The effects of antibiotics on heart rate are not well understood. Some antibiotics have been reported to increase heart rate while others have no effect. The mechanism by which antibiotics increase heart rate is not known but it is thought that they may affect the autonomic nervous system.
In a study of healthy volunteers it was found that the antibiotic ciprofloxacin increased heart rate by an average of 9.5 beats per minute (bpm) compared to placebo. The maximum increase in heart rate was seen within 1-2 hours after ciprofloxacin was taken. The effect of ciprofloxacin on heart rate was greatest in those who had the lowest baseline heart rate.
Other antibiotics that have been reported to increase heart rate include erythromycin levofloxacin and moxifloxacin. The effect of these antibiotics on heart rate is thought to be similar to that of ciprofloxacin.
The use of antibiotics has been linked to an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. In a large Danish study it was found that people who had been prescribed antibiotics had a two-fold increased risk of sudden cardiac death compared to those who had not been prescribed antibiotics.
The risk of sudden cardiac death was highest in those who had been prescribed antibiotics for respiratory infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis. The risk was also increased in those who had been prescribed antibiotics for skin infections and urinary tract infections.
It is not known if the increased risk of sudden cardiac death is due to the antibiotics themselves or if it is a result of the infections for which they are prescribed. However the findings of this study suggest that antibiotics may increase the risk of sudden cardiac death.
If you are taking antibiotics you should discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor. If you experience an increase in heart rate you should seek medical attention immediately.
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