such a massive assault could have potentially deadly repercussions for yours truly. So yes, I contemplated on it before firming up the decision. And if I’m making the wrong call, well, I’m also holding this as a rough draft until everything works out completely one way or the other, so….

Now: I said the last six days (on doxy) have been heck, right? And they have. This evening, finally reenergized to the point that I could research the drug, I wasn’t too surprised–I’d already told Pam this was a dangerous antibiotic, not suitable for pregnant women or young kids–and she’d agreed. “I can’t take it,” she told me. Despite her encroaching Alzheimer’s, my wife still knows her prescription meds from her days as a pharmacist. Yet the list of possible side effects was…disturbing. Below is a list of just those I’ve experienced. (Googling “Doxycycline side effects” will get you numerous versions of a more complete list, which is extensive indeed.)

+ Strong black, tarry stools. I had these just once, the first BM after starting on doxycycline. It was not easy to get that one going, constipation to the max.

+ Bloating. Some, mild, no big.

+ Strong dark urine. Boy howdy! Dark yellowish brown and then some, despite the fact that I’ve been careful to cram down at least 16.9 ounces of water (1 bottle of Aqua Fina) with every pill. Taking too little water with this one is something you want to avoid at all costs.

+ Diarrhea. Had that this morning, six days in. Not bloody, but watery and severe. One shot only, though, and popping a couple of Immodium caplets afterward seemed to settle things down. This is quite possibly not just the doxy’s doing. It and the Zithromax have been kicking a lot of Tough Bug tail; could be it was simply a major toxin dump. Point: It was roughly five hours later that I realized I was feeling better than I had in at least a week.

+ Dizziness. Have had a touch of that here and there. Not enough to knock me down or anything.

+ Fast heartbeat. That’s the way the side effect is listed. My heartbeat hasn’t speeded up noticeably, but for a couple of days there, it was skipping beats like crazy. Which it started doing when I was in my early fifties–but which it now seldom does at all as long as I remember to take Acetyl-L-Carnitine with Lipoic Acid on a daily basis.

+ Fever. Definitely have had some of that here and there. Haven’t measured it with a thermometer, but I’ve felt a low grade fever was definitely there from time to time.

+ Depressed libido. This is not listed as a known side effect, at least that I could find, but let me tell ya, folks. I’m a guy who pays close attention to how his libido is doing, and as soon as the doxycycline was in me, Mr. Libido dropped right out of the bottom. For the moment, he’s 99.999% gone! Which is intriguing, considering the fact that numerous online forums mention cases of guys getting help for their libido from doxycycline. Go figure.

+ Headache. Low grade, off and on throughout the past six days and nights. At the moment, about eight hours after I took the last doxycycline pill I’m ever going to take, no headache.

+ Increased thirst…with a twist. I can tell I’m thirsty, dry mouth and all, but nothing really tastes good going down. Not water, not Coca Cola or Dr. Pepper, not even my usually beloved cranberry juice. I have to semi-force it all.

+ Nausea and vomiting. I got lucky–did not vomit. But man, the signs were sure there that I was going to do so! This was my second day on doxy, before adding the Zith. About 45 minutes after taking the pill–just long enough, no doubt, for the coating to dissolve and allow the contents to hit the lining of my stomach, I got up from the toilet where I’d been reading and sipping water, “cramming” enough Aqua Fina down to go with the medication. I zipped out and around to my wife’s bedroom, calling in to her while attempting to avoid breathing into her room if that makes any sense. “I’ve got that pre-vomit saliva in my mouth. It’s really strong. Stomach’s not saying anything, but this isn’t good. I don’t know what to do; I can’t afford to lose the antibiotic.”

Pam hopped to, lining a bucket with a plastic trash bag and urging me to get back on the toilet in case it hit both ends. But by that time I was belly down in bed, grateful for the bucket but deeply aware that I had a better chance of controlling things from that position. It’s been a lifetime thing with me. And…somehow, after a while, it passed. From that time forward, no more here-it-comes alarms, although if I think about it even now, it’s like my body is saying, “Hey, we still might….”

+ Severe stomach pain. Technically, that’s not right; my pain stabs have been a bit lower, clearly in the abdomen, somewhere down in the intestines. A few of them have been doozies, though. Fortunately, I’ve generally been able to sit on the toilet and move a little something, and that would ease the pain.

+ Unusual tiredness or weakness. Yeah, and then some. I was absolutely thrilled to discover this evening that I had the energy to pop up and down from my desk without really thinking about it. Basically, I’ve been a mostly unconscious bump on a log for the past six days. The Bug was causing some of that, but before doxycycline, my energy level was maybe 70% of normal. During doxy, I was at…what, 5%? Not much more than that, I’m thinking. Now? Not quite back to 70% yet, but getting there.

+ Unusual weight loss. The jury is still out on this one. I haven’t been eating much, so what would constitute “unusual” weight loss?

+ Blurred vision. Yep. Went out yesterday to feed the critters and realized I had double vision clear to the skyline–unless I looked through my 1.50 strength reading glasses, in which case it all came into focus. At least it wasn’t as bad as when Pam tried Neurontin and nearly went blind in two weeks flat, finding herself unable to tell a stick from a snake on the path.

+ Chills. That happened just once and could have been a result of the infection rather than the antibiotic. I came out of the bathroom and dove back under the covers, shaking like the proverbial leaf. Took me a while to get warmed back up that time. It only happened once, though.

+ Painful urination. It did “burn to urine” for a while, something like 24 hours or so, but the symptom did not last–and again, I have no way to know for sure whether the doxy was responsible or not.

+ Anorexia. You better believe it. Even my favorite foods become repulsive after a nibble or two. I doubt I’ve averaged a daily intake of more than 200 calories for these past six days. Maybe no more than 100. Or less. I always tried to get a few nibbles down when taking a doxy pill, especially after the near-vomiting experience, but…let’s put it this way. One saltine cracker square is doable. Three is a real push. Four and I would vomit.

Whew! That’s all, folks. At least, I certainly hope no more doxycycline side effects are going to show up at this point. In truth, I’m grateful that it hasn’t been worse; some of the possibilities are beyond horrendous. And–oh joy, I just thought of this! I could probably go sneak some ice cream right now. Azithromycin doesn’t care so much if you’ve got calcium in your bloodstream when it goes to work….

Ah yes. I didn’t mention how doxycycline had been helpful–or at least I believe it has, strongly suspecting that Zithromax could not quite have kicked this bug’s butt all by itself, even at the super-high dosages, even with silver reinforcing the primary weapon. So here’s what’s better today than it was before I started taking the doxy:

1. I can swallow without pain. Due to a nasty acidic postnasal drip, I had not been able to do that for some time.

2. My breathing is easier.

3. Sinus inflammation is down. It was so bad one night that I realized I might stop being able to breathe at some point during the night…checked that out by breathing through my mouth…and no worries, the throat was passing plenty of air. But the nasal passages were at one point nearly swollen shut, something I’d never experienced before.

4. My voice is coming back. I wouldn’t want to book a worldwide singing tour just yet, but I can differentiate between notes. At its worst, my voice sounded like a raven strangled in mid-croak.

5. And like I said, my energy level is improving. I’ve been up now for four hours, plan to stay up for two more, and see no difficulty in doing so. Well, maybe a little difficulty, but nothing insurmountable. It’s nothing to brag about, but beats the dickens out of the “hour of struggle” I’ve been barely managing in recent days.

Report ending at 8:46 p.m., March 21, 2015.

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March 22, 2015, 11:30 a.m. I got up after a restless night, rather the norm for the past ten days or so. Somewhere around 2:00 a.m., a mere three hours after skipping the scheduled doxycycline pill, I’d awakened to the unpleasant realization that my right sinus was promising to relapse, just that fast. Which made sense when I thought about it. Spare sets of sheets for my bed have gone in other directions in recent months; I’ll likely be inhaling not yet dead Tough Bugs right from the fabric until I can get the laundry done.

Still, I remained convinced that I’d done the right thing. The deeper internal portions of my body would be fine if I could just manage to keep the monsters from establishing a fresh beachhead in my sinus cavity.

Hey, poured a bit of colloidal silver in the palm of one hand, snorted it up each nostril…ah. Definitely better. Had to repeat that process five or six times over the next couple of hours, but when I finally launched (slowly) out of bed for the day, the sinuses were fine.

Since then, I’ve had a typically non-sick busy day in terms of what I’ve accomplished. Now, at 11:30 p.m., I’ve decided to finish this report on doxycycline’s side effects (in me) and publish it. I took my last Zithromax pill when I got up, paying attention to the sinuses has kept them clean and comfortable, and my energy level, which started out at around 75%, zoomed on up to 90% of my normal maximum just an hour or so ago. So the heck with any more antibiotics; for now, I’m off of everything (except colloidal silver as needed).

The worst remaining side effect of taking the doxy would be, I knew, the anorexia. Fortunately, a restaurant stop around midafternoon–often the first time of day I eat anything, anyway–didn’t go as badly as I’d feared it might. It wasn’t easy, but I got a fair portion of corned beef hash and a few home fries down, maybe 400 calories total. Then this evening, not sure why but knowing not to ignore what my body was saying, my 10:00 p.m. supper included an entire bowl of Campbell’s bean with bacon soup. I’m not ready to take on World Champion Bubba at next year’s hot dog eating contest, but it looks like I’m going to live.

Wow! Just had a brain flash! Memory reboot! There was a clean set of sheets that fit my bed; I just hadn’t opened that particular dresser drawer in a year or two. And a clean pair of pillow cases, though of a different color. So what? The sheets are red, I’m white, the pillow cases are blue, we’re good to go, God Bless America.

Time to hit Publish and then hit the hay.

6 thoughts on “My Helpful Yet Grim Experience with Doxycycline Antibiotic

  1. Glad you’re feeling better. Hope you are well soon. I had a little bit of sinus problems, but got them taken care of with some Chlorpheniramine maleate. I have used them for years and they will generally keep me breathing when my sinus’ get clogged. I do like 1z-pacs when I get an infection. They usually work quickly on me. I do not let things get bad enough that they do not work.
    I take Dennis over on Tues. evening to have him there for cataract surgery on Wed morning. We should be back Thurs afternoon.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Becky. I usually THINK I’m not letting things get bad enough that my usual methods do not work, but every once in a while (five years since the last time) I do something stupid and get clobbered. Hopefully never again like this, though; Pam having to take full care of herself plus some of Bob (he’s back for his last week at trucking school now and is still the star of the show)… well, I just don’t want to see her have to go through that again. She’s still wiped out from it.

    Z-pacs usually work quickly on me, too…but this time all bets were off. It’s a long story.

    Beyond that, I’m REALLY pleased you’re on your game AND that Dennis is finally getting his cataract surgery. I mostly remember that surgery from when my Mom had it in her eighties. Made all the difference in the world.

    I’m going to wind down now, but the longer I’ve run tonight, the better I’ve felt.

  3. Well put, Sha. I can say I’m happy to be seeing that one in the rear view mirror…only! 🙂

  4. Just a shout out to let you know you are in my heart and mind, Ghost. Karma is interesting, to say the least. Take care, dear friend.
    Manny

  5. Thanks, Manny. Definitely, karma is as karma does. (One of my favorite sayings.) No complaints here–and from the coughing we’re hearing all around town this year, I’ve gotten off easy so far. 🙂

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