Antifungal medicines

Antifungal medicines are used to treat fungal infections, which usually affect your skin, hair and nails.

You need a prescription for some antifungal medicines. But others are available over the counter from your pharmacy.

Talk to your GP or pharmacist if you think you have a fungal infection. They will tell you which antifungal medicine to take.

Antifungal medicines come as tablets, liquids, creams, gels, ointments, sprays, vaginal suppositories or injections.

Read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine for information specific to your type of antifungal medicine.

How to find your medicine's patient information leaflet

Get emergency help

You may need emergency help if you have a serious allergic reaction or severe side effects to antifungal medicines.

Serious allergic reaction

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to your nearest emergency department if:

you've taken antifungal medicines and you are:

  • having difficulty breathing

Serious side effects

Urgent advice: Call your GP immediately if you're taking antifungal medicine and:

  • your face, neck or tongue swell - these are signs of an allergic reaction
  • you have a severe skin reaction, such as peeling or blistering skin
  • you experience loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, jaundice, dark urine or pale faeces, tiredness or weakness

Stop using the medicine if you have these severe side effects.

Uses of antifungal medicines

Antifungals are used to treat common fungal infections such as:

  • ringworm
  • athlete's foot
  • fungal nail infection
  • vaginal thrush
  • some kinds of severe dandruff

They work by either:

  • killing the fungal cells
  • preventing the fungal cells growing and reproducing

Some fungal infections can grow inside the body and need to be treated in hospital.

You're more at risk of getting a more serious fungal infection if you have a weakened immune system.

Types of antifungal medicines

Common names for antifungal medicines include:

  • clotrimazole
  • econazole
  • miconazole
  • terbinafine
  • fluconazole
  • ketoconazole
  • amphotericin

Check if you can take antifungal drugs

Check with your GP or pharmacist if you:

  • have an existing medical condition
  • have any allergies
  • are taking any other medication
  • are trying to get pregnant, pregnant, or breastfeeding

Pregnant or breastfeeding

Many antifungal medicines are not safe to take during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Check with your GP or pharmacist.

How and when to take antifungal medicine

Take your antifungal medicine as advised by your pharmacist or GP. The information leaflet with your medicine will also have advice on using your medicine.

Antifungal medicines for children

Children and babies can take some antifungal medicines. For example, miconazole oral gel can be used to treat oral thrush in babies.

But talk to a pharmacist or GP for more advice.

Different doses are usually needed for children of different ages.

If you take too much

Talk to your pharmacist or GP if you take too much of your antifungal medicine.

They may tell you to go to a hospital emergency department (ED).

If you go to the ED, take the medicine's packaging with you. This is so the healthcare professionals who treat you know what you've taken.

Side effects of antifungal medicines

Antifungal medicines can cause side effects. These are usually mild and only last for a short time.

They can include:

  • itching or burning
  • redness
  • feeling sick
  • stomach (abdominal) pain
  • diarrhoea
  • a rash

See the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine for a full list of side effects of your type of antifungal medicine.

You can report any suspected side effects to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).

Finding your patient information leaflet online

Your patient information leaflet (PIL) is the leaflet that comes in the package of your medicine. 

Information:

To find your PIL online, visit the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) website

  1. In the ‘Find a medicine’ search box, enter the brand name of your medicine. A list of matching medicines appears.
  2. To the right of your medicine, select ‘PIL’. A PDF of the PIL opens in a new window. 

You can also:

  1. Select the brand name of your medicine.
  2. Scroll down to the Documents section.
  3. From the Package Leaflet line, select PDF version. A PDF of the PIL opens in a new window. 

If your PIL is not on the HPRA website, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) website opens in a new window when you select ‘PIL’.

You can find your PIL on the EMA website.

Finding your PIL on the EMA website

If your PIL is not on the HPRA website, you will be sent to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) website.

To find your PIL on the EMA website:

  1. In the Medicines search box, enter the brand name of your medicine and the word ‘epar’. For example: ‘Zoely epar’. A list of matching medicines appears.
  2. Select the ‘Human medicine European public assessment report (EPAR)’ for your medicine
  3. From the table of contents, select Product information.
  4. Select the EPAR – Product Information link for your medicine. A PDF opens in a new window. The PIL information is in Annex III of the PDF under ‘labelling and package leaflet’

This content was fact checked by a pharmacist, a GP, the National Medication Safety Programme (Safermeds) and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 24 September 2021
Next review due: 24 September 2024

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