More than 75 years since its chance discovery in a London laboratory, penicillin is still widely used to treat infections and save lives around the world every day.
But using the medication too often or for the wrong conditions can cause it to become ineffective.
In order to ensure quality of care, penicillin requires a prescription from a healthcare provider.
While penicillin does require a prescription, thanks to telemedicine, that doesn’t mean that it requires an in-person visit.
Knowing when and how to connect with a healthcare provider online can help you to get a prescription for penicillin when needed.
In this article, I’ll explain what penicillin is, how you can buy it online, and its uses, side effects, and dosage.
I’ll also outline some risks and warnings about taking penicillin, and tell you when you should speak with a doctor.
What is Penicillin?
Penicillin is a narrow-spectrum antibiotic that is effective against gram-positive bacteria, including:
- Streptococcus pneumoniae
- Groups A, B, C, and G streptococci
- Nonenterococcal group D streptococci
- Virdians group streptococci
- Non-penicillinase producing staphylococcus
Can I Buy Penicillin Online?
Purchasing penicillin requires a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider, but that doesn’t mean you have to visit them in person.
Many online resources connect you with providers over phone, video, or text so that you can discuss your symptoms and explore treatment options, including antibiotics like penicillin.
Getting a prescription online
Using a trusted and professional resource, getting a prescription online, when appropriate, is simple.
With K Health, simply download the app to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a doctor in minutes.
Other platforms may work similarly.
Just be sure that you are connected with a board-certified medical professional.
Can I buy penicillin over-the-counter (OTC)?
Not in the United States.
In the U.S., oral, intravenous (IV), and intramuscular (IM) antibiotics, including penicillin, are only available via prescription, so you need to speak to a medical professional to obtain them.
Your provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and may run additional tests to determine which antibiotic, if any, is right for you.
Though penicillin isn’t available without a prescription, some topical antibiotic creams and ointments can be purchased over-the-counter (OTC).
These can be used to treat minor cuts, scrapes, and burns.
These OTC antibiotic topical creams include:
- Bacitracin (Neosporin)
- Polymyxin (Polysporin)
- Neomycin (Neosporin Plus Pain Relief)
- Benzoyl peroxide (Proactiv)
Penicillin is an antibiotic drug used to treat infections caused by bacteria, including:
- Pneumonia and other respiratory infections
- Scarlet fever
- Ear, skin, gum, mouth, and throat infections
Like other antibiotics, penicillin will not treat a cold, flu, or other viral infections.
Penicillin Side Effects
The most common, and often mild, side effects include:
If any of these symptoms gets worse or won’t go away, reach out to a healthcare professional.
Having these side effects doesn’t mean that you have an allergy to penicillin.
If you do have side effects, always let your healthcare provider know when you’re being prescribed antibiotics in the future.
The exact dosage and timing of penicillin medications will vary depending on what condition you are treating.
For infections, penicillin is generally taken every 6 hours (four times a day) or every 8 hours (three times a day) until the course is completed.
For the treatment of rheumatic fever, penicillin is generally taken twice a day.
In most cases, it’s a good idea to take penicillin at about the same time each day.
How should I take penicillin?
As with any new medication, it’s important to follow the directions on the prescription label carefully.
If any of the directions are unclear, ask your provider or pharmacist about how to proceed.
Penicillin is often taken as a tablet or as an oral solution.
It’s important to store the medication at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture.
Sometimes penicillin is administered as an injection, and this should be done by a licensed healthcare provider.
Take your missed dose as soon as you remember, unless it’s almost time for the next one.
In that case, skip the missed dose and continue the regular dosing schedule.
Never take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
The overprescription and improper use of antibiotics worldwide has led to some bacteria learning how to survive against the most powerful antibiotics designed to kill them off.
This is called antibiotic resistance, and it’s a growing public health issue across the world.
This is partly why antibiotics are only available with a prescription.
Every year, antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect more than two million people in the U.S., often leading to hospitalizations or, in some cases, death.
To fight antibiotic resistance, the CDC designated better-informed use and prescription of antibiotics as a national priority.
You can do your part by taking antibiotics as prescribed, not sharing your antibiotics with anyone or saving them, and never pressuring a healthcare provider to prescribe antibiotics.
Penicillin Risks and Warnings
Before taking penicillin, tell your provider about any medications, vitamins, supplements, or herbal products you’re currently taking and whether or not you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
It’s also important to disclose whether or not you’re allergic to penicillin or any other antibiotics.
If you do have an allergy, it’s helpful if you know what your reaction was, because some symptoms, such as nausea, are not a true allergy.
Tell your provider about any chronic health conditions you have, including kidney disease, asthma, hay fever, or other allergies.
When to See a Doctor
Reach out to your provider immediately if you experience any of the possible severe side effects of penicillin, including:
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Joint pain
- Swelling of the throat, tongue or lips
- A return of any of the symptoms of your original infection (including fever, sore throat, chills, etc.)
- Severe diarrhea
How K Health Can Help
Did you know you can access online urgent care with K Health?
Check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes.
K Health’s AI-powered app is based on 20 years of clinical data.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Availability of Antibiotics for Purchase Without a Prescription on the Internet. (2009).
Penicillin V Potassium. (2018).
The Discovery of Penicillin—New Insights After More Than 75 Years of Clinical Use. (2017).
The End of Antibiotics? (2018).