The People's Perspective on Medicine

Clindamycin and C. Diff Infection: A Devil’s Ride

When most people think of diarrhea they imagine a minor annoyance that will go away in days. Clindamycin-caused C. diff infection can be life threatening.
Toilet constipation

The FDA has a black box warning in the prescribing information for clindamycin (Cleocin). That represents the highest alert for physicians and patients about this antibiotic. It says in part:

“Because clindamycin hydrochloride therapy has been associated with severe colitis which may end fatally, it should be reserved for serious infections where less toxic antimicrobial agents are inappropriate…”

Clostridium difficile associated diarrhea (CDAD) can indeed be deadly. That’s because overcoming a C. diff infection can be incredibly challenging, as this reader describes.

C. Diff Infection After Clindamycin:

Q. I was given a prescription for clindamycin when a thorn was removed from my finger. This is a dangerous antibiotic.

Soon after I took it, I had symptoms of what I thought was food poisoning. Really it was that clindamycin had killed off the good bacteria in my system. I also developed other reactions to this drug, including a painful rash on the palms of my hands.

I was misdiagnosed with Crohn’s disease. On my own, I decided to try probiotics since the doctors wouldn’t give any credence to my suspicions about clindamycin. The probiotics repaired my system and I have been completely symptom-free for five years.

People should be fully informed about the risks as well as the benefits of this drug. That way they can determine if it is worth taking.

The C. Diff Challenge:

A. When clindamycin kills off bacteria in the digestive tract, it provides the opportunity for Clostridium difficile to take over. A C. diff infection causes disastrous diarrhea and can be dangerous and difficult to treat.

Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease, can also cause severe diarrhea. However, it would be unlikely for it to cause no further symptoms for five years.

Clindamycin and C. Diff Infection: More Cases!

Dentists and dermatologists frequently prescribe clindamycin. That’s because this antibiotic is quite good at knocking out hard-to-treat infections in the mouth and skin. That said, clindamycin can cause a lot of misery. Here are just a few of the hundreds of messages we have received from visitors to this website:

Kate in Reading, PA has a common tale of woe and intrigue:

“I was prescribed clindamycin for a tooth abscess. The first dentist gave me a prescription for 7 days and sent me to a specialist for a root canal. The second dentist couldn’t do the root canal right away, so he gave me a prescription for nine more days of clindamycin — a total of 16 days!

“A week after my last antibiotic, I came down with a C. diff infection. It was unbelievably horrible!

“I was put on a different antibiotic to combat the C. diff infection. I finished all of the antibiotics and relapsed two days later. According to the literature, 25 percent of C. diff patients relapse following the recommended dosage of the drug that’s supposed to make you well!
“I was then referred to a GI specialist who prescribed a much longer course of the same drug. I lost an entire summer being sick with C. diff!

“A mistake most people make when they suspect they have a C. diff infection is to turn to anti-diarrhea drugs. That only worsens the problem. After having experienced the horrors of C. diff TWICE, it’s my personal opinion that dentists are far too cavalier in prescribing this medication!”

Sandra in Illinois is dealing with her son’s C. diff infection:

“My son took clindamycin for an ingrown fingernail that caused a severe infection. Within a week of taking this antibiotic he got diarrhea for 4 weeks. We cultured the stool and it was C.diff. He is only 6 and has been dealing with the side effects of clindamycin ever since taking this antibiotic. He had to take metronidozle for the C. diff infection. Now 6 days later he has stomach cramps and diarrhea again.”

K. N. had the worst case of diarrhea you can imagine:

“I also went to the dentist for an infected tooth and was given clindamycin. Two weeks after completing the antibiotic, I developed the worst case of diarrhea I’ve ever had along with cramps and a low grade fever.

“My entire lower body ached in my thighs, testicles and hips. It was uncomfortable to sit, stand or lie down. Getting up every 40 minutes to go to the bathroom, day and night, is exhausting!

“I went to my family doctor and was diagnosed with a C. diff infection. He gave me a different antibiotic (metronidazole) and I was on that for two weeks. My C. diff came back two days after completing the metronidazole!

“Back to the doctor for round two of a stronger antibiotic (vancomycin). I took it for two weeks. I completed that course of antibiotic and in less than four days, my C. diff infection came back for a third time! I eventually had to consult with an infectious disease specialist who put me on a step-down course of the vancomycin.

“When I finished that course, I took it upon myself to start taking huge amounts of probiotic capsules. There is no way to consume the amount of probiotics you need from just yogurt. About four days into the probiotics, I started to feel the symptoms again, but I just continued to ingest the probiotics. My C-diff finally went away, but I was on antibiotics for 4 months and felt horrible for the entire time.

“Having no control over your bowels is horrible. The cramps were awful. I had to clean the entire bathroom with bleach wipes after every time I used it because C. diff is very contagious! Now, I am reluctant to take any medications that are prescribed by a doctor.”

The Moral of this Lesson:

It is tragic that so many people have suffered such misery from clindamycin. We do not doubt that there are times when this antibiotic is necessary, but we agree with the FDA that it should be reserved for infections that do not respond to safer medicines.

Here is a link to more insights about clindamycin.

A Deadly Clindamycin Side Effect | Wicked Diarrhea!

We discuss misdiagnosis and how to protect yourself from such medical errors in our book, Top Screwups. You will find it in your library, or you can purchase a copy at

If you would like to learn more about high-quality probiotics, here is a link to another article in this week’s newsletter. Share your own clindamycin story in the comment section below.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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Mine’s a familiar story. Infected wisdom tooth removal–clindamycin. Ten days later miserable C-diff attack. Stool sample tested and then prescribed ten days of vancomycin. A week or so after that, a new attack. prescribed Dificid (fidaxamycin). So far it is working, but I will not play this runaround with alternating antibiotics and bouts of crippling and weakening diarrhea and colitis.

If you haven’t yet read about FMT, you can learn a little about it here. I am visiting this doctor to see if I am a candidate., and when you go to this link, scroll down and you will see an excellent Youtube video of a talk he gave about Fecal Microbiota Transplantation. Don’t worry about any technical talk. Just watch it, and see if it’s something you want to consider. The talk is extremely informative. And good luck and best wishes for all my fellow sufferers out there. C. Dif is miserable and ancapacitating. Don’t give up.

I had a hip replacement several years ago and was advised to take a dose of antibiotic before dental work to prevent infection. Because I broke out in a rash the first time I took amoxicillin, I was prescribed clindamycin. So far, I have not had a problem from the single dose, but this article has me concerned. Is it really necessary to take an antibiotic before a routine dental cleaning if you have an artificial joint?

My debilitating diarrhea has finally calmed down. High-powered probiotics, digestive enzymes, oil, of oregano capsules, and B vitamins with every meal have helped enormously. I had almost lost hope. When I skip these supplements, I’m back in trouble.

Mary, please share the name of the “new med for her C diff” your sister took that helped her..

Is there any problem with using the gel or topical form of this antibiotic? I’m curious as I was prescribed this and was told it was used for acne all of the time (I did not have acne). Anyone know? Thanks.

Like many others the dentist perscribed clindamycin. After a couple of days I was feeling very ill. The diarrhea was simply horrible. I called the dentist and he said “just finish the course”. I did not but the damage was already done. I had c diff. By the end of the week ended up in the ER bleeding out because it was so severe that my colon had started to rupture. I was in the hospital for three days. The GI doctor was worried that I would need surgery.

A friend of mines sister just died from c-diff.

If the dentist had let me know about this medication I would not have taken it. Antiboitic save lives …..but not this one.

This is frightening. I wish I had known this when I was prescribed topical Clindamycin for chin acne and I used it for years. I now have bowel problems. I guess it’s from that. No more of that for me. Also, stay away from Cipro and Levoquin. They cause tendons to snap. It’s a crap shoot with these “miracle drugs.”

I contracted c-diff after a dental procedure. After one week I was extremely ill. I called the dentist and he said “just keep taking it”. I did not , but the damage was already done. It was so severe that I ended up in the ER and was hospitalized for 3 days as by then my colon had started to rupture and I was bleeding out of my rectum… My Internal Care doctor said I would have died within a short time. Yes, it was the Clindamycin. WARNING DO NOT EVER TAKE THIS DRUG!

I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in January 2017 and prescribed Leflunomide 20 mg tablets – 1 a day. I started having unending diahrerra pretty soon afterward. I stopped the medication on my own. The diareahha continued. I went to my gastro enterologist who looked the drug up and reported that it had a 72 day afterlife. He did an endoscopy on me which proved clear. Absolutely on day 72 after I stopped this pill I saw some relief! I’d lost 10-12 lbs and have still only gained back 6 of those (which isn’t a totally bad thing – but a heckuvaway way to do it)!
This was not C-Diff (I got tested for it) but it was the closest I ever want to get to it.

I also had c-diff back in 2003. I spent seven months of my life in and out of hospitals. I too was given clindamycin by my dentist. that’s when all hell broke loose in my body. I had to have the Infectious Disease people come in. I ultimately was given Vancomycin which saved my life. I took my dog to a vet and they wanted to put him on clindamycin I told them no way. The vet told me that clindamycin was always generally used for animals not people I don’t know if that’s true but it scared the hell out of me. Needless to say I didn’t put my dog on it either.

I had a similar experience with clindamycin. My dentist gave me a script for an abscessed tooth, and the surgeon who removed it gave me a script as well to take after the extraction. I rarely take antibiotics, so the fact that I was taking a second round within a month didn’t register as being excessive. I remembered it was recommended to eat yogurt daily when taking an antibiotic so I did.

Shortly through the second round, I developed a very unusual and foul-looking diarrhea and decided to check the pharmacy sheet that I got with the drug. The sheet had a description of the diarrhea and the very scary dangers of C.Diff. I researched online and found that clindamycin should not be given more than one round per month as it wipes out much of the good bacteria in your gut, so I immediately stopped taking it. Resources online stated another antibiotic is usually prescribed to fight C.Diff, but why would you risk losing more good bacteria with another antibiotic? I continued to look online to find out how to re-establish the good “bugs” and found information about using probiotics and prebiotic/probiotic foods. With the use of probiotics and yogurt 2-3x a day, it was amazing how quickly it subsided. My GI tract was totally back to normal after several months, but I continue to take probiotics and eat yogurt most days.

As a result of my near-miss, I now read the pharmacy sheet for any drug before I take it, and will definitely refuse clindamycin the next time. I mentioned what happened at the next visit with my dentist ,and he was quite unconcerned about the whole thing! Patient beware! We need to advocate for ourselves because no one else will!

In 1992 I was referred to a “specialist” because of a persistent sinus infection. This “doctor” at my HMO put me on alternating 6 weeks of clindamycin and cephradine for 14 months until he finally agreed to refer me to endoscopic surgery, which is what I had requested in the first place. I suffered with extreme constipation for 20 years: stools of sand, no mucus in the colon, no farting for two decades, no relief from physicians beyond metamucil which made it even worse. In 2012 I ate a pound of fresh cheese that had become covered with pink mold. Things improved immensely. I still have tough stools and require suppositories or enemas to get things moving daily, but I’m managing.

I was given Clindamycin after a tooth abscess. I finished the bottle and the next day broke out in huge welts all over my body.
Went to the Dermatologist the next day and received a steroid shot to stop the breakout and itching.
After getting the shot, the welts started to disappear.
I then found out that this drug could have killed me because I’m highly allergic to it. Can’t use it in a cream for the skin either.
I have informed all physicians that I can’t take this drug.

C diff is very very serious. My sister-in-law had C diff many times. Had to call the EMS to get her to the hospital. Was in the hospital for up to one week. Now she is going to a brand new physician. The other physician she and my brother had was just plain no good. I got the feeling that he just did not even care. With this new physician, he is on top of her medical problems and has found a new med for her C diff. It has worked very will for her. Has not been in the hospital for some time now.

I had CDiff after taking two bottles of Amoxicillin prescribed by a dentist for a root canal. It led me into Ulcerative Colitis which is life threatening. I take Mercaptopurine and Mesalamine for the colitis and they can harm the liver and kidneys.
Our daughter had Cdiff at age 15 and again in hospital during C-Section. Antibiotics are harmful but ironically Vancomycin cleared it up for her.

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